Lost in Translation

This is a living list (in no particular order) of many words for which I can not find a proper translation, either from Spanish to English or viceversa. Some words have a direct translation, but one that is too obscure or seldom used; others have a translation that is close enough but just not quite the same. I’ve excluded any words for foods or ingredients, which would end up dominating the entire list. I’ve also stayed away from slang from particular regions and tried to keep it to internationally recognized words.

That mouth feeling you get from eating something that is too sweet. Can also be used to describe someone who is too clingy (uncommon translation: cloying)Empalagoso / Empalagosa
A person who commonly argues against any point just for the sake of it (closest translation: naysayer / Devil’s advocate)Contreras
A person who gets cold easilyFriolento / Friolenta
Lock (Verb)Cerrar un cerrojo con seguro. Puede ser “atrancar” pero se refiere a cualquier tipo de candado o cerrojo, real o digital.
Conversation that happens at the table after a mealSobremesa
HitchhikerPersona que pide un aventón (traducción infrecuente: autoestopista)
Person with the same name as you (uncommon translation: namesake)Tocayo
Dried eye residue, common after waking up (closest translation: eye sand / Rheum)Lagaña
Outer layer of skin (closest translation: epidermis)Pellejo
InsightLa habilidad de entender algo de una manera profunda o intuitiva
Flaky (object)Algo que se desmorona fácilmente (traducción mas cercana : desmenuzable)
Flaky (person)Una persona poco confiable que fácilmente falla en sus deberes (traducción infrecuente: no fidedigno)
To “get it right” (closest translation: to nail it / to hit the bullseye)Atinar
Graduation capBirrete
A tag that you hang on the car’s rearview mirrorMarbete
To wake up earlyMadrugar
ToesDedos de los pies
Wave (greeting)Mover la mano de lado a lado para saludar o llamar la atención (traducción mas cercana: Saludar)
Cringy / CringeworthyAlgo que te causa pena ajena o sentimientos incómodos
To use something for the first time (closest translation: to break in)Estrenar
Missing one: Tooth / Eye / Hand / LegChimuelo / Tuerto / Manco / Cojo
CommuteEl viaje de la casa al trabajo o viceversa
Closest translation: long weekendPuente
The day before yesterdayAntier
FortnightDos semanas
15 daysQuincena
RealizeDarse cuenta de algo
Pertaining to someone other than you (closest translation: Alien)Ajeno
The rising bar at the entrance of parking garagesPluma
DrivewayEntrada de vehículos
To start a vehicleArrancar (Carro)
Polite saying before someone is about to eat, i.e. bon appetit (closest translation: enjoy)Provecho
To stay up too late at night Desvelarse
GroggyEl estado de estar mareado o poco alerta a causa de dormir muy poco, o mucho.
Partner of a sister or brother-in-lawConcuño/Concuña
CrushUn breve pero intenso enamoramiento por alguien
RandomAlgo inesperado o fuera de lugar (traducción mas cercana : Aleatorio)
LoiterPararse o esperar sin un propósito
KinkyRelacionado a gustos o hábitos sexuales inusuales (traducción mas cercana: pervertido)
DowngradeReducir a un grado, rango o nivel de importancia más bajo (traducción mas cercana : degradar)
Slap in the faceBofetada
LeverageUsar algo en tu posesión para tu beneficio (traducción mas cercana : ventaja)
LayoutUn mapa o diagrama que muestra la manera en la que las partes de algo van juntas (traducción mas cercana : diseño)
DeplaneBajarse de un avión
ShoplifterLadrón de una tienda
StareMirar fijamente
Located in the diagonally opposite corner of something (closest translation: cater-cornered)Contraesquina
DiveEcharse un clavado
HomesickMelancolía por extrañar tu casa
WhimsicalAlgo pintoresco, fantasioso de manera atractiva o divertida
AwkwardSentimientos de incomodidad o pena, también puede ser alguien torpe.
BrainstormingLluvia de ideas
SpoilerExplicación o descripción indeseada de algún aspecto importante de una película, libro, etc.
CountercockwiseEn la dirección opuesta a esa de las manecillas del reloj
Someone who is very poorPaupérrimo
Someone who gets easily scared (closest translation: scaredy cat)Miedoso / Miedosa
A congratulations for something that was expected, literally meaning “in good time”Enhorabuena
The bags that form under your eyes due to poor sleepOjeras
Embarrassment that comes specifically from showing one’s naked body (closest translation: prudishness)Pudor
Shallow (depth)Algo poco profundo

On this other list I have words that have multiple translations in the other language, culprits of much confusion when attempting to translate between the two languages.

Floor / GroundPiso
Roof / CellingTecho
Clock / WatchReloj
Ladder / StairsEscalera
OwlBúho / Lechuza
HairPelo / Cabello
FishPez / Pescado
In / OnEn
To beSer / Estar
Earphones / Earbuds / HeadphonesAudífonos
GuestInvitado / Huésped
Chipmunk / SquirrelArdilla
Dye / PaintPintar

Finally, some honorable mentions. Words that are too complicated to be summarized in one sentence, or that have a more complex relation that a one-to-one correspondence.

Love, te quiero

When talking to someone you care for, English provides you with two options: “I like you” and “I love you”, I’ve always felt that the gap in between those two is too wide and in desperate need of an intermediate feeling. That’s where “te quiero” in Spanish comes in, you can say it to a loved one without the strong connotations that “love” has, but something more than just a boring “I like you”. And of course Spanish has “te amo”, which I would argue is not a direct translation of “I love you”, but in fact lies a step above “I love you” in the spectrum of romantic words.

Don’t be silly

You might argue that a silly person es alguien tonto; “don’t be silly”, “no seas tonto”. But I’ve always felt the connotation of these words to be too different for a direct translation. Tonto is bad, tonto is a light insult, silly can be playful, silly can be absurd.

Miles de millones de dólares

Thousands of millions of dollars? Sounds stupid, no? That’s just a billion! But “billón” in Spanish means one million millions, not a thousand millions; something to keep in mind when attempting to translate big numbers.

That’s hot!

Oh sorry, is that spicy hot or temperature hot? – Spicy hot, but not from spices, but heat from the chiles. This word is such a mess. “Picante” is used when referring to “hot” food with a lot of capsaicin. “Caliente” is used for “hot” food with a high temperature. And “condimentado” is used to refer to literally spicy food, that is, with a lot of spices.

Lock the door

I know this is already in the list above, but it bears repeating since I can’t believe there’s no word for this in Spanish! “Cierra la puerta, con seguro”, “Dejaste la puerta abierta – Sin seguro? o abierta abierta?”, in english “Lock the door” and “did you leave the door unlocked?”. Puedo sugerir el uso de “Encerrojar” para evitar la confusión?

Regañar = To Scold?

Do you feel like these two are equivalent? I have my doubts.

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