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Spanish Words That Have Different Meanings In Different Countries

Do you wonder about the different ways to call the same thing in different countries or which Spanish words change their meaning completely depending on the country they are said? Then keep reading this article, because you are about to learn some of these words and their respective meanings.

Feb 13, 2015 12:00 AM
Comments · 9

Uff! This list can go on, on and on! Great selection. I will share it with our Facebook readers, but first here are some examples from Puerto Rico:

- Pana in Puerto Rico is the "breadfruit" and also "a close friend"
- Chucha is the blank domino tile or "doble blanco"

- For a security guard, we say "guardia de palito" instead of wachiman (that comes from "watch man") that is used in the Dominican Republic.

- And in some countries "pitillo" is a drinking straw, but in Puerto Rico we say "sorbeto"


I highly recommend the Diccionario de Americanismos. It gives all these variations and differences by country. It is available online at the Asociacion de Academias de la Lengua Española website.

March 13, 2015

I agree with Diana, the list could go on and on!  I have friends from different spanish-speaking countries and we always chuckle about things like this.


(*Diana, loved your videos with Jeff and Omar from Guadalajara.  Really fun!)


--Picking up on what Diana mentioned about "pitillo" and "sorbeto".  In Mexico the word for drinking straw is "popote".  In some countries I believe it's called "pajita" which results in chuckles in Mexico due to some off-color language closely related.  But, no more than the chuckles I get from friends from other countries when I use "popote" which they insist will never work for them due to containing the word "popo". We can find all sorts of amusing variations on words between countries.


Also, Dave, did you mean saying "coger el camión" in other countries (NOT Mexico)?  In Mexico "coger" is almost universally avoided due to vulgar use and one would typically say "tomar el camión".  In all the years I lived there I never heard "coger" used in that way.  (And the ways one typically hears it used in Mexico would probably result in flagged posts or complaints/warnings about vulgar language on italki) :-) hehe



March 14, 2015

It’s always interesting and fun to read information like this, especially for those of us that studied and lived in a particular country where we learned another language. A couple of additional tidbits/notes:


In Mexico “torta” is a type of sandwich and depending on the region it can be made on different kinds of bread like bolillo, birote or telera. What goes on a torta can vary a lot and again can depend on what city you’re in and what region of the country. “Pastel” is usually the word used for “cake” in Mexico but clearly food items are some of the things that vary a lot in different regions, states and among countries.


“Capullo” means “bud” (as in “flower bud”) to any Spanish-speaking person. Nonetheless, in Spain, it is an insult and it is not recommended to say unless you are pretending to insult somebody. Please do not do this!

*(Maybe you mean, “intending to insult somebody”? Pretend in English means something different and in this context, perhaps you mean “intend”, (to the have intention; to intentionally do something) as the word “pretender” can sometimes mean in Spanish.



March 12, 2015

In Mexico they refer to local buses as camion and buses between cities as autobús.  They also see nothing wrong with saying "coger un camion" to take a bus. Not recommended in other countries.

March 13, 2015

Llamar pa’ atrás
It is not really a word, but a phrase. It is used in Puerto Rico to literally express “I will call you back” (call = llamar; back = atrás). It does not make sense in any other country, because the way to say “I will call you back” is “te llamaré de nuevo”, “te llamo más tarde” or “te llamo después”.


**”Llamar pa’ atrás” I've heard this among Spanish speakers in various states in the USA as well. In Mexico, the most common ways I heard the phrase, “to call back” would be “volver la llamada” or “regresar la llamada” – “te vuelvo la llamada”, “te regreso la llamada” etc.



March 12, 2015
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