Are you ready to learn some hard Spanish words? Don’t worry! We don’t want to scare you but rather we would like to highlight some of the issues that transform even simple words into difficult ones. Let’s review the following list featuring 100 of the most difficult Spanish words for English speakers.
Pronunciation is definitely the issue to keep in mind when we talk about hard Spanish words. In fact, if you are a native English speaker, there are several sounds that are quite challenging. Let’s start with some of the most difficult words to pronounce in Spanish for English speakers. We have divided these words in groups according to the pronunciation challenge they represent.
For many foreigners, words with the letter “j” are some of the most difficult Spanish words to say. If you are an English speaker, you can try to say the “j” in Spanish as a very strong “h” in English. Think of how you pronounce the letter “h” in the word ham. Let’s take a look:
1. Ají (chili or bell pepper)
"Ají" [chili pepper]?
Caption 37, Ricardo - La compañera de casaPlay Caption
2. Bajo (short)
Es bajo, es gordo.
He's short, he's fat.
Caption 33, El Aula Azul - Mis PrimosPlay Caption
3. Caja (box)
...y ellos también mandaron una caja grandísima.
...and they also sent a huge box.Play Caption
4. Anaranjado (orange)
Adentro, son de color anaranjado.
Inside, they are orange-colored.Play Caption
5. Empujar (to push)
6. Equipaje (luggage)
¿Puedo dejar aquí mi equipaje?
Can I leave my luggage here?
Caption 59, Cleer y Lida - Recepción de hotelPlay Caption
7. Espantapájaros (scarecrow)
8. Cojear (to limp)
9. Injusticia (injustice)
10. Jamón (ham)
Fíjate: jamón, Javier.
Check it out: ham, Javier.
Caption 27, Fundamentos del Español - 10 - La PronunciaciónPlay Caption
11. Jirafa (giraffe)
12. Jornada (day)
13. Jota (J - the sound of the letter J in Spanish)
14. Jugar (to play)
También podemos jugar a las cartas.
We can also play cards.
Caption 12, Clara y Cristina - Hablan de actividadesPlay Caption
15. Junio (June)
16. Lujoso (luxurious)
17. Lejano (far, far away)
Érase una vez en un lejano reino, ahí vivía una joven niña.
Once upon a time in a faraway kingdom, there lived a young girl.
Caption 2, Cuentos de hadas - La CenicientaPlay Caption
18. Majo (nice)
19. Mojado (wet)
20. Pájaro (bird)
21. Sonrojar (to blush)
22. Tajada (slice)
Just as it happens with the letter “j,”, there are several tricky words in Spanish with the letter “g”. What’s hard about this consonant is that there is a soft and a hard way to pronounce it. For example, you have a soft “g” in the word gato (cat). Think about the pronunciation of the syllable “ga” in the word gather. On the other hand, you have a hard “g” in the word gente (people), which is kind of similar to how you pronounce the “h” in the word helmet. Let’s see some tough Spanish words with the letter “g”:
23. Acogedor (cozy, welcoming)
Perfecto, porque es un barco muy marinero, muy acogedor para la gente.
Perfect, because it's a very seaworthy boat, very welcoming for the people.
Caption 16, La Gala - El bote de DalíPlay Caption
24. Agente (agent)
25. Agitar (shake)
26. Aguja (needle)
27. Agujero (hole)
Tiene un cuerpo con un agujero en el centro.
It has a body with a hole in the center.
Caption 45, Karla e Isabel - Instrumentos musicalesPlay Caption
28. Apagar (to turn off)
29. Coger (to take, to get)
El segundo paso es coger la cebolla.
The second step is to get the onion.
Caption 25, Clara cocina - Una tortilla españolaPlay Caption
30. Garganta (throat)
Me duele la garganta.
My throat hurts.
Caption 11, Ariana - Cita médicaPlay Caption
31. General (general)
En general, los nombres acabados en "a" son femeninos.
In general, nouns ending in "a" are feminine.
Caption 10, Fundamentos del Español - 2 - Nombres y GéneroPlay Caption
32. Geneaología (genealogy)
33. Geología (geology)
34. Gigante (giant, gigantic)
Una de las piezas más llamativas es este ajedrez gigante.
