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8 Spanish words that don't have a direct English translation

Someone sent me this article today: http://www.biobiochile.cl/2014/05/28/9-palabras-del-espanol-que-no-tienen-traduccion-en-ingles.shtml
Here, in English, are the essence of the eight words as described in this article (this is not a direct translation):

  1. Sobremesa - The conversation you have with your family after a meal has ended.
  2. Estrenar - Trying something on for the first time.
  3. Vergüenza ajena - Discomfort surrounding the actions of someone else that doesn't directly affect you.
  4. Desvelarse - Being unable to sleep.
  5. Tuerto - A man with only one eye.
  6. Friolento - Someone who is very sensitive to the cold.
  7. Te quiero - Although usually translated as "I love you," it actually represents a concept somewhere between "I like you" and "I love you."
  8. Tutear - To use the informal "tú" with a person in place of the formal "usted."
May 30, 2014



I can see why sobremesa does not have an English equivalent. We don't even eat together at the table, much less hang around talking to the family.


My family talks after meals.


Here in Colombia we also use the word "sobremesa" to talk about the drink you have along with your meals.


does that mean the use of this word differs from country to country?


There are approximately 22 countries in Latin America and there are many difficult natural obstacles separating countries and cities (jungles, deserts, rivers, mountains). So when Spanish first came to Latin America it evolved differently in many places. An example is the word palanca which generally means handle, but in Venezuela, it is often used to mean the "handle to the door of political power." There are thousands of these regionalisms known as "modismos." In Mexico a flour wrapper for other foods is a "tortilla" while in Venezuela a "tortilla" is an omelette.


I don't really know, with this meaning it is not a word used in "formal" language anyway.


I guess other Spanish speaking countries have more of a tradition of talking after meals.


Maybe Vergüenza Ajena could be translated as second hand embarrassment?


I would translate "tener vergüenza ajena" as "to be embarrassed for someone."


Thank you mmseiple! I agree 100% and would add that this is a common phrase in English.


If that's the case, then I experience this every day. I'm so in touch with other people's feelings...sigh.


Wouldn't it be a form of empathy?


The first thing that came to my mind was to be stuck in the same room when a couple starts arguing.


What about rincón? In English it means, roughly, an "inside corner," but there is no precise equivalent. I've always liked that word. There's something cozy and intimate about it.


I agree, that's one of my favorite words


Funnily enough, sobremesa means dessert in Portuguese.


hahaha I was about to say that.


Could "Desvelarse" be translated as insomnia?

  • Insomina -> Insomnio (noun)
  • Desvelarse -> Reflexive verb


In addition, "desvelarse" often means to be kept awake by something or to stay awake for a reason, so it's not necessarily just insomnia.


Shut up and take my lingot!


To expand on "te quiero," I use it when I am talking to my family members or perhaps a really good friend ("love you bestie!). I would even use it with a boyfriend or food (which is the equivalent to be honest). I would NOT use "te amo" with any of my family members or friends, maybe food, mainly because that is a romantic love and is used only with a romantic partner, and is more serious than "te quiero".

So, you can go ahead and say, "Yo amo ese foto, y yo te amo mi amor," to your significant other at a museum and say, "Mami, te quiero mucho, chao!" to your mama.


Soy una persona muy friolenta!! <sub>brrrr</sub>


Yo tambien. Me gusta esa palabra porque es muy util para mi!


No cierto si es siempre "friolento" or si a veces puedo usar "friolenta" cuándo referir una persona en general...


Soy no friolenta en el más mínimo. De hecho, estoy no muy poco sensible al frío.

  • 2220

Thanks, interesting!

  1. Friolento - Someone who is very sensitive to the cold.
    • friolero? (according to RAE).
  2. Te quiero
    • one word (like: one-word)? ;)
  3. Tutear
    • not really applicable in English (but in German: Dutzen)

The other ones are perfectly defined (according to RAE).


"Quiero" in "te quiero" isn't really just "like," though. If you say to your mom, "Te quiero," you mean, "I love you," not, "I like you."


Well even in English saying "I love you" can have different connotations, so this is nothing foreign. I think tone often makes this distinction in English.

To your child - A caring parent.

To a stranger's kid at the park - pedophile

To your mother - A loving child

To your friends mother - well...

