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Eleven Words and Their Different Meanings in Spanish

By- Angela Padrón 

There are twenty countries in the world where Spanish is spoken, but Spanish dialect and word usage can vary in each of these countries. It’s important to know certain words that may have multiple meanings, especially those words that may have negative connotations in a particular country. Here is a list of some words that may differ depending on the Spanish-speaking country or region:

#1- Guagua: This word means “bus” in several Caribbean countries, such as Cuba, the Dominican Republic, and Puerto Rico. In Chile, however, “guagua” means “baby.” So make sure if you’re looking to take a ride on a bus in Chile, that you use the word “bus”!

#2- Torta: Ordering a “torta” at a restaurant in Mexico will get you a yummy sandwich. In other countries, your server will bring you some cake. No matter where you are, having a “torta” means eating something delicious!

#3- Perilla: Generally, this word means “knob,” but in Spain, a “perilla” is a goatee. Definitely not a good idea to put a beard on a door to open it!

#4- Pana: In most Spanish-speaking countries, “pana” is a material used for making velveteen shirts or skirts. In Colombia, however, saying “pana” is a way to call somebody or get someone’s attention, similar to saying “Hey, bro!” in English.

#5- Chivo: In most Spanish-speaking countries, a “chivo” is a goat. But in Argentina and Uruguay, “chivo” also is used to describe armpit odor. That’s definitely not the kind of word to misuse!

#6- Capullo: A “capullo” is a flower bud in Spanish-speaking countries. However, do not use this word in Spain, because it is considered an insult.

#7- Jugo: This means “juice” in many Spanish-speaking countries, but in Spain, this is used to describe the liquid that comes out of meat. Instead, “zumo” is the way Spaniards say “fruit juice.”

#8- Coche: In Spain and other countries this means “car,” but not in Guatemala — there it’s slang for “pig.” Riding in a car versus a pig is a very different type of experience!

#9- Chuco: This word has a few different meanings — in Honduras it means “stingy,” and in Chile it means “jail.”

#10- Fresa: “Fresa” means “strawberry” in most Spanish-speaking countries, except in Mexico, where it also used to describe someone who is rather fancy.

#11- Saco: “Saco” means “large bag,” except in the Dominican Republic and Panama, where a “saco” is a jacket.

Knowing words with multiple meanings can not only help you find the things and places you need, but can also keep you out of trouble!

You may also like: Ten Iconic Dishes from Spanish-speaking Countries

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