One of the most appealing pieces is this gigantic chess board.Play Caption
35. Ginecólogo (gynecologist)
36. Girasol (sunflower)
37. Guapo (handsome)
38. Juguetón (playful)
39. Tangible (tangible)
40. Tigre (tiger)
41. Zoológico (zoo)
There are plenty of tricky words in Spanish with the strong sound of the double “rr”. The following are some of them:
42. Aburrido (bored)
Ah, esto está muy aburrido, ni siquiera se entiende.
Oh, this is very boring, you can't even understand it.
Caption 24, Los Años Maravillosos - Capítulo 2Play Caption
43. Carrera (career)
El presidente empezó su carrera política...
The president began his political career...
Caption 29, Lecciones con Carolina - El gerundioPlay Caption
44. Carretera (road)
45. Carro (car)
¿Ha venido en carro?
Have you come in a car?
Caption 64, Cleer y Lida - Recepción de hotelPlay Caption
46. Correr (to run)
47. Desarrollar (Develop)
Pero el reto era desarrollar proyectos de biomedicina.
But the challenge was to develop biomedical projects.
Caption 10, Club de las ideas - Lego Fest en SevillaPlay Caption
48. Error (mistake)
Esto es un error.
This is a mistake.
Caption 21, Lecciones con Carolina - Errores comunesPlay Caption
49. Ferrocarril (railroad, train)
...en un carrito tipo ferrocarril tirado por un caballo.
...in a little train-like car pulled by a horse.Play Caption
50. Garrote (club)
51. Guerra (war)
La palabra más fea es guerra.
The ugliest word is war.
Caption 61, Karla e Isabel - PalabrasPlay Caption
52. Guitarra (guitar)
53. Herradura (horseshoe)
54. Irresponsable (irresponsible)
55. Morral (backpack)
56. Ornitorrinco (platypus)
57. Perro (dog)
Se escucha un perro.
You can hear a dog.Play Caption
58. Puertorriqueño (Puerto Rican)
Without any doubt, words that have a syllable where the consonant “t” is followed by the consonant “r,” are some of the most difficult words for English speakers to pronounce in Spanish. If you want to improve this sound, please listen carefully to some of the audio clips we have included for the next set of words.
59. Abstracto (abstract)
60. Astronomía (astronomy)
61. Astrología (astrology)
...y voy a entender lo que es la astrología.
...and I am going to understand what astrology is.
Caption 60, Conversaciones con Luis - AstrologíaPlay Caption
62. Atracción (atraction)
Porque es en el centro... el sitio donde hay mayor atracción.
Because it's at the center... the place where there are more attractions.
Caption 21, Yabla en Lima - MirafloresPlay Caption
63. Cuatro (four)
Número cuatro: microscopio.
Number four: microscope.
Caption 19, Aprendiendo con Karen - Útiles escolaresPlay Caption
64. Entretener (to entertain)
65. Entretenido (entertaining)
66. Patrón (patron)
67. Patrulla (patrol)
68. Petróleo (oil)
69. Poltrona (easy chair)
70. Potro (colt)
71. Tradicion (tradition)
Uno de los mitos más conocidos de la tradición indígena colombiana.
One of the best known myths of the indigenous Colombian tradition.Play Caption
72. Traicionar (to betray)
73. Trampa (trap)
No, no, me tendió una trampa y yo caí.
No, no, she set a trap for me and I fell into it.
Caption 29, Muñeca Brava - 44 El encuentroPlay Caption
74. Treinta y tres (thirty-three)
Treinta y tres
75. Tres (three)
76. Trilogía (trilogy)
I am sad.
Caption 10, El Aula Azul - Estados de ánimoPlay Caption
78. Tronco (trunk)
Unlike English, Spanish vowels are very clearly defined. Five vowels equals five sounds, period. While that may sound simple, the problem is that English speakers are used to pronouncing vowels in many more different ways. Here are some hard Spanish words that highlight this challenge.
79. Aguacate (avocado)
Este es guacamole hecho con aguacate...
