31 Interesting Spanish Words with No English Translation
Having liberally borrowed from Latin, Greek, and everything in between, English boasts of one of the largest vocabularies amongst its peers. The language stocks a staggering one million words, and then some! Compare that with Spanish, which doesn’t have even half the count. In that light, one would assume every Spanish word must have at least one English equivalent if not more. Right? Interestingly, that’s not how languages work. Yes, there do exist Spanish words with no English translation! For instance, what would you call your spouse’s sister’s husband? Or what are your parents to those of your spouse’s? Okay try this, a period of 15 days? Don’t say fortnight because that’s just 14.
Believe it or not, all these questions have crisp one-word answers in Spanish! There are many, many more. Although not too many to handle, adding these Spanish words with no English translation to your lexicon is a reasonably wise idea. And no, these are not some obscure archaic terms found only in medieval classics. These are very much a part of everyday Spanish which is what makes them worth the effort learning them.
Spanish Words with No English Translation: Nouns
What is your wife’s father to yours? What’s your sister-in-law’s husband to you? Any word to describe a botched job? The day before today is yesterday, what’s the day before that? What do you call that precious little no-man’s-land between your eyebrows? Don’t get me wrong, all these scenarios can be expressed in English. But not with one word. You’ll need quite a mouthful for every single one of them. Not in Spanish though. The language boasts of one word solutions to these very real and practical problems. Just one word for something that would otherwise often take quite the lexical gymnastics to express in English. Let’s dive in.
This sounds like an amalgam of amigo, meaning friend, and novio, meaning boyfriend. And that’s because it is. This alone should give you a fair idea of what the word means. Amigonovio is one of the Spanish words with no English translation, not a one-word translation anyway. The word refers to someone you’re just friends with but also don’t mind sleeping with, something usually reserved for steady couples. So it’s more than a friend but not yet a boyfriend. Rings a bell? Yeah, we call them friends-with-benefits. But that’s three words instead of just one and quite a mouthful when compared with amigovio. Remembering this word should be a cinch if you’re already down with amigo and novio. The female variant is amigonovia, obviously.
Just like amigovio, anteayer is a portmanteau of two words. And the words are ante, meaning before, and ayer, meaning yesterday. The English equivalent is a rather uninspiring day before yesterday which is what places anteayer in the list of Spanish words with no English translation. Day before yesterday isn’t a straightforward one-word, translation, now is it? I like anteayer. It’s short, it’s crisp, and it rolls off the tongue like the oil slick in the Gulf of Mexico. And it gets the job done! Actually, I like its now-antiquated predecessor, antier, even more and why it went out of currency still beats me.
In Mexico, chapuza also refers to a trick or a cunning move. In Spain, chapuza is usually an odd job.
Many English equivalents qualify as close enough but if accuracy is you thing, chapuza remains one of the Spanish words with no English translation. The word refers to a job that’s been done with wild abandon, one that shows. Say you hacked together a mobile app that has more bugs in it than all the rain forests in the world. That’s a chapuza. Or a laptop with a dozen-odd duct tapes holding its parts together lest they fall apart like feathers off a buzzard’s neck. That’s chapuza. Or an old car with enough rivets to make it look like a scrapyard hero. Also a chapuza. In Mexico, chapuza also refers to a trick or a cunning move. In Spain, chapuza is usually an odd job.
This word is an absolute favorite. And that’s because it brilliantly illustrates the quintessential Hispanic trait that sets the community apart from its non-Hispanic counterparts, family values. Most Americans are loners, family-wise. If you’re over 18 and still living with your parents, friends mock you. Distant relatives? Most remain strangers. Not so if you’re a Latino in which case oversized families is the norm rather than anomaly. You could be 40 and still living with your padres with nobody batting an eyelid. Forget uncles and aunts, even your in-laws are no stranger to your birthday parties! And no, I don’t mean your mom-in-law, I mean in-laws like your spouse’s brother-in-law! Such convoluted relationships that they don’t even have a straightforward description in English, let alone a one-word name! But Spanish is different. And nothing illustrates this better than concuñado. The word refers to a whole bunch of relatives:
- Sibling of one’s brother-in-law
- Sibling of one’s sister-in-law
- Spouse of one’s brother-in-law
- Spouse of one’s sister-in-law
So if your wife has a brother, the latter’s wife is your concuñada. Or if your husband has a sister, her hubby is your concuñado. The word comes from cuñado which is Spanish for brother-in-law. Con is Spanish for with; so think of the prefix con- as such. So concuñado is someone who comes with your cuñado. For example, your wife’s sister is your cuñada; her husband comes with her, so he’s your concuñado. Makes sense now?
