These 15 Spanish Words Mean Very Different Things Depending On Where You’re From
Latinos have tons in common, no matter where they’re from: many of us drink a creamy, eggnog-style drink on the holidays that we can call coquito or rompope, and many of us have memories of dancing in familiar fiestas with nuestros. papás o primos – although the rhythm can vary from bachata to salsa to merengue.
For the most part, us Hispanohablantes all speak the same language. That being said, some words get extremely lost in translation. If you have ever traveled to another Latin American country, you may have realized that the words you know and love mean very different things in other places. As in, sometimes saying an innocent word like “concha” becomes something attractive embarrassing if you end up in Argentina (at least you’ll laugh about it later!). Ahead, find all the funniest Spanish words that mean different things depending on your country of origin.
The word “ahorita” alone is the most debatable word in the Spanish language: does it mean to the nearest second? In a moment? Or later? In some South American countries, “ahorita” emphasizes “ahora” – which means at present. But Puerto Ricans say “ahorita” to mean much later. Meanwhile, in Mexico, that could mean now, in a rato, or maybe never.
Another extremely different word depending on the country you come from, “saco” means “jacket” in several Latin American countries such as Colombia and Panama. However, the same word means “bag” or “bag” almost everywhere else.
This word actually has a triple meaning, and we may never fully understand. Venezuelans and Colombians say the word “torta” means cake, but in Mexico the word actually means a delicious sandwich. Meanwhile, it can also mean a blow or a slap in Argentina.
Okay, this one might be a little weird for anyone not from the Caribbean. While many Latin American countries call sweet potatoes “batatas”, Puerto Ricans and Dominicans are a world apart. To them, “batatas” are calves – like your lower leg.
Formally, the word “coger” means “to take” and is used that way in several Hispanic countries like Ecuador, Colombia, Panama, Peru and Cuba. In these places it is totally normal to say “coger algo” to “take something”. That being said, the word means “to have sex” in Argentina, Mexico, Guatemala, Venezuela, and other countries… so beware of the context.
Another word that makes us very confused is “platano”. In Caribbean countries like Puerto Rico, Cuba, and the Dominican Republic, “plátanos” refer to plantains. Meanwhile, they call the bananas “guineos”, and that’s it. However, Mexicans call bananas “plátanos”, and a plantain is actually a “macho plátano”.
Another one that will always make us laugh thinking about it, the word “concha” means roughly 5,000 different things depending on where you’re from. First, we have Mexican conchas, or delicious sweet breads that go very well with chocolate caliente. Other countries like Venezuela or Colombia say “concha” to mean a seashell, while places like Argentina and Uruguay say the word to refer to the female anatomy. The more you know!
The word “pastel” seems to have a different meaning in every country, which makes it quite confusing if we say it ourselves. “Pastel” means cake in Mexico, but refers to a tamale-like holiday dish made with plantains or yuca in Puerto Rico. Meanwhile, Cubans have “pastelitos,” or pastries.
Ah, the classic word to end all the words of the Spanish language: “vaina”. As some Hispanics know, “vaina” can stand in for just about any word in our vocabulary – it could be that bowl of cereal, that houseplant, or that argument. “Vaina” means “thing” for Colombians, Dominicans, Venezuelans and other nationalities, but in other places? It simply means a pod or husk.
The Spanish word “galleta” has several different meanings – and saying it in different countries might make some people scratch their heads. The classic definition of “galleta” is cookie, and most Latin American countries use it that way. However, Dominicans and Puerto Ricans also say “galleta” to refer to a slap, while Mexicans sometimes use the idiom “echarle galleta” which means to work hard for something.
Ah, just like “ahorita”, the word “rato” is another tricky word whose meaning we will never fully know. Officially, “rato” means “some time”, but how long this period is depends on where you are from and the situation. In most countries “one rato” is long, but in Mexico it can also mean a few minutes.
12. Check mark
Depending on where you’re from, “tick” can mean three very different things. Some Latin American countries like Mexico and Uruguay use it to refer to a car, but Guatemalans use “checkmark” to refer to a pig. Meanwhile, Cubans and Puerto Ricans say “checkmark” to refer to a stroller. OK so !
13. Mona or mono
If someone calls you “mona” or “mono”, don’t worry too much – they don’t necessarily call you a monkey. People in countries like Spain and Puerto Rico use the word to describe something pretty or cute, so it’s actually a (kinda weird) compliment.
We’re not quite over this one yet: depending on where you’re from, “guagua” can mean something very specific – or nothing at all. This hilarious word actually means “baby” or “child” in places like Chile, but in Cuba? It actually means a bus. Meanwhile, in other countries, “guagua” may seem made up.
Last but not least, we have the word “bollo”, which can either sound like something completely normal or make you laugh a little – it all depends on where you’re from. In Colombia, bollos are buns or rolls usually made of corn, in Mexico they refer to a kind of bread, and Panamanian bollos de maíz are similar to tamales. However, in Cuba it actually means the lower regions of a woman – so there is this fun fact of the day.
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