This is guacamole made with avocado...
Caption 33, Tacos Emmanuel - Cómo hacer tacos de pescadoPlay Caption
80. Estadounidense (American)
Paul es estadounidense, de los Estados Unidos.
Paul is American, from the United States.
Caption 16, Carlos explica - Geografía y gentiliciosPlay Caption
81. Eucalipto (eucalyptus)
82. Euforia (euphoria)
83. Idiosincrasia (idiosyncrasy)
84. Licuadora (blender)
85. Paraguas (umbrella)
Voy a coger un paraguas, por si acaso.
I am going to grab an umbrella, just in case.
Caption 42, Clara explica - El tiempo - Part 1Play Caption
86. Triángulo (triangle)
Después pones este triángulo con la base hacia abajo.
Afterwards you put this triangle with the base toward the bottom.Play Caption
87. Vergüenza (shame)
There is a ‘cute’ joke in Spanish that goes like this:
- Do you know what the longest word in Spanish is?
- No. What is it?
- Arroz (rice)!
- Arroz? That’s a very short word.
- No, arroz is the longest word in Spanish because it starts with ‘a’ and ends with ‘z’!
Of course, that’s only a joke! Arroz is one of the easiest words in Spanish. However, the following are some of the most challenging and longest Spanish words:
88. Electroencefalograma (electroencephalogram)
89. Esternocleidomastoideo (sternocleidomastoid)
90. Contrarrevolucionario (counter-revolutionary)
91. Constitucionalidad (constitutionality)
92. Internacionalización (internalization)
93. Otorrinolaringólogo (otolaryngologist)
Apart from these very complicated words, all those adverbs that end in -mente are also some of the longest Spanish words. Let’s look at a few:
94. Constitucionalmente (constitutionally)
95. Desafortunadamente (unfortunately)
Cuando tú creces, desafortunadamente te das cuenta que.
When you grow up, unfortunately, you realize that.
Caption 23, La Sub30 - Familias - Part 9Play Caption
96. Desconsoladamente (inconsolably)
97. Fuertemente (heavily)
98. Tradicionalmente (traditionally)
Y nos dedicamos al cultivo del champiñón tradicionalmente.
And we are dedicated to the cultivation of the mushroom traditionally.
Caption 4, La Champiñonera - El cultivo de champiñónPlay Caption
99. Tristemente (sadly)
And finally, can you think of any Spanish word that has all the vowels on it? We have a long word for you, which is actually quite short in English:
100. Murciélago (bat)
La palabra más larga es murciélago.
The longest word is bat.
Caption 43, Karla e Isabel - PalabrasPlay Caption
That's it for now. We know that there are many more hard Spanish words that we should include in this list. If you feel like it, please share some additional difficult Spanish words with us, and we’ll be happy to add them to this lesson. And don’t forget to send us your feedback and suggestions. ¡Hasta la próxima!
Let's review some unique Spanish words that you may not have heard of before.
Spanish uses a specific word to describe the rheum (more commonly known as "sleep" in English) found in the corner of the eye after sleeping: lagaña (also legaña). This odd word has an uncertain origin, though some experts believe it to be inherited from a Paleohispanic language! It's important to note that lagaña is not a specialized term as "rheum" is in English, but a common word used in everyday conversations:
Esto es que una... una de las glándulas que se encarga de fabricar la lagaña...
This is because one... one of the glands that is in charge of producing rheum...
Caption 79, Animales en familia - La operación de YakiPlay Caption
Other unique Spanish words related to the body are entrecejo (the space between the eyebrows).
Y esta parte se llama entrecejo.
And this part is called "entrecejo" [the space between the eyebrows].
Caption 16, Marta de Madrid - El cuerpo - La cabezaPlay Caption
and chapas (blush, the pink tinge on the cheeks):
...para obtener las clásicas chapitas de Pikachu.
...to get the classic Pikachu rosy cheeks.