Just like concuñado, consuegro serves to illustrate the most defining aspect of the Hispanic way of life — family. In English, we name our siblings-in-law and our parents-in-law, and leave it at that. There’s no lexical relationship between your parents and those of your spouse. In Spanish, that’s not the case. Every relationship matters and that’s why every relationship has a name. No matter how unnecessary it might appear to most English speakers who rarely consider anyone beyond parents, spouse, and siblings family. In Spanish, your parents and your wife’s parents are consuegros to each other.
The word draws from suegro, meaning father-in-law. The prefix con- gives it a sense of mutuality. Like, you’re both suegros to each others’ kids. Or think of con- as with, which is what con translates into anyway. Your consuegro is the suegro your child comes with. I can’t make it any simpler. Consuegro, concuñado — these are Spanish words with no English translation, so deal with it.
Okay so duende is many things, all supernatural — elf, goblin, spirit, leprechaun, you get the drift. But that’s not what we’re on about here. This duende is different. Here we’re referring to a quality. A very specific kind of quality. A good one, exhilarating even. The quality of evoking delight or admiration on a very deep and spiritual level. The closest you could get describing it in English would be charm or magic, but that’s only an approximation to the real deal.
To a native Spanish speaker, duende is quite a tad more ethereal than words like charm, charisma, or magic would convey. Think walking barefoot along the beach on a full moon night. Or that girl who gives you a bazillion butterflies in the stomach every time she smiles. Maybe gazing upon the awe-inspiring height of Christ the Redeemer. Or the humbling view down below from atop the Eiffel Tower. These are the kinds of feeling duende covers.
Entre means between and ceja means eyebrow. And that’s how you get entrecejo, one of the cool Spanish words with no English translation. Except, I don’t know why it’s entrecejo and not entreceja, especially since ceja means thick fog, something with nothing to do with eyebrows whatsoever. But that’s beside the point. In Mexico, by the way, cejo works just fine and you can skip the entre- bit altogether.
Speaking of entrecejo, it’s only fair that we also touch-base on a couple of verbs that look very good with the word. These are arrungar, meaning to wrinkle, and fruncir, meaning to gather or furrow. Basically, either of the two can go with entrecejo and when they do, the resulting expression means to frown.
In some Spanish-speaking regions, morbo also figures in colloquial expressions like tener morbo and dar morbo. Morbo kinda represents sex appeal in both expressions.
There’s militaries and there’s military coups. But do we have a word for the members of such a coup in English? How specific! Well, turns out, the Spanish language leaves nothing to ambiguity, however narrow the niche. Enter golpista. That’s what you call the participants in a military coup, someone like General Franco. No, the word has nothing to do with soccer.
You could argue that words like rebel could fit the bill in English, but rebel covers a much broader range of meanings than golpista. For example, speaking up against your helicopter mom’s controlling ways would make you a rebel, but not a golpista. Unless you brought home a battalion of armed forces to deal with your mom which won’t be very polite. Oh and golpista can also be used as an adjective and when it is, it means coup but as an adjective and not a noun. Examples include intentona golpista (coup attempt) and trama golpista (coup plot).
Right off the bat morbo sounds like morbid, and that should be an easy hint to what the word actually means. Then how come morbo figures in a list of Spanish words with no English translation? That’s because morbid is just a hint, not the actual meaning. Morbo more accurately translates into morbid fascination. Think unhealthy interests. So if pictures of decomposing corpses fascinate you, you have a morbo. Or if stories of murder trials tickle your pickle, that’s morbo. Basically anything that immediately makes you look or sound like a freak.
