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8 Mind-Blowing Spanish Words That Defy English Translation

8 Mind-Blowing Spanish Words That Defy English Translation

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Translation is often complicated and far from straightforward, oftentimes due to the large number of expressions used by native speakers that sometimes lack direct translations. Translating content from Spanish into English and vice versa is no different. There are various Spanish words that don’t exist in English and translating them correctly makes for a major challenge.

While the meaning of these words may be difficult to grasp, it’s always worth delving into the distinct ways that language reflects the culture and identity of its speakers.

So, are you ready to soak in a few, new and fascinating Spanish words that’ll have you thinking “I wish we had these words in English”? Then you might like to stay on board until the end!

1. Sobremesa – noun

Our first Spanish word with no English translation is “sobremesa”, which characterizes the unhurried and sociable period after a meal, where people can catch up, laugh and enjoy each other’s presence.

This is a crucial word of highly traditional significance, because in Spain, dinner is more than just a meal – it’s a social occasion that’s meant to be savoured and enjoyed to the max. The literal meaning of “Sobremesa” in English is just “over the table”.


Cada sábado tenemos una sobremesa con la familia.

“Every Saturday after lunch, we sit around and chat as a family.”

2. Chapuza – adjective

In the Spanish language, the term “chapuza” refers to a job that has been done poorly or in an amateurish manner; the kind of job that makes you wonder “How could anyone even produce results with such apparent disregard for quality and craftsmanship?”.


Todo lo que haces es una chapuza!

“Everything you do is shoddy!”

3. Madrugar – verb

If you consider yourself as someone with a resilient work ethic, chances are you wake up earlier than most. Well, the Spanish language has a word for doing just that: “Madrugar”.

This verb means to wake up at the crack of dawn, just as the sun begins to light up the sky. It conveys the intention of waking up early enough in order to fulfil one’s obligations for the day. After all, the early bird catches the worm!


Se está haciendo tarde y mañana tengo que madrugar.

“It’s getting late, and tomorrow, I have to get up early.”

4. Dominguero – noun

Do you need an escape from the stressors of daily urban living? Why not pack up all your stuff and get out there for a gateway? People that do so with great frequency –those seeking constant solace from the hustle and bustle of city life by retreating to the countryside– are known as “dominguero” (masculine) or “dominguera” (feminine).

Everyone needs to escape from time to time. However, Spanish speakers use this term to describe people who take it to a different level. Although this Spanish word has no direct English translation, its closest equivalent is “a Sunday/day tripper”.


Dominguero conoce belleza local, el elixir a su estresante vida en la ciudad.

“The Sunday tripper knows the local beauty, the elixir to his stressful life in the city.”

5. Empalagar – adjective

“Empalagar” is yet another fascinating Spanish word that does not exist in English. This Spanish word has two primary uses. On one hand, “Embalagar” is used to describe the disgusting sensation that arises from eating too much of something overly sweet or sugary. Metaphorically, it refers to a situation or experience that’s extremely sentimental.


● Este dulce empalaga. No puedo comer ni un pedazo más.
“This candy is too sweet. I can’t eat another piece.”
● Su conversación me empalaga.
“I find his conversation too sickly-sweet.”

6. Trámite – noun

The Spanish word “tramite” refers to the tedious and often frustrating bureaucratic tasks that need to be completed to obtain a desired outcome, like to get a visa or a job. Spanish speakers use this word to suggest the process is time-consuming, complicated or delayed, thus getting in the way between someone and their goal.
No matter our cross-cultural differences, it’s clear that paperwork is no one’s favourite past-time activity. Wouldn’t it make sense for there to be a word in English, or in any language for that matter, conveying the same thought?


Me da la impresión de que el trámite burocrático aumenta año tras año.

“I get the feeling that bureaucratic paperwork increases by the year.”

7. Estrenar – verb

We all know the feeling of anticipation and excitement that comes with trying something new, such as new shoes, clothing, accessories or gadgets. The Spanish word “Estrenar” captures this sensation elegantly and succinctly.

Spanish speakers may use the verb in two different ways; either to imply they’re “wearing something for the first time” or “using something for the first time”.


Voy a estrenar el cepillo que me regalaste”.

“I’m going to use the new brush you gave me.”

8. Mimoso – adjective

Are you the type of person that genuinely enjoys showing love or care for others in the form of physical affection, such as through hugs, cuddles or kisses? Then our final word on this list of Spanish words with no English translations is for you.

Although being physically affectionate is appropriate in some cases, it’s not so much in others. And that’s where the negative use of the Spanish word “Mimoso” comes in, used to describe someone who is excessively clingy or demanding of physical affection, to the point where it becomes intrusive.


● Es muy mimosa con su novio.
“She’s very affectionate to her boyfriend.”
● ¡No te pongas tan mimoso!
“Don’t be so clingy!”

Pangea Global – we translate the untranslatable

Now you might be asking yourself: how convenient would it be if we had these words at our disposal? There might not be any direct translations of those Spanish words in English, but there’s still hope on the horizon – English borrows words from other languages continuously, after all.

Are you still Spanish-curious? Then don’t forget to check our article about the most Popular Spanish Dialects You Should Know!

If you’re struggling to navigate the complexities of Spanish, Pangea Global’s professional translation services can point you in the right direction. No matter how challenging or arduous your translation task may be, our 900 native speaker translators for 75+ languages, including Spanish, can tackle it with style. Contact us today – and we’ll make the impossible translatable!

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