In Spanish, as in many other languages, it is common to have words that look exactly the same, written the same, pronounced the same, and (if it would not be for the context) we will think their meanings are the same; but, that is the key amigos (my friends)…context!


Hola amantes del español!!


Fellow Spanish lovers, I hope you are doing great on your Spanish journey and ready to tackle today’s article.


Today we will be learning the difference about something really cool (at least from my point of view), as I am about to touch upon examples of same words that have different meanings. I love this topic because it allows us to play with double meanings. So first things first.


It is likely that you are familiar with most of the Spanish words that I am going to introduce below, you probably have learned them and fought with them until they got stuck in your “Spanish brain”. Most of these are basic words, you probably learned these words at the beginning of your Spanish journey and then ta-dah! You see them again in another light through a different context -- so uh-oh, trouble! The meaning you previously learned does not apply any longer; so you need to make room to understand new meanings for the same words.


Are you ready to get re-acquainted for these four Spanish words? Let’s get to it.



1. Mañana


As many of you know, even before you seriously started learning Spanish, you at least understood that mañana means tomorrow. This can be quite useful if you visit Spain, as it seems that everything takes place “mañana” as you know.


But mañana also mean morning! Therefore “mañana por la mañana” is “tomorrow morning” –when everything happens.


Watch out! Do not let the expression “!Buenos días!-“ Good morning” fool you into believing that the word días is morning. Días is days. Even when we use it to express “good morning”, it is literally translated to mean “good days”.



2. Tío & Tía


As two of the first words introduced to you when you start learning the “Spanish family”, tío means uncle and tía means auntie. So far so good, but as your learning progresses, you hear both tío and tía being used for people who are not directly related to each other. This can be seen if you visit Spain or watch some Spanish films. Your initial surprise then turns into bewilderment.


No need to panic, as these occurrences have an explanation. Both tío or tía in such cases is used as a casual expression of “mate or dude”; or used in close friendships (since we are talking about family) like a brother/sister. This can be seen as the same when you use the English word “brother” or “sister” with someone is not directly related to you. Tío or tía can be used as a common slang whenever you meet a (close) friend. Overall, the expression is mainly used by younger people. For example:


  • -¿Qué pasa tío?
  • What’s up brother?


Or, sometimes, if you are talking about someone you do not know, you can use the expressions as well. Sort of like a general meaning in referencing to that “guy” or “girl” in English.


  • El tío de la tienda, me hizo esperar y luego no tenía lo que yo quería-
  • The guy from the shop, made me wait and then he did not have what I wanted.


Easy peasy up to this point right? Now things get a bit more complicated just because the next two words have more than two meanings each. Lo siento (I am sorry), but these words are indeed useful to know the differences.



3. Banco


A) I think the typical meaning of this word in English means bank.

B) But banco also means bench, yeah you read it correctly, bench as in the ones in the park where you can take a sit.

C) Another meaning for banco is shoal. This is used when you see a lot of fish swimming together and you can reference to them as banco de peces.

D) Sometimes we use banco to refer to a storage, a place with a lot of things (of the same kind inside), such as:


  • banco de comida “food bank”
  • banco de sangre “blood bank”
  • banco de palabras “word bank”


Since “something bank” expressions exist in English, so you can link banco to its English equivalent examples if you find it hard to remember when it is appropriate to use banco for a storage.



4. Tiempo


Tiempo (time) is an easy word because there are several meanings that has an English equivalent -- except for the following confusing ones.


A) One of the first things you learn is how to talk about el tiempo, as in “the weather”. A common example can be:


  • A: ¿qué tiempo hace? 
  • A: How is the weather like?
  • B: El tiempo es bueno….es malo, hace mal tiempo….
  • B: The weather is good, is bad, it is bad weather….

But when you are talking about something you like to do and someone asks you:


  • ¿Cuánto tiempo hace que juegas al fútbol? 
  • How long have you played football for?


Then you would be confused because you were just talking about football and now he is asking you about the weather? Huh? So in this case, the concept of tiempo time means a period of time: as in months, weeks, etc. So tiempo here is time.


B) If we were to talk about the past, we can use tiempo as well, as in:


  • en los viejos tiempos.
  • As in the old times. It has an “era” sense of feel.


C) If we were to talk about sports, tiempo would mean half, for example:


  • Iban perdiendo hasta el segundo tiempo
  • They were losing until the second-half


D) Sometimes tiempo can mean a moment or while, as in:


  • estudié español por un tiempo.
  • I studied Spanish for a while.
  • necesito un poco más de tiempo.
  • Give me a momento, I need a bit more of time.


I think those examples show the confusing elements for tiempo. Other meanings for tiempo are the same for English as it is in Spanish. But if you have questions, please ask me!


Now it is your turn! Were you able to understand all those double (or quadruple) meanings? If you do not know, then don’t be afraid to ask. Some of the examples were quite funny, and I am here to help you to understand them all. But if you did understand them all, then let us know in the comment below your favourite multiple meaning word and if you know any other Spanish words that can help us to increase our “words with more than one meaning” notebook.




Do some research and find some words with more than one meaning, you will be surprised at just how many are out there. Once you finished your search, post it in a comment below so we all can learn.


That is all the learning for today, but as we have talked today about double meanings, I thought I would share with you these funny pictures which play with words and its differents meanings.


I hope you enjoyed the article!


¡Hasta pronto!






Hero image by Mohamed Nohassi (CC0 1.0)