Yesterday I learned something very cool. I went to a state park with a group of friends, a park that has the highest waterfall east of the Rockies. Here’s a picture from our trip.


We were a very diverse group: several Americans, a Russian, a Lebanese, a Macedonian, I brought my Argentinian friend, the honorary Colombian (guess who?), and another friend who could easily be an honorary Frenchman. My kind of people!

Hiking down to the bottom of the waterfall, we lingered for a while to be either drenched or lightly misted (depending on how close you got) by the immense spray of the waterfall. It was beautiful. As we hiked back up, I realized that I didn’t know how to refer to a waterfall’s mist in Spanish, and I desperately wanted to know, so I asked my friend Angela.

How would you say a waterfall’s mist in Spanish? (or its spray–I guess the spray kind of creates the appearance of mist)


Ahhh. How interesting. I knew that rocío was the morning dew you find on the grass, but I didn’t know that it’s still rocío when it’s in the air. Well, at least when you’re talking about waterfalls.

Angela didn’t know either translation for rocío, so I first taught her dew. “Like Mountain Dew.” Then I taught her mist. “Like Sierra Mist.” And then my mind was boggled. Me quedé anonadada. 

Mountain Dew! Sierra Mist! ¡Rocío de la montaña! ¡Rocío de la sierra! (las montañas) I had never even realized before that these two drinks have almost the exact same name. As they’d say in Colombia, ¡es la misma vaina! I wonder if Spanish speakers ever confuse them, calling them Mountain Mist and Sierra Dew.

From a Spanish perspective, we’re talking about the exact same thing: rocío. What do you want, rocío from the mountain or rocío from the sierra, the mountain range? Either way, it’s rocío. For one, though, we scraped it off the grass; for the other, we trapped it in the air. Although both drinks are owned by PepsiCo, Mountain Dew has been around since the 1940s, whereas Sierra Mist has been around for less than twenty years. I guess it should be obvious, then, which one was the copión.

Again, I know that as far as a waterfall goes, rocío is more like the spray (which creates the mist). Mist was the only word that occurred to me in the moment, though. The mist you would find on a sierra would be called neblina. So, the soda equivalency is a tad traído por los cabellos, but just let me have it, OK?

To continue the theme . . . yes, neblina is mist, and you probably already know that fog is niebla or bruma. One of the first books in Spanish that I’m going to read this year is Miguel de Unamuno’s Niebla, but I see that its English translation is titled Mist. I guess the idea of mist is much more poetic than mere fog.

Of course, Rocío is a common name for women in Spanish. I remember that my best friend had an Iranian roommate in college named Shabnam, and I remember her telling me that her name meant dew. In fact, names meaning dew are common in many languages. I wonder if Dew was ever a popular name in English? Or how about Mist? There’s Misty, I guess. Foggy? Fog for a boy? OK, now your blogger is just being gratuitously curious to give herself a good laugh. Forgive her. I would never use it myself, but I could see Neblina being a pretty name for a girl in Spanish. Oh, the possibilities!

Finally, how do you say waterfall in Spanish? I hiked to one in Colombia as well, and the only words I could remember yesterday were salto and catarata. I knew there was another one–a better one–but it wasn’t coming to me. Cascada! Ah, yes. Of course. I love how cascade and cataract–two words for waterfall that you usually only see in old poetry–are still very much preserved in Spanish.

Rocío, niebla, neblina, bruma— are you good at keeping them all straight? Did you know about rocío‘s double life? What did you learn this weekend? Where did you go? Tell me about something new you did with your Spanish (or English).


12 responses to “Rocío

  1. So “catarata” has two meanings too?! I only knew it as “cataracts” like the eye cloudiness. Hmm… I wonder if that’s related. Time to research!


    • Yes, catarata is a common way to say waterfall in Spanish (and not archaic like it is in English). It generally denotes a BIG waterfall (like Niagara Falls or Iguazu Falls), but I think it’s used pretty interchangeably with cascada (which is the more general term). I wonder how it ever came to be that waterfalls and eye cloudiness were given the same name?


  2. loopingpensamientos

    I was taught the expression ‘No tiene dos dedos de frente’ by an English guy with an impeccable Spanish accent.

    Are you familiar with this idiom? And do you think your American accent is noticeable when speaking Spanish?


    • Nice. Yes, I learned that one a while ago from an American friend, but I haven’t heard it used. Which doesn’t mean it’s not used, it just means that I don’t remember having heard it… YET.

      Hmm, great question! Why don’t you tell me? I’ll post a short video of me talking sometime soon. I will say that my patients at the hospital always think I’m Colombian, Colombians always think I’m Brazilian, and, yes, I think that at times the American accent slips out, but overall it’s pretty good.


  3. Todo esto es tan interesante y poético, y ¡nunca he pensado que diría que ni Mountain Dew ni Sierra Mist son poéticos! Y sobre catarata, me interesó la etimologia, y es un poco compleja – si quieres, la leí en Básicamente, en latín cataracta también significó “rastrillo” (nunca he usado esta palabra en español), y en francés tenía la idea de una obstrucción. ¡Gracias por esta entrada!


  4. No hace mucho aprendí “dew”. Estoy casi seguro que la escuché en una canción de Les Misérables, pero no me acuerdo cuál.

    Para mí, una cascada es un poco más chica que una catarata. Por ejemplo, si me mostrás la foto y me preguntás qué es eso, te diría casi al instante que es una cascada. Igual, es difícil establecer cuándo se considera una cosa y no la otra. There’s a fine line. Así que, sí,muchas veces se usan con el mismo sentido.

    No conocía las gaseosas que nombraste. No quiere decir que no sean conocidas acá, igual. No sé, voy a preguntar.

    ¿Qué hice este finde? Miré “The Interpreter” y seguí estudiando y categorizando vocabulario, para variar un poco. =P

    Chauuuu :)


  5. Hola. Justo me llamo igual que el tema en cuestión y llegué aquí vía lord Google.
    A mi criterio, no es lo mismo “neblina” que “rocío”. Verás, las gotas diminutas que unidas nublan la vista, empañan los parabrisas de los vehículos y no pueden ser distinguidas ni individualizadas una por una en todo el ambiente, son la niebla; por lo cual, a cierta distancia de la cascada que visitaste, es ésa en la que verías “pintado” un arcoiris. Y, en efecto y como lo considerabas inicialmente, cuando puedes verlas bien como pequeñas gotas en cualquier superficie, como plantas, flores o un automóvil, es ya, oficialmente, rocío, el que hubieras sentido estando un poco más cerca de la cascada, pues debía salpicarte leve y sutilmente para serlo. También es rocío cuando suavemente apenas cae agua con minúsculas gotas y cierta consistencia, y aún no puedes llamarla “llovizna”, pero puedes verla y sentirla.
    Ha sido un gusto visitar tu blog. Un abrazo.


    • Hola Rocío, qué gusto recibir tu visita al blog. Muchas gracias por el comentario tan útil y amable. Confieso que todavía se me enredan estas dos palabras en mi mente, pero tengo fe en que a la hora de hablar sabré cuál se debe emplear intuitivamente.


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