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Tope: A Word to Bump Into

In general terms, the Spanish word tope means “top,” and it is used to name the highest part of something:
Miguel subió al tope del árbol
Miguel climbed to the top of the tree
It can also mean a “top” as in a cap, something that serves to hold in, protect, or conceal. That’s why Alexis, in our video on making the traditional Venezuelan instrument known as an ocarina, tells us that un tope (a top) is necessary to cover the air channel:

El canal de aire debe tener un tope.

The air channel should have a cap.

Caption 27, Instrumentos musicales - Ocarinas

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When explaining the use of a typical (though rather vulgar) Spanish expression, our friend Carlos, from Burgos, Spain, also uses the expression a tope (or hasta el tope) to express that something has reached a limit:

...quiere decir que está a tope, lleno.

...means that it's to the top, full.

Caption 27, Burgos - Chistes y un dicho chistoso

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(You'll have to watch the video to see what vulgar expression he's talking about!)
However, topar, the verb, is a different story. While in English “to top” means to reach a limit in the sense of being superlative, in Spanish the verb topar means to reach a limit but without going any further, something that we would rather translate as “to bump” or even as “to stop.”
Aquí te topas, amigo.
You stop here, pal.
And that’s why the verb topar is used in the expression toparse con alguien (to bump into someone), as Molotov sings in their song "Hit Me":

Toparás con un par de secretarias pendejas

You'll bump into a couple of stupid secretaries

Caption 30, Molotov - Hit Me

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Topar also appears in the expression toparse con algo (to bump into something), as we see here used by our buddies in Mexico City discussing pedestrian etiquette:


Aquí les va un ejemplo de lo que pueden hacer si se

Here goes an example of what you can do if you

topan con ciertas circunstancias.

bumped into certain circumstances.

Captions 10-11, Amigos D.F. - Consejos para la calle

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Please let us know at si se topan con más ejemplos (if you bump into more examples) while browsing our catalog of authentic Spanish videos.



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