Spanish Lessons


-ero, -ista - Working with suffixes

Slow... Señor Maquinitero.
"Slow... Mister Mix Master."

[Caption 6, Choc Quib Town > Somos Pacífico]


In our exclusive interview with Choc Quib Town, we meet the band, including its leader ("líder"), bass player ("bajista"), and a guy named Slow, who describes himself as Señor Maquinitero. Señor what?? After watching Slow busy at work on turntables, with equalizers and computer cords all around, it makes sense to conclude that he's calling himself something close to "Mister Mix Master," as we translated in the captions. You see, una máquina is "a machine." The diminutive maquinita is "a little machine" or "a video game." Finally, the suffix "-ero" can be added to a noun to create a new word that describes somebody who works with that noun. Here are a few examples:

zapato (shoe) + -ero = zapatero (cobbler or shoe salesman)
vaca (cow) + -ero = vaquero (cowboy)
ingeniería (engineering) + -ero = ingeniero (engineer)

rap (as in rap music) + -ero = rapero (rapper, rap artist)

Knowing your suffixes helps decode words that you might not find in your dictionaries -- like maquinitero or rapero. But note that Spanish has more than one suffix for professionals or tradespeople. For example, a standard Spanish dictionary lists someone who works with machines (e.g. to fabricate parts) as un maquinista ("a machinist"). Some more:

bajo (bass) + -ista = bajista (bass player)
batería (drums) + -ista = baterista
taxi (taxi) + -ista = taxista (taxi driver)

A few nouns can have either -ero or -ista added to them to form new words, like the all important fútbol (soccer). Note that the definitions are slightly different:

Futbolero = soccer supporter
Futbolista = soccer player

But don't make sweeping generalizations about -ero vs -ista from the sporty example above. For example, a professional "bookseller" is a "librero" while a "book lover" or "book worm" is "amante de los libros," "un bibliófilo" or "ratón de biblioteca." Knowing the suffixes can help you along, but some memorization is required to get the details right (as in English).


Finally, we want to clarify: You might have noticed that the suffix -ista always ends in a, regardless of the gender of the person who's being described. With words like futbolista and taxista, you must rely on the articles to get the gender across. For example:

La futbolista = the female soccer player
Un taxista = a male taxi driver


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