In some Spanish-speaking regions, morbo also figures in colloquial expressions like tener morbo and dar morbo. Morbo kinda represents sex appeal in both expressions. For illustration, check out these examples:
¡Esa Ana me da muchísimo morbo! (This Ana really turns me on!)
¡Vaya que esa chica tiene morbo! (Wow, that girl is hot!)
Who knew sexy could also be morbid and vice-versa!
Pardo is listed among Spanish words with no English translation because when translated, it gives two words, not one. The word refers to a color. A very specific color that’s both brown and gray. Brownish-gray is the closest you can get in English. So yeah, pardo means brownish-gray. But the word can do much more than just colors. It can also be used as an adjective for weather and when it is, it translates into dull or overcast. And you can see why.
Pardo can also mean flat in the context of voice. Again, think dull. If that’s not enough, pardo also has a pejorative usage, at least in Latin America. There, it can also refer to a person of mixed race. We call them mulattos in standard, non-offensive English. Here too, it’s all about the brownish-gray color. Therefore, I would suggest you exercise extreme caution using this word while in Latin America unless referring to colors of objects or weather. The continent is full of people with mixed ancestry and it won’t be wise to offend them. It’s never wise to sound racist, much less being one.
You kidding me? Everybody Spanish learner worth his vocabulary knows puente is bridge! Then how come it’s listed among Spanish words with no English translation? Because puente also refers to a very different kind of bridge, the one that connects times and not spaces. Confused? Okay, think Thanksgiving. Notice how although it’s a Thursday by definition, the Friday after also happens to be a day off? That’s a puente for you. It’s an otherwise workday that turns into a day-off just because it happens to sit between two day-offs. and Thursdays get to be the puente more often than any other day of the week for obvious reasons. Can you think of a one-word equivalent to this one in English? That’s what gives puente a spot on the list of Spanish words with no English translation.
If you take a day off because it’s a puente and you want to make it a long weekend, you hacer puente. Do note that long weekend doesn’t qualify as an exact English equivalent because it refers to the whole set of day-offs including the puente. And even if it did qualify, it’s not one word so there’s that.
Quincena rhymes with docena and that’s for a reason. Docena is Spanish for dozen and the two words share a common ancestry which shows. Now just as docena is a collection of twelve, quincena is one of fifteen. Notice the quince in quincena? Quince is Spanish for fifteen. Quincena is fifteen of anything but more specifically, it refers to a period of fifteen days. And it has no English counterpart. Before you come back with fortnight, let me remind you that your answer would be one day short. A fortnight is exactly two weeks, hence fourteen days, whereas quincena is one day more.
By extension, quincena also refers to salary. More specifically, one that comes twice a month or, in other words, a biweekly pay. I know this s going back to fourteen days but colloquialism often trumps semantics. Salary, by the way, is salario in Spanish. If you’re talking wages, that would be sueldo. Just thought you ought to know.
Ever tried holding up a piece of mirror to the sun and shine it at someone to signal something or just to annoy them? That’s resol for you, the glare of reflection. Sol is sun and comes from Latin. That’s what gives us words like solar. Etymological tricks like this are not only fun but also quite the tool to conquer difficult foreign words quicker and more efficiently.
Back to resol, it’s just sol with the re- prefix. This prefix serves the same purpose as its English counterpart, to reinforce whatever it’s attached to. Resol, is not the sun itself but rather its glare. Think of it as somewhat like second-hand sun. Makes sense now? It’s not sunlight as you might mistakenly think. Close but not exactly there. Sunlight is just the light. Resol is also sunlight but with an emphasis on its brightness. In English we use sun to refer to both the sun as well as its glare, Spanish is more specific. If it’s sunny, you say hace sol. If it’s cloudy yet very bright, you say hace resol.
Sobre means on or above, and mesa means table. The English word super is etymologically related to sobre and that should help you remember the latter. As for mesa, just picture a woodworker measuring up a table. So what’s sobremesa? The food kept on the table? Or the beautiful vase in the center? None of those.
