Different meanings of some spanish words: Check out some of the best ways to put your foot in your mouth in Spanish (or how to avoid it).
Students of Spanish often find that one and the same word can mean very different things depending on the country in which it is used. What's more, some seemingly innocent words in one country may be quite offensive in others. So take a look at some of the most interesting word wars and, take note!
An insistent person (Chile) = someone with no money (Peru) = a person inclined to take a jab at others (Venezuela).
It's funny: everywhere you go the word refers to something sharp or something that pokes something (or someone) else.
Sore muscles after exercise (Spain) = shoelaces (Mexico)
We should point out that in some regions of Spain the word is also used to mean "shoelaces," the same as in Mexico. So imagine the confusion when a Mexican soap opera entitled "Agujetas de color de rosa" (more or less, "Sore, Pink Muscles") aired in Spain.
Tiredness, heaviness (Spain) = hunger or very deep sadness (Argentina) = depression (Peru).
This is a very graphic emotion in all cases; when we feel everything described, we feel down or even on the verge of fainting.
Stupid (Argentina) = colloquial term of confidence between friends (Uruguay) = immature (Costa Rica) = lazy (Guatemala and Nicaragua) = a brave or courageous person (Mexico).
These definitions should explain why this is truly one of the most troublesome words for Spanish students.
Flirtatious (Colombia) = someone who fantasizes, a liar (Nicaragua) = ugly or poor quality (Venezuela).
We bet that after this explanation you'll understand the famous Colombian song lyrics that go "the caíman is leaving for Barranquilla" just a little better.
Mob boss (Spain and Colombia) = a genius with a remarkable talent (Argentina, Chile and Uruguay).
Be very careful when using this word: "being an international capo" can be a compliment or an insult depending where you find yourself.
Heavy, boring, pedantic (Spain) = surprising in a negative way (Ecuador).
We should add that in Spain "being denso" also means feeling confused.
Disorder, chaos (Costa Rica, Spain) = uproar, riot (Mexico) = a strong fall (Venezuela)
More than one desmadre has ended in another desmadre according to these definitions.
Outward appearance (Argentina) = a person with fascist tendencies (Spain)
Be very careful when using this word in Spain... especially because of the sensitive political atmosphere in the country.
A brazen, shameless person (Spain, Cuba, Puerto Rico) = relaxed, calm (Colombia, Honduras) = cynical, abusing of others (cynical, amoral).
One of our calm and peaceful Spanish writers remembers his confusion when a Colombian friend call him "fresco."
Little red berry (Spain) = intimate part of a woman (Argentina) = a rich and superficial person (Mexico) = pretentious (Ecuador).
A little clarification: in most Spanish-speaking countries the "fresa" that we eat as dessert is called "frutilla."
Cured pork leg (Spain) = something that is good or liked (Argentina) = something simple (Costa Rica) = to make excuses (Mexico) = a bachelor (Puerto Rico) = a passionate kiss (Venezuela)
Luckily, this doesn't mean that in countries outside of Spain this delicious specialty doesn't exist. What is curious though, is that in Spain, jamón is such an institution that the word doesn't have a double meaning.
To hookup (Spain) = to be a voyeur (Puerto Rico) = to get beat-up (Paraguay) = to wish for luck (Argentina, Uruguay and Venezuela) = to contract a fleeting illness (Cuba).
We should note that in some of the countries listed, it may also mean "to be punished or reprimanded."
Tip (Colombia) = work badly done (Spain) = an amount of something added to complete a weight (Panama).
We can observe a certain feel in all of these meanings, a certain nuance in the meaning about something done hastily or as "a quick fix."
Footwear (Spain) = silly (Argentina) = ugly (Colombia) = talkative (Costa Rica) = a gossip (Peru).
This is a fun one; something as simple as a piece of footwear can lead to some very interesting conversations.
Of course these are just a few examples, just a few words... but we think they’ll give you an idea of just how rich the Spanish language really is. And, if you want to know, better than anyone, the ways in which our language is used in an international environment, we invite you to come to our schools in Spain and Latin America and see for yourself!