A few of my favourite Spanish words

Colombian Spanish Vocabulary, Spanish words
Colombian Spanish contains as much colloquial words as the next language.

As August ends and people are again contemplating back to work or school, Katie Jacoby invites us to savour some choice Spanish words for pondering as the holidays come to an end.


Over the years, I’ve built up quite a collection of interesting Spanish words. For me, it’s one of the delights of studying a language.

On my recent visit to Colombia’s coast I had time to time to kick back and ponder, or to cogerla suave (my chief linguistic takeaway), and I thought it would be fun to mix things up this edition and share my collection with you.

Therefore, para variar un poco, I hereby present you some of my favourite Spanish words. Some of them because they’re beautiful, others because they’re fun to say, others because I like how they’re used or their meaning, others because I get a kick out of their translation in certain dictionaries (indicated by quotes), and others still because they just have a je ne sais quoi about them.

All are words that I’ve gradually come across via conversations, books, and life over the years – no cheating and thumbing through the dictionary or looking up someone else’s list of favourite words. A few are Colombian Spanish or particular to other regions; others may be highly literary or old-fashioned. The definitions are not exhaustive. So, sit back, relax, and enjoy this tantalizing smorgasbord of the Spanish language:

acuarela (watercolor)

acuatizaje (water landing)

albaricoque (apricot)

almohadilla (ink pad; paw pad; small pillow; pincushion)

amanecer (dawn; to dawn; wake up in the morning; spend the night somewhere; stay up all night)

andariego (full of wanderlust, footloose; wanderer)

apenas (barely, hardly; as soon as)

ay (oh; ow, ouch)

bambalina (stage curtain)

bobalicón (nitwit, twit, dolt)

borbotones (bubbling, gushing; abundantly)

cacharrear (to fiddle with something until you figure it out, tinker)

cachimba (smoking pipe; hookah)

cachivaches (knickknacks, odds and ends; junk)

cantimplora (canteen, flask)

casquisuelto (sexually promiscuous person, womanizer, Don Juan, floozy, man-eater)

chichiguas (pittance, petty amount)

colindar (to adjoin, abut)

cumbamba (chin)

curiosear (to poke around, snoop; to glance at, look around)

decembrino (related to December)

diluir (to dilute)

embebecer (to fascinate)

empiyamado (in one’s pajamas)

ensimismado (lost in thought; absorbed, engrossed; self-absorbed)

escuincle (kid, child)

feligrés (parishioner)

flojera (laziness; weakness)

floripondio (“gaudy decorative flower,” “great flowery thing”; rhetorical flourish)

friolento (cold-natured)

fulano (whatshisname; some random person)

golosina (treat, candy; incentive)

gordinflón (fatty, fatso; chubby, tubby, pudgy)

hediondo (smelly, foul, reeking)

hijueputa (son of a bitch, bastard)

horripilante (hideous; horrifying)

imagínate (just imagine)

inmiscuirse (to interfere, meddle, stick your nose into)

kumis (kumis: kind of yogurt)

lentejuela (sequin)

locuacidad (loquacity, talkativeness)

maracuyá (passion fruit)

memorioso (having a good memory)

mequetrefe (good for nothing, schmuck; busybody)

mermar (to reduce, turn down)

mijo/mija (my son/daughter, “sonny boy”; sweetie, darling)

mismísimo (the very same, itself/herself/himself)

mojigato (strait-laced, goody two-shoes; holier-than-thou, self-righteous; hypocrite, two-faced; prude, prig)

murciélago (bat)

dar nalgadas (spanking)

natalicio (birthday; commemoration/observance of a famous person’s birthday)

ningunear (to ignore, brush aside; to look down one’s nose at, treat like dirt)

noctámbulo (nocturnal; night owl)

ojalá (let’s hope, hopefully, God willing)

papanatas (sucker, dupe)

papeleo (paperwork; red tape)

parvulario (nursery school, kindergarten)

pecueca (stinky feet smell; bad; brat)

piquiña (itching; envy)

pluviosidad (rainfall)

porquería (junk; dirt; mess; filth, smut; shoddy work)

primíparo (college freshman; first-timer, newbie; primípara: first-time mother)

pues (well; um; then; because, since)

quiubo (what’s up?; hey)

renacuajo (tadpole; nosy)

rosaleda (rose garden, rose bed)

tampoco (neither, nor; come on)

tararear (“to la-la-la”; sing to oneself, hum)

tertulia (get-together, gathering; cultural/literary salon, circle)

tinieblo (secret lover; unofficial or unannounced partner)

tiquismiquis (petty details; bickering, squabbles; fussy, finicky, persnickety; stickler, fusspot)

tulipán (tulip)

vaina (thingamajig, whatchamacallit; headache, drag; pod; sheath, case)

verdulería (produce store; vegetable stand; mayhem, chaos; obscenity)

ya (already; now; enough; right)

Now you have 75 splendid words to season your Spanish with! I hope you enjoyed them and are now thinking about the words that have always struck you as lovely or nifty. What a treat to be able to speak such a beautiful language.


Katie Jacoby is a Spanish-English translator and has been in Colombia for three years. Feel free to leave her a comment or ideas for future columns on her language website, vocabat.com.

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