You see, the Hispanics are a mighty social lot. And they love talking. A lot. So much so that they don’t just rush to work or bed right after a social meal. Even at home. No, instead, they like to stick around just a little longer, having a little post-dinner conversation. That’s sobremesa. The conversation takes place at the table so that explains the word. Since English speakers rarely do this, there’s no single-word equivalent to sobremesa in English.
Oh and sobremesa also refers to tablecloth because, well, it’s on the table. Duh. Here’s one more before we move on, the afternoon slot in the context of television. That’s sobremesa too and I don’t know why.
Your tocayo is someone with the same name as yours. Now I can understand why you might not like it making the list of Spanish words with no English equivalents because namesake sounds like a perfect counterpart. But, I dunno, I just seem to like this word. Besides, we are namesakes doesn’t sound as intuitive as somos tocayos. There’s also named-twins but that’s a mere colloquialism, an American one at that, whereas tocayo is 24-carat standard Spanish. Also, named-twin is not one word.
Nobody knows for sure where this strange word comes from. Some argue it’s an adaptation from Classical Nahuatl tōcāyoh (one who has a name, person of renown) which itself goes back to tōcāitl (my name) from the same language. Others attribute it to an obscure folk Latin expression, Ubi tū Gāius ego Gāia, but we won’t get into that. Tocayo also has a synonym, colombroño, but this one is quite archaic.
If your eyes don’t work or just don’t exist, you’re blind. That’s ciego in Spanish. But what if only one of them doesn’t? What are you if you’re blind in only one eye? A one-eyed man, maybe? But that doesn’t pack the same punch as its Spanish version, tuerto. In easy way to memorize tuerto is to imagine a one-eyed turtle. It’s funny and it’ll stick. Poor animal though. The word has an etymology too but it’s too contrived for a memory hook.
Tuerto gives us a bunch of interesting idiomatic expressions too. For starters, there’s a tuertas which means upside-down or back-to-front. Then you have a tuertas o derechas meaning rightly or wrongly, by hook or by crook, or hastily. Derecha means right.
Spanish Words with No English Translation: Adjectives
These are words that describe things. Or people. And they have no one-word equivalents in English. For instance, can you think of a word to describe someone who isn’t able to sleep? Insomniac seems to cut it but it’s too technical for everyday usage which is why it rarely gets used. What do you call a person from the United States? If your answer is American, you definitely need to read on.
Think of your eyelids as veils over your eyes. So what happens when you sleep? You veil your eyes with your eyelids! To veil is velar in Spanish. Needless to say, both veil and velar share some history. The prefix dis- serves to negate whatever it touches in English, as does des- in Spanish. So how desvelar is the opposite of velar is anyone’s guess.
But, desvelar isn’t exactly to wake up. It’s more like to be unable to sleep. To wake up is despertarse, but to stay up or to be sleepless is desvelar. You want to sleep but you can’t. Will is key here. And from desvelar comes its participle, desvelado. If you’re just unable to sleep, you’re desvelado. Sleep-deprived is the most accurate English translation.
Los Estados Unidos is Spanish for the United States. And estadounidense is someone who comes from there. It’s extremely surprising that something this ubiquitous doesn’t have a name in English! Now don’t say American because there’s no country called America. Yes, you might continue to refer to every estadounidense as an American but that would be either sheer hubris or convenience. Because technically speaking, everybody from Mexican to Canadian and from Argentinean to even Cuban is an American! The United States doesn’t hold some kind of exclusive patent to this demonym.
And no, Yankee doesn’t cut it either because New York isn’t all the United States has. Nor does gringo because, a) it’s not English, and b) it’s slang. So no, estadounidense doesn’t have a direct one-word equivalent in English. And that’s after the country in question having existed for over two hundred years already!
Frio means cold and lento means slow. So friolento is someone who kinda slows down in cold weather. In simpler terms, you’re friolento if you’re sensitive to cold. The word is not very common in Spain so stick to Latin America if you’re itching to use it. Now this sensitivity could be to anything cold and not necessarily the weather. For instance, it could also be about food or drinks. For example, if your teeth are sensitive to cold things like, say, icecream, you’re friolento. Or if you were not very comfortable with chilled beer, that would be friolento as well.
