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Written by Montserrat González

Montserrat is a professional translator who likes to read and write fictional stories. There's nothing she enjoys more than spending time with her friends and family.

January 7, 2020

Words without a direct Spanish translation

English, like any other language, has its own aspects that make it unique. All languages have their own words to transmit feelings, actions, or moods that may be considered untranslatable as they do not have a direct equivalence in the target language.

One of the most-known examples could be the verb to be, which in Spanish has different meanings depending on the context and inverse translation can create problems too. That is the case of the famous word: “Procrastinate”. In such cases, the adaptation method must be applied. Never use other means to translate, unless they are glossaries or dictionaries. You can read our article related to this topic so you are not fooled by machine translators!

The following article will share with you some of the most known words in English without a Spanish equivalent.


To stare

“To stare” is an English verb that expresses specific concepts and sometimes we need to express in Spanish the whole meaning with more than one word. This would be translated using an adaptation of its meaning gazing fixedly. In other cases, it can mean looking at someone longer than usual.


To mean

“To mean” is another verb that doesn’t have a direct translation into Spanish, as it can refer to different things depending on the context. This can refer to the “meaning” of a word, talking about the sense of it. In addition, this verb can refer to the action of “meaning something”, intending to do something. You wouldn’t want to mean something you didn’t want to.


Shoplifter / Burglar

In English, there are different words that refer to the stealing act depending on which object is being stolen but in Spanish, the term “ladrón” is used generally for all kinds of stealing. A burglar is a person who breaks unlawfully into a vehicle, house, store, or other closed space. Furthermore, a shoplifter is a person who steals goods from a store.


To tip

We all know that is common to give extra money when going to restaurants or any other place that gives you a service. In English, we use the verb “to tip” to refer to this action but it doesn’t have an equivalent in Spanish, so we use the adaptation method to translate it. As a verb, we can use it as “dar propina”. But it can also be a noun, which would be just “propina”.



We use this word when we want to refer to a person who greatly dislikes a specific person or thing but it doesn’t have an equivalent in Spanish. As it can also refer to a negative or critical person, we need to read carefully when we translate it into Spanish. The nearest but not official equivalent would be “resentido”.


Having knowledge about two languages is good and if you don’t believe me, you should read about bilingualism and its benefits.

So, do you know any other English words without a Spanish direct translation? Share them with us and let’s discover more about the art of translating!

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