To your wife - A loving husband

To your friends wife - awkward.


I agree. I was just responding to the poster above who proposed translating it as "like." I personally wouldn't have even included "te quiero" on the list, since it translates pretty easily as "I love you."


I wonder if "Vergüenza ajena" could also be applied to the "discomfort comedy" (or "cringe comedy") genre that has popped up in the last decade? This article talks about it...http://entertainment.time.com/2013/05/13/discomfort-zone-10-great-cringe-comedies/


If this means that "the awkwardness of social interaction" and "people’s lack of self-awareness" are supposed to make you cringe while watching the show, then yes :)


I never found a word that is the translation "relajista" (loud fun most of the time, when they are talking and laughing in groups such)


Since the verb Tutear exist, does the word ''Vosear'' exist too?


It does exist, but I´m 40 and never heard it before (only read it in books). It´s VERY obscure and not many people will know it, much less use it. Do not confuse it with "vocear", which is a bit more common and means to say something aloud.


it seems like "vergüenza ajena" is "Fremdschämen" in German.

"tutear" is "duzen" of course and there also used to be a word in English: "to thou". Isn't there an equivalent of German "siezen" in Spanish?


siezen = tratarse de usted (we don't have a specific verb for that)


Thanks. How would you use dozen in a sentence in German? Mochten Sie duzen?


or Mochten Sie duzen mit mir? I can't write an umlaut


It' s a verb that requires an object, so your sentence should be "möchten Sie mich duzen" or "möchten Sie, dass wir uns duzen"

Another possibility once you've established the du is to say "wir sind per du." (of course this makes for easy puns with French)


In italian friolento is freddoloso and tuerto is guercio.


I work with a friolento, I think she just needs to eat something


I think she would be friolentA :D


I knew as soon as I posted that it would come back thanks


Friolento! Now I finally know what to call my coworkers who claim that the office is freezing every day!


ummmmm Cyclops?


Only if the single eye is in the center of his forehead :)


Cyclop translation would be "cíclope", but as said before, not the same ;)


From what I understand, 'Tuerto' is more of an insult?


Is just a person or animal with only one eye. If someone uses it as an insult, is because they want do it.


I've heard (and I'm curious how often it's true) that many descriptors that are insulting in English are perceived as neutral in Spanish, especially physical bodily traits, maybe with the sense that they can't be helped. It's not even supposed to be a 'tough love' sort of thing among friends; Latin American culture (the claim goes) is simply less superficially judgmental. Any insights?


I don't think there is a "Latin American culture" in the sense you describe, our countries are very different and in mine in particular, we can be very, very superficial... but I guess it's more or less the same everywhere, some people are good and others not so much. It's just as Julian_L. said (If someone uses it as an insult, is because they want do it.)


That is true, in most latins countries there is no problem about using words that might be offensive in other cultures, for instance, here in venezuela is common to use surnames like: El chino"The chinese",el gordo "The fat", el ❤❤❤❤❤ "the N-word", el flaco "The thin", el turco "The meaning is -The turkish guy- but here is used with arabic people in general" and so on. Although I think those epithets are essentially rude and racist and should not be used, it's evident that in most cases people don't use it with a racist connotation.


While turco does mean Turk in a literal sense. My sense is that in Venezuela it is used to describe anyone who is not open to compromise or insists on doing something their own way. My wife has called me turco on more than one occasion.


Are you sure you're not confusing "turco" with "terco" (stubborn)?


Este turco es terco. Soy totalamente culpable.


Mmmm actually I've never heard that meaning of turco; In fact, here in Venezuela when that word is used in non arabic people means "Someone who likes to get extra-earnings by selling stuff at the office/school/church/etc" which in this context is pretty accurate, since in most Venezuelan cities, Arabic people own a great number of shops (For instance, in my city I daresay that about 90% of electronics shops are own by arabic people) and it's known they are good for commerce in general.


This makes sense, but lets carry the thought a little farther. When you go to one of these shops and want to make a deal. Who is likely to get the better end of the deal, the Turco or you? (Understand that I am not dealing in racial stereotypes but am aware of stereotypes that do exist). And I have had the experience (as a gringo) of paying for an item and the shop owner figures my change on his calculator. Luckily I had already done the math in my head so when the change did not look right I took the calculator from his hand did the math and said, "We both used the same calculator and we both got different numbers, why is that? This is followed by profuse apologies from the shop owner. I smile and say, "It is OK, it could happen to anybody." So I think, in this context Turco can mean a sharp, difficult to deal with person who wins on more deals than he looses on.