Friolento also happens to have a rather crisper synonym, friolero. I don’t know why friolento enjoys a better currency than friolero despite being longer and more of a mouthful, but that could just be a regional thing. Maybe there are parts where friolero is more common than friolento, who knows! So in a way, you just got two Spanish words with no English translation here, friolento and friolero.
I don’t know where this word comes from but it means without body hair or beard. Now, one might argue that it can directly be expressed in English as hairless, but there’s more to lampiño than meets the eye. Lampiño describes hairlessness only if it’s involuntary. Like if you were unable to grow any body or facial hair. If you wax or shave, that’s not very lampiño of you. Also, hairlessness means no hair whatsoever, whereas lampiño exempts your scalp. So you see, there’s isn’t an exact equivalent for this word in English.
And the word is no slang, it’s as standard as it gets. So you could use it for anyone in the sense of without beard, hairless, or smooth-faced, and not get crucified for bad manners. Although I have categorized lampiño as an adjective, it can also be used as a noun to refer to a person who fits the description. The lack of a simple one-word synonym for unable to grow body hair or beard easily places lampiño among Spanish words with no English translation.
Remember tuerto, the one-eyed man? Well guess what, eyes aren’t the only organs you’re meant to have two of. There’s also arms. and if you’ve lost one, you’re manco, i.e. one-armed. That’s crazy specific of Spanish! Now manco can also be used as a noun just like tuerto can. But beware doing so because although manco is a pretty neutral adjective, its noun form is nothing but pejorative. Manco can also mean defective and I don’t think you need anyone to explain to you the connotation here. What sets manco apart from other Spanish words with no English translation is that it actually has English counterparts; they’re just nonstandard and pejorative. Manco isn’t.
In Chile, manco also happens to be a colloquialism for horse. So if someone comes riding a manco in that country, don’t get ideas; it’s probably just a horse! But unless you’re planning a trip to the Andean nation, this interpretation has zero use for you.
Vaguely speaking, mimoso is affectionate. But that’s just scratching the surface; dig deeper and it means a lot more. The closest English can get to translating mimoso is touchy-feely or a craving for physical love. No, I don’t necessarily mean sexual, I mean just physical. It could be a toddler wanting to cuddle a lot, or a girl who just can’t let go of your hand while watching a movie. This craving is mimoso.
In other contexts, the word can also have less touchy-feely connotations, such as pampered or spoilt. The word is easy to memorize if you’re familiar with this strange plant that folds inward and droops when touched. It’s called Mimosa pudica or, in common speech, touch-me-not. Ironically, if you’re too mimoso by nature, you’re likely anything but shy.
Spanish Words with No English Translation: Verbs
You can’t talk about Spanish words with no English translation and not discuss verbs. There’s just so many verbs with either complicated translations or none at all, it would be a shame to leave them out! For example, can you think of a word to describe the act of strutting around like you owned the place? How about doing something out of habit? Or going out for a small meal? How about putting something on for the first time in order to break it in? There’s many more, let’s explore some of them.
Aturdir is to overwhelm your senses to the point that you can no longer focus on more pressing issues at hand. Now depending on the sense in question, you have a buffet of word to describe the act in English. If, for instance, it’s your hearing that’s been overwhelmed, it’s to deafen. For sight, there’s to bedazzle. Similarly, if it’s your mind, you’re fazed or bewildered. But there’s just isn’t any word to cover an assault of this kind to all senses in general. Unless you’re speaking Spanish, because then you have aturdir.
So depending on the context, aturdir can mean to bedazzle, to faze, to deafen, to confuse, to stun — all temporarily, of course. Quite a handy verb if you asked me. I mean why must one always have to be so specific? A little should always be left to context. It’s this vagueness that has earned aturdir its place amongst Spanish words with no English translation.
Having a sweet tooth is all well and good, but how far are you willing to go? How many tablespoons of honey before you violently throw up? Yes, believe me there’s a think called too sweet to handle. And to be so is empalagar. I dare you to find me an English equivalent this terse and to-the-point. And this works even in the realm of metaphors; people can be too sweet to handle. As can things or situations. So sweet, it makes you feel sick. Sickly sweet. It could be a candy, someone’s excessive politeness, an over-patronizing conversation — you get where this is going.
