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10 Spanish Words That Change Meaning with Gender

Let's enhance our vocabulary today! As you know, nouns in Spanish are defined by number and gender. However, there are some nouns that can be both masculine and feminine. Moreover, depending on the gender they have, these nouns change their meanings completely. With that being said, let's take a look at some Spanish words that change meaning with gender.

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1. Capital

Feminine: la capital (a capital city)

 

Está ubicada a ciento diez kilómetros de Quito, la capital del Ecuador.

It is located one hundred and ten kilometers from Quito, the capital of Ecuador.

Caption 6, Otavalo - El mercado de artesanías de Otavalo

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Masculine: el capital (capital: money)

 

No buscar la acumulación de capital

It's not seeking the accumulation of capital,

sino buscar la satisfacción de necesidades sociales.

but seeking the satisfaction of social necessities.

Captions 74-75, De consumidor a persona - Short Film

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2. Cólera

Feminine: la cólera (anger, rage)

Masculine: el cólera (cholera - the illness)

 

3. Coma

Feminine: la coma (a comma - punctuation)

Masculine: el coma (a coma - medicine)

 

4. Cometa

Feminine: la cometa (a kite)

 

Pero la cometa estaba muy alta para cogerla.

But the kite was too high to grab.

Caption 22, Guillermina y Candelario - El Gran Descubrimiento

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Masculine: el cometa (a comet - astronomy)

 

5. Corte

Feminine: la corte (a court of law OR the royal court of a king)

 

Creo que voy a apelar esta decisión a la Corte Suprema.

I think I'm going to appeal this decision to the Supreme Court.

Caption 83, Los casos de Yabla - Problemas de convivencia

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...que le habían sido cedidos para recreo de la corte.

...that had been handed over to him for the court's recreation.

Caption 59, Marisa en Madrid - Parque de El Retiro

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Masculine: el corte (a cut - injury OR the cut of hair or a suit)

 

Y ahora voy a hacer el corte aquí.

And now I am going to make the cut here.

Caption 42, Instrumentos musicales - Ocarinas

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6. Cura

Feminine: la cura (the cure)

 

Tu madre no tiene cura.

Your mom has no cure.

Caption 45, Muñeca Brava - 44 El encuentro

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Masculine: el cura (a priest)

 

Aquí no habrá noche de bodas mientras no vayan con un cura.

Here, there will be no wedding night until you go to a priest.

Caption 23, El Ausente - Acto 4

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7. Final

Feminine: la final (the sports final, the playoffs)

 

Jueguen como si fuera la final.

Play as if it were the finals.

Caption 46, Carlos explica - Tuteo, ustedeo y voseo: Ustedes y vosotros

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Masculine: el final (the end)

 

Al final le he pedido disculpas y todo.

In the end, I apologized to him and everything.

Caption 55, Cortometraje - Flechazos

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8. Frente

Feminine: la frente (the forehead)

 

"María le tocó la frente a su hijo para ver si tenía fiebre".

"Maria touched her son's forehead to see if he had a fever."

Caption 17, Carlos explica - Vocabulario: El verbo “tocar”

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Masculine: el frente (the front - military)

Los soldados están en el frente de batalla.

The soldiers are on the battle front.

 

9. Guía

Feminine: la guía (a guide book OR a female guide OR a telephone book OR guidance)

 

Todo bajo la guía de un profesor de educación física.

All with the guidance of a P.E. teacher.

Caption 7, Los Años Maravillosos - Capítulo 1

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¡Pippo, traé una guía!

Pippo, bring me a phone directory.

Caption 55, Yago - 5 La ciudad

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Masculine: el guía (a male guide)

 

Mi nombre es Mauricio y soy un guía turístico.

My name is Mauricio and I'm a tour guide.

Caption 27, Pipo - Un paseo por la playa de Atacames

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10. Orden

Feminine: la orden (a command OR a restaurant order)

 

Normalmente, cuando estás haciendo una orden...

Usually, when you're placing an order...

Caption 28, Natalia de Ecuador - Ordenar en un restaurante

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Masculine: el orden (order)

 

Listo, señor Rolleri; todo en orden.

Done, Mister Rolleri; everything's in order.

Caption 68, Confidencial: El rey de la estafa - Capítulo 2

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That's if for today. Do you know more Spanish words that change meaning with gender? We challenge you to find more and don't forget to send us your questions and comments.

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Not Exactly the Same

This lesson explores some expressions that exist both in English and Spanish. By comparing their resemblances and differences you can make them leave a distinctive mark on your memory and eventually brag about them with your friends as new acquisitions in your Spanish lexicon.