Caption 25, Manos a la obra - Separadores de libros: PikachuPlay Caption
Do you know any Spanish words or expressions used to describe different types of rain? The expressions está chispeando and está lloviznando both mean "it's drizzling." The verb chispear comes from the noun chispa (spark), while the verb lloviznar comes from the noun llovizna (drizzle). On the other end, when the rain is really heavy, people may use the noun tormenta (storm) to describe it, though aguacero (downpour) is also very common:
Aguacero de mayo, me lleva, papá
May downpour, it's taking me away, man
Caption 44, Kikirikí - AnimalesPlay Caption
Of course, people also use idiomatic expressions to talk about the rain. One example is llueve a cántaros (the equivalent of "it's raining cats and dogs," literally "it's raining as if pitchers were being poured from the sky"). Other words that you may want to explore on your own are: chubasco (a very intense, windy storm) and chaparrón (an intense, sudden, and short storm).
Another interesting set of unique Spanish words is the group used to talk about family in-laws, a list that is quite big, as you can imagine. It's not only suegro, suegra (father- and mother-in-law), but also yerno, nuera (son- and daughter-in-law), cuñado, cuñada (brother- or sister-in-law), and even concuño, concuña (brother, husband, sister, or wife of one's brother-in-law or sister-in-law)!
Es una champiñonera tradicional que estableció mi suegro.
It's a traditional mushroom farm that my father-in-law established.
Caption 6, La Champiñonera - El cultivo de champiñónPlay Caption
Estaba en la casa de mi suegra y mi cuñada,
I was in my mother-in-law's house, and my sister-in-law,
la hermana de mi marido...
my husband's sister...
Caption 52, Biografía - Natalia OreiroPlay Caption
Interesting tidbit: The equivalent of "in-law family" in Spanish is familia política. You can use the adjective político (political) to describe less close relatives such as primo político (in-law cousin).
...retirándole recursos locales y retirándole autonomía alimentaria y productiva a los agricultores.
...taking away local resources and taking away alimentary and productive autonomy from the farmers.
Captions 5-6, De consumidor a persona - Short FilmPlay Caption
The verb retirar has an array of meanings. Often, it means "to take away" or "to remove." Here, in Part 4 of the stirring documentary De consumidor a persona, we learn how farmers are having both their local resources and autonomy in food production taken away by multinational corporations.
Note that retirar is derived from the verb tirar ("to pull"), mentioned in this space just last week. As in English, the prefix re- can mean "back" in Spanish.
"¿Puedo retirar el plato?," a waitress in a restaurant might ask you at the end of a meal, referring to your empty plate. If you say yes, she'll take your plate back to the kitchen.
Here we have another use of retirar in Yago, a TV series from Argentina:
Señor... Usted no puede estar acá, se tiene que retirar.
Sir... You can't be here, you have to leave.
Caption 9, Yago - 10 EnfrentamientosPlay Caption
At the same time, retirar can also mean "to retire" -- an English cognate that's easy enough to remember. But note that retirar's synonym jubilar is often used instead to describe the act of retiring from the workplace, as in Venezuelan Javier Marin's description of his dad's retirement:
Laboró como telegrafista con el... con el código morse y actualmente se encuentra jubilado.
He worked as a telegrapher with the... with the morse code and currently he's retired.
Captions 76-78, Javier Marin - Artesano VenezolanoPlay Caption
"Se encuentra jubilado," ("He's retired,") Javier explains in Part 1 of his chat with us about jewelry-making.
Coming to us from Spain, Constantino Cuenca tells us a little bit about his family's business:
Es una champiñonera tradicional que estableció mi suegro.
It's a traditional mushroom farm that my father-in-law established.
Y fue familiarmente. Y ya ahora claro pues, mi suegro ya se ha jubilado.
And already now of course well, my father-in-law already has retired.
Captions 6-8, La Champiñonera El cultivo de champiñón - Part 1Play Caption
"Retired people" are referred to as jubilados -- doesn't that sound like a happy state to be in? Yes, through shared Latin roots, jubilar is related to "jubilant" in English.
Macho, si sobreviven los jubilados, ¿no va a sobrevivir un pibe?
Dude, if the retirees survive, isn't a kid going to survive?
Caption 47, Yago - 7 EncuentrosPlay Caption