Me empalaga con tanta cortesía (He makes me sick with excessive politeness).
Este dulce empalaga (This candy is sickeningly sweet).
Empalagar can also be used reflexively as empalagarse. When you do that, the most straightforward translation is to be sick of. When used this way, the verb takes a preposition, either a de (of) or a con (with).
Notice the madre in enmadrarse? Yes, it looks like madra but you can see the hint right there nevertheless. Madre means mother. Well, duh, as if I needed to teach you that. The en- prefix of Spanish does the exact same thing its English namesake does. Still need clues? Okay, enmadrarse is when you’re too attached to your mom. No, this isn’t for you if you’re just living with her because you couldn’t afford an apartment. No, this one’s for genuine love, that of a child for their mother. It’s emotional. What makes enmadrarse one of Spanish words with no English translation is the fact that despite love being so universal a concept, English doesn’t have a word this specific! Yes there’s affection but even that fails to fill this very narrow niche.
So if you’ve ever seen a child throwing wild tantrums the moment they’re separated from their mommy, you know it’s enmadrarse at work. There’s many Spanish words with no English translation, but this one’s by far amongst my top favorites. The specificity is heartwarming.
Estrenar has a hint of strain to it if you listen closely. And that’s for a reason. You often put people or things through deliberate strain just to break them in. Your boss often claims to do this to you, right? That’s kinda what estrenar does, although in a very specific situation. Estrenar means to wear something for the first time or to break something in.
Bought new shoes? Gotta wear them a bunch of times before they finally start feeling comfy. That’s estrenar. Planning to put on that brand new pair of jeans for the upcoming blind date? That’s estrenar. And it’s not necessarily clothes. It could be objects too. Using a new cell phone for the first time? That’s estrenar too. Estrenar also works for performances, such as movies or plays. So in that sense it can mean to premiere, to release, or to debut. Ser a estrenar is a cool idiom you should get familiar with at this point. It means to be brand new.
El piso es a estrenar (The apartment is brand new).
What earns estrenar its place among Spanish words with no English translation is the fact that despite there being verbs like debut and release, English doesn’t have a single verb that covers the entire range of estrenar. For instance, there’s no one-word alternative for the act of wearing something for the first time in English. Estrenar fills that niche comfortably in Spanish.
The word is merienda. It’s Spanish for snack and, if you’re in Ecuador, supper. And to have a merienda is merendar. Okay fine, let’s admit I’m stupid and it’s possible to call the meal just snacks or afternoon snacks without invoking any tea. But even then, do you have a verb for it in English?
Let’s talk food, meals to be accurate. There’s breakfast, there’s lunch, and there’s dinner. But if you’re like me, you need a lot more. Especially during the afternoon when the pangs are the sharpest. In fact, most people tend to have at least one light meal between lunch and dinner. Which is why it’s surprising that there’s no name for it in the entire English lexicon! Granted there’s afternoon tea or high tea but what about us lesser beings who don’t even have the damn tea? Why must a meal’s name be centered around a beverage even if it’s not on the menu?
Spanish understands. The word is merienda. It’s Spanish for snack and, if you’re in Ecuador, supper. And to have a merienda is merendar. Okay fine, let’s admit I’m stupid and it’s possible to call the meal just snacks or afternoon snacks without invoking any tea. But even then, do you have a verb for it in English? Merendar is what you need there and that’s what places it amongst Spanish words with no English translation. To have an afternoon snack. What specificity! In Ecuador, though, merendar means to have dinner.
The verb can also be used reflexively with the preposition a and when it is, it means to beat or defeat:
Se merendó a su oponente por 3 a 0 (He thrashed his opponent by a 3-0 score).
But this usage is quite colloquial. Not that you’ll be hanged for using it. I like it personally. The reflexive form has plenty of other uses, especially in South America, most of them colloquial. For example, to beat someone up, to fleece someone, to kill someone off.
