¿Cómo se dice? Spanish words & phrases that have no adequate translation into English


This isn’t to put down English in any way, shape, or form. It is the language in which I express myself the best, after all. But Spanish is just more…complicated. And I mean that in the best possible way.

The whole idea for this post was born out of a conversation with a dear Brazilian friend over the word saudade. He was having major trouble explaining what it meant. But we all got it. It’s more than just nostalgia.

The notion of translation seems to be on everyone’s mind lately. Fast Company did this cute slideshow about words in other languages that they wish existed in English.

I didn’t see any Spanish words in there, so here goes our own growing list, which we hope keeps getting longer and longer — with your help!

*Note: even though there may be a literal translation, it doesn’t mean it’s necessarily satisfying.

**Also, we’re saving refranes for a separate post ‘cause you know there’s plenty of those. Pasos cortos, vista larga!


Our Miguel Tamayo picked this one, which means to address someone by the casual ‘tu’ versus the more formal ‘usted.’ In English, of course, you’re always going to be you to me, regardless.

Te quiero

Per our Julia Saenz, it’s just perfect. And yet in English, “I care for you” is not enough and “I love you” is too much.

Buen provecho

As our Nuria Net pointed out, it exists in other languages, but not in English.


The closest thing is Inshallah in Arabic, and the Spanish word, meaning God willing, is actually derived from Arabic. So beautiful.

Saber vs conocer

Albert Sabaté on our team pointed out that in English, you just have “to know,” but in Spanish, it’s one thing to “saber” algo than it is to “conocer” someone. And yet in English, they’re the same: “to know.”

Parranda, rumba, farra [insert preferred slang word for party here]

We all know Latinos & Spaniards love to party, so it’s only right we have a million ways to say it, all of which are way more festive than “party.”

Resaca, guayabo, chuchaqui, cruda [insert preferred slang word for hangover here]

While we’re talking about partying, let us point out that there is no word in the English language that properly expresses the pain of the day after.


Our Fernando Vila says: “It’s kind of like a snack but not really. It’s its own little meal.” Kinda goes with siesta, which is only the most brilliant idea ever and totally non-existent in the U.S. Should be law.


It’s pretty intense and final if you think about it. You can’t just go around telling folks “To God” instead of “peace out.” Just doesn’t work.


Sounds so good Helen Mirren even used it when introducing the Best Actor nominees at the 2008 Academy Awards.


It can be a person (like a clingy boyfriend) or a thing, but either way, “too sweet” doesn’t do it justice.

Read the rest of this post on Fusion (ABC/Univision), where it was originally published.

Thoughts? Sound off in the comments.

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