@dexterneutron and Roger_Burke, I think it is very important to keep in mind that Duolingo has a very diverse community, which includes many groups who have experienced prejudice, discrimination, as well as racism. Stereotypes are harmful to minority groups especially because these groups are often already vulnerable and suspect and stereotypes drive prejudice and this often in turn drives discrimination. Racism can operate regardless of personal intentions because it is a system of inequalities. Social narratives (or stereotypes about those groups) can easily feed into maintaining a system of inequalities. So, let's be considerate with our language while here on Duolingo and not add to an environment where minorities are being stereotyped. If continuing the conversation is important to you, please continue it somewhere other than Duolingo. Thank you. :)


Your comment is noted. However, You are reading a lot more into our discussion than is actually warranted. Most of the discussion arises from me confusing "turco" with "terco" so you can blame me. Dexterneutron, if anything, was correcting me.


I actually learned "Friolero" (not "Friolento") from my one of my friends from Spain. I'm not sure if "Friolento" is also used there.


"Friolero" is used in Spain, while "friolento" is used in Latin America: http://forum.wordreference.com/showthread.php?t=2008725 I've actually had conversations with friends on how we need a word for this in English, haha.


Around here when someone gets chilled easily we say they are cold natured. If they don't chill easily, we say they are hot natured. I don't know how common that is in other areas though.


I've never heard "cold natured" used that way. When I was a kid, we would call someone "cold-blooded" if they got cold easily, but of course that's not accurate.




"Sobremesa" probably would be covered about 150 years ago with "port and cigars" for the gentlemen, and "drawing-room conversation" for the ladies.

Wouldn't "desvelarse" mean "insomnia"?

We also used to have "to thee and thou somebody" that took care of #8. As the thees and thous went away, so did this expression.


Vergüenza ajena = Second hand embarrassment.


Wouldn't the direct translation of desvelarse be insomnia?


Desvelarse is a verb. Insomnia is a noun.


Ah, I see. Thanks!


What irtward said. Insomnia would be "insomnio".


tuerto can also be termed as man with no eyes?


You would normally refer to a man with no eyes as "ciego" (blind), even though it refers to the lack of ability to see and not the phisical disability. Tuerto is for those lacking just 1 eye.


These are great! Thanks! I'm trying to put some of these in sentences to practice. Do you think these are correct? Comments? 2. Yo voy estrenando esta blusa. 4. Anoche no pude dormir - Me desvelé. 5. Esta hombre es tuerto. (blind in one eye). 6. La mujer es friolenta. 8. ¿Quieres usar tutear?


My inexpert analysis: 2. Yo voy a estrenar esta blusa. 5. Este hombre es tuerto. (use masculine form of "this"). 8. I believe "tutear" is a verb, so you might say something like, "¿Quieres tutear?"


Yes, you're right. I wrote those in too big of a hurry. Thanks!


Also "tuerto" implies not only being blind in one eye, but physically not having one eye.


It can actually mean either/or, i.e. having both eyes but only being able to see out of one or only having one eye.


2- Yo estoy estrenando esta blusa (present) or, as revdolphin said, Yo voy a estrenar esta blusa (future)

8- ¿Quieres que nos tuteemos? or ¿Podemos tutearnos?


4.-Although the sentence is grammatically correct it's redundant; desvele is usually used with a complement that describes the reason why you didn't sleep, for instance: "Anoche me desvele estudiando".


Some similarities in Portuguese : Sobremesa in Portuguese means desert Estrenar =Estreiar (the noum is "a estréia") Vergüenza ajena = vergonha alheia Tuerto = caolho (be careful with "torto" that means crooked, not straight) Friolento = friorento or friento


Doesn't "Desvelarse" translate to isomnia?


Very interesting!


Desvelarse means for me, a native Spanish speaker, to stay up late and can mean that you can't sleep, but doesn't necessairly mean that, does anyone else think of it as I do? Or have I always just thought of it wrong?


Sobremesa = table talk

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