Pavonearse has a pavo in it. And pavo means turkey. What gives? If you have at least a faint idea of how Spanish verbs work, you can guess it has something to do with being a turkey. Or at least acting like one. And that’s kinda what it is. Ever one of those thanksgiving birds? I mean alive, not stuffed and marinated. If you have, you’d know what they act like. The way they prance about in pride, oblivious to the impending slaughter. And add to it their royal size and attitude. It’s as if they freakin’ own the barn if not the world! Still cute because they’re birds and are about to end up dead soon. So a little sympathy is in order, no?
But what about people doing the same? Now that’s positively annoying. Look around and you’ll find those human-turkeys a dime a dozen. They have the attitude and swag only a proud turkey could match. I dunno what you can do about such acts but you can at least give it a name. In Spanish anyway. The verb is pavonearse. Approximations in English include to swagger, to strut around, to show off, and to brag. But none of those do enough to capture the essence of pavonearse with full justice. That’s why this verb narrowly makes the list of Spanish words with no English translation.
There’s a coger in recogerse. That’s obviously because the latter draws from the former. Coger means, among many things, to catch, to hold, or to pick. Yes it does have a very vulgar meaning too if you’re in Mexico, Central America, Bolivia, or the Southern Cone. And no, I’m not going to tell you what that is because that wicked smirk on your face tells me you already know it.
Anyway, coming back to the more civilized meanings of coger, let’s stay focused on to pick. The re- prefix, as you’d expect, just serves to reinforce the root verb. So recoger means to pick up or to gather. Use it reflexively and you’re gathering yourself. What does that tell you about recogerse? It means to go home. That’s what you to after a long and tiring day — gather or pick up your tired and exhausted self and go home to rest. Makes sense now? The verb is mostly colloquial but doesn’t have an English alternative.
Soler is an amazingly handy verb and enriches Spanish like few others. This one’s about habits. If you were doing something regularly in the past, you use the expression used to. Yes there’s would but would has other uses too. Soler is the Spanish way of describing such habits. Its most straightforward translation is to use to:
Solíamos irnos de vacaciones a San Sebastián (We used to go on vacation to San Sebastian).
But unlike used to which can only work in the past tense, soler works in all tenses. You can use soler for situations involving usually, in the habit of, etc. with no problem:
Suele haber muchas fiestas en la playa durante el verano (There are usually a lot of parties on the beach in the summer).
In the Southern Cone, soler has another, rather quirky usage — to occur rarely or to happen occasionally. But don’t bother with that usage unless you’re already at a comfortable level with your Spanish and are specifically looking forward to visiting one of those countries in the immediate future. Having no single-word equivalent means soler is absolutely one of the Spanish words with no English translation.
To be fair, this one only makes the list of Spanish words with no English translation because English doesn’t need it. In fact in the entire list of Spanish words with no English translation, tutear is the only word English doesn’t need to emulate. Not in the current form anyway. Tutear comes from tú which is Spanish for thou. All Romance languages have two pronouns for the second person singular — a formal one and an informal one. in Spanish, the formal one is usted whereas the casual one’s tú.
English uses you for both situations today, but if you go back in time far enough, you’ll find the distinction loud and clear. Like if you’ve read Shakespeare, or the Holy Bible, you’d notice words like thou, thee, thy, and thine. These are all forms of thou, the Middle English equivalent of tú. Now that we’ve established a fair acquaintance with tú and thou, let’s get back to the verb at hand. Tutear refers to address someone informally. In Spanish, you do that by using tú for them instead of Usted. The verb, despite being on the list of Spanish words with no English translation, doesn’t need an English translation and now you know why. Because English doesn’t use the thou form anymore. If it did, you’d probably be thou’ing your friends, who knows!
31 I promised, 31 you got. But as always, this is just a tiny part of all there is. The list of Spanish words with no English translations is much, much longer than just 31 words. I think these 31, though, are some of the most ubiquitous ones out there. There’s no point in learning the obscure ones used only in archaic prose and poetry. But I’m no authority on the Spanish language and it’s quite possible that I’ve missed out on some that ought to have made the list and are also super common in the street. If you run into any such words, please don’t forget to give me a heads-up in a comment below. And I’ll be forever indebted to you for the favor!