¿Como Se Dice? Spanish Words and Phrases That are Simply Untranslatable

Updated: Aug 22, 2019

"Ella tiene duende"


I know, it's been a whole month. Life has been, well, a little crazy and time has seemed to slip right through my hands! Between going to London, then home to Texas, then Louisiana, then back home to Spain, then have a friend stay from TX, then to Moscow and now preparing for only a few short weeks left in Granada before we move again - things have been going a little fast!

Nonetheless, I wanted to share some of my favorite Spanish words that have no translation to English. I'm by no means fluent and "dime despacio" is still an overused phrase for me, but I have certainly learned enough to have stable conversations and make great, long-lasting friends with people who know zero English. I feel like this helped me grow my Spanish; I was so eager to get to know people better-and in lengthier ways than ¿como estas?

My grammar may not be perfect and, sure, there was that time I tried to loudly declare to my Valencian friend that her English is growing and accidentally called it crunchy. I am always trying to improve my adjectives and use more than just "bueno" to spruce up my vocab a bit. Well, I confused crujiente (crunchy) for cresciendo (growing) at a table full of Spaniards that got quite the kick out of it.

So! Ven, ven & let's learn some of what I consider the most interesting Spanish words with no translation in English!

Sobremesa Sobremesa is probably my favorite. The dining culture throughout Spain/Latin America is essential, and sobremesa refers specifically to time spent with friends/family at the table after a long meal. It's the time after a meal when everyone just continues to talk, the laughter keeps rolling, and everyone simply continues to connect with one another at the table. La cuenta (check) be damned. I love it. Though, it probably helps that there is no rush after meals - no waiters/waitresses nipping at your heels for a clear table.


This one is pretty impressive. Duende specifically refers to the feeling when you are in awe of something powerful. It's an inside response to art, nature or expression that moves you. You know when you see something so moving and so emotional it gives you chill bumps and a little ting in your heart? Que duende, amigo. :) "Tener duende" or to "have duende," usually refers to the art of flamenco and the passion within the dancers. Though it has several non-flamenco uses as well!

Concuñado and Consuegro Concuñado refers to your sister/brother-in-laws spouse. So, instead of saying this is my sister's husband's brother (haha) you could just say "Concuñado." Consuegro is the relationship between to sets of in-laws. Mine and my husband's parents are consuegros.

Dar un Toque When you call someone, let it ring once and then hang up so they'll call you back later. Been there too many times :)

Te quiero This one's tricky...directly translated it can mean "I want you." But it's also used as a stepping stone to say "I love you." It's liking someone more than a friend but not quite saying you love them. I guess you could say "te quiero" is the equivalent of not just liking someone but "like-liking them" haha I went back to 3rd grade for a moment.

Verguenza ajena Verguenza ajena is the feeling when you cringe in embarrassment for someone else. A good example would be when you see someone tell a joke, nobody laughs, and it's awkward, so you are embarrassed for that person.

Chapuza "Chapuza" refers to something put together really poorly that is falling apart; like a cars exhaust wrapped in zip ties or getting a butchered haircut. Imagine if your plumber wrapped your busted pipes in scotch tape and called it a day. That'd be a chapuza.

Casa Ajena This one is cute. Casa ajena is the feeling when you are a guest in someone's home, and because of this, you are very polite. In other words, a house where you can't "make yourself at home" A term I didn't know I needed until I heard it!

Lampiño We all know a guy who's pushing 30 but looks pre-pubescent, right? This term is for them. It means hairless, but more specifically, men who can't grow facial hair.

Puente Puente technically means bridge, but it's also used as a saying when Friday or Monday is a holiday, so you take off work on Thursday or Tuesday to make it an even longer weekend. Puente's where one of my best friends when I worked in the corporate world! It's a big part of how we traveled and budgeted vacation time!

Bonus: Mi media naranja

I want to do a post specifically on idioms at some point. I always love the looks we get when Brett or I say "tu eres la manzana de mi ojo" or in English, "you are the apple of my eye." It's a romantic and cute thing that we say in English, but in Spanish, it just makes no sense. I thought I'd include the Spanish equivalent that I find very sweet! And that is "tu eres mi media naranja" or in English, "you are my orange half" We learned this while living in Valencia where orange trees flood the streets, and fresh citrus is always in the air. Fun fact, Valencia is on the Costa del Azahar in Spain which translates to "Coast of the orange blossom."

I hope you enjoyed my take on these interesting Spanish words! If you've got any more, I'd love to know! ¡HASTA LUEGO!