15 words in Spanish that don't exist in English

Learning languages reveals the countless particularities each language has. One of the first difficulties in text translation is facing the idea that each language has its own words that represent specific ideas, actions and objects: translations are really conceptual “aprproximations”. 

Translating from English into Spanish – and viceversa – is to make something that was said or written in another language understandable. Because of the previously mentioned particularities the translation can never be 100% leteral. It is such, that there are specific words that don’t even have an exact equivalent in other languages: they simply don’t exist. In these cases, professional translators are qualified and count with the necessary tools and words to translate their meaning.  However, learning about those words that exist in one language only might be a fun and interesting fact for all you language lovers out there.

Next, we will present 15 words in Spanish that don’t exist in the English language:

Estrenar: To use something for the first time.

The verb “estrenar” has many differente connotations in Spanish, but all of them mean the same thing: to wear a new piece of clothing, show off a new hairstyle and even for a new SO. However, there is no equivalent to this word in English, instead the following expressions are usually used: “Wear new clothes/haircut/sneakers” or “used for the first time”.

Friolento: Very sensitive to the cold.

This adjective does not have an equivalent in English either, instead it’s described by saying: “he/she get’s cold easily”. 

Anteayer: The day that came before yesterday.

The demonstrative adverb “anteayer” does not have an equivalent in English either, so much so that 4 words need to be used to properly translate this word: “The day before yesterday”.

Desvelado: A person that has a sleep disorder, who can't sleep.

There is no equivalent for the circumstance of a person being “desvelado” or “trasnochado”, the most proper translation would be: “he/she wasn’t able to sleep”.

Empalagoso: Said about a person or food: that is too sweet.

The adjective “empalagoso” does not have a literal translation in English either, instead the expressions: “It’s too sweet” or “He/she/it tired me up” are used.

Merendar: To have the five O'clock tea.

There is no one word in English to describe the act of having the afternoon tea. Eventhough it can also be translated as “have/has a snack”, the truth is that this expression means to eat something small or not very substantial, but does not exactly mean the meal that is known in Spanish as “merienda”.

Tuerto: Devoid of sight on one eye.

The adjective “tuerto” doesn’t have an English equivalent either and is usually translated as “a man/woman without an eye”.

Panzón: Of a big belly.

This is another adjective that does not have a one word translation into the English language: “a man/woman with a big belly”.

Arreglarse: To use cosmetics, get dressed and/or style one's hair.

There is no one word translation for the action of “arreglarse” or “alistarse”, however at least two words must be used: “get ready”.

Estadounidense: A person born in the United States.

This is probably one of the most problematic concepts of the English language, since the expression “American” (“americano”) is usually criticized or creates discomfort in other countries of the American continent. Therefore, a good option is to translate it as “he/she is from the United States”.

Ajeno: That belongs to another person.

There is no literal translation for this adjective in English, there are only approximations such as “someone else’s” or “external”, that might also be appropriate eventhough “externo” doesn’t mean the same as “ajeno”.

Convivir: To live with other people.

In the English language there is no verb that describes the action of living in the same house with other people. The most adecuate expressions would be: “we live toghether”, “he/she lives with me” or “we are roommates/flat mates”.

Atinar: To guess something right.

There is no translation for the verb “atinar” or “acertar” in English, so the best option to translate this words would be: “you nailed it!”.

¡Buen provecho!

This is not a word but a full expression. In English, the French expression “bon apetit” is commonly used to express this sentiment, however if one would prefer to use the Ennglish language instead, the experssion: “enjoy your meal/your food” can be used.

Vergüenza ajena:

Just like the previous one, this is another expression that doesn’t have an exact translation in English. Therefore, it can be translated as: “I feel embarrassed for him/her”.

We hope you have enjoyed this article and from getting to know these 15 words that eventhough might be very common in Spanish, have no equivalent in English. Until next time!