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Talking about leaving a mark on the memory, Spanish also uses the expression dejar una marca en la memoria (to leave a mark in the memory). There are, however, other alternatives. You can use the word recuerdo (remembrance), for example: dejaste una marca en mi recuerdo (you left a mark on my memory).

Spanish makes a clear distinction between the words memoria and recuerdo, even when sometimes it uses them indistinctly. La memoria (the memory) refers to the brain's ability to retain information, while el recuerdo (the remembrance), is used to talk about a more complex type of memory, one that usually involves feelings. The following example is self-explanatory. Our English translation avoids the use of "remembrance," uncommon in everyday speech, and uses the plural form of "memory" instead:

 

Siempre quedará en mi recuerdo y en mi memoria.

Will always remain in my memories and in my mind.

Caption 24, David Bisbal - Haciendo Premonición Live

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Ten en mente (keep in mind) that it's also very common to use the verbs escribir (to write), grabar (to engrave), tatuar (to tattoo), or even imprimir (to print), instead of marcar (to mark). In Spanish, a common trope in love declarations, poems, and songs is: te llevo grabado en mi recuerdo (I have you engraved in my memory). The verb grabar (to engrave) also combines very well with the words piel (skin), or mente (mind). So you can say te llevo grabado (or tatuado) en la piel, meaning "I have you engraved (or tattooed) on my skin," a phrase that's usually figurative, but that could be made literal... we guess. Otherwise, maybe you'd rather say: llevo tu recuerdo grabado en la piel (I carry the memory of you engraved on my skin) to leave no room for a literal interpretation.

Surely some purists would advise to dejar al corazón para las cosas del corazón (leave the heart for the matters of the heart):

Leería mi nombre marcado para siempre en tu corazón.
She would read my name written over your heart forever.

And since we just bumped into the expression "leaving no room for interpretation," know that no dejar lugar a interpretaciones also exists in Spanish.  No dejar lugar a dudas (leave no room for doubt), however, is much more common.

Another expression. In our new video about Otavalo, a city in Ecuador, Natalia says:
 

...han logrado llevar sus productos y sus expresiones artísticas a otros rincones del planeta.

...have managed to bring their products and their artistic expressions to other corners of the planet.

Captions 21-22, Otavalo - El mercado de artesanías de Otavalo

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Spanish has two words for "corner:" rincón and esquina. The word rincón is used to denote the idea of a remote location, or even a small special place in a given location:

 

Mi rincón favorito de Madrid es el templo de Debod.

My favorite nook in Madrid is the Debod Temple.

Caption 42, Álvaro - Arquitecto Español en Londres

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Rincón can also can mean a hideout or a hidden place, even if you speak just figuratively. You can use it in expressions such as en un rincón de mi cabeza (in the back of my mind) or en un rincón de tu corazón (in a corner of your heart). Or you can use the verb arrinconar (to corner) in expressions such as  me siento arrinconado (I feel cornered) or me tienes arrinconado (you have me cornered).

The word esquina, on the other handis more specific. You use it to talk about the intersection of two walls, or,—a classic example—two streets. In the following example, take note of the figurative use of the Spanish verb doblar (to fold):

Me dijo dobla en la esquina, iremos hasta mi casa.
She told me turn at the corner, we'll go to my place.

Nice, don't you think? Of course, you can easily use the verb voltear (to turn) as well: voltea en la esquina (turn at the corner). Or just say da vuelta en la esquina (make a turn at the corner). Going back to esquina, we recommend that you learn the participle esquinado (cornered). It could be used as an adjective to describe the position or direction of something, for example: pon la mesa de forma esquinada (place the table right next to the corner), or even, the RAE tells us, the prickly temperament of a person (someone with many angles or "corners"). Another keeper is the word esquinero (corner shelf), which is used as an adjective too: mesa esquinera (corner table), farol esquinero (corner lamppost), etc. 

To wrap it up... there is an impolite expression that is used exactly the same way in both languages: vete a tu esquina (go to your corner). Try not to use if too often, if possible. There are, anyway, more productive ways to use this word. Take for example the evocative lyrics of the famous Tinta roja (Red Ink) tango song, which Gardel (a character in our series Yago Pasión Morena) quotes when he feels lost upon arriving in his Buenos Aires arrabal:
 

¿Dónde estará mi arrabal? Con un borrón, pintó la esquina.

Where would my neighborhood be? With a blot, it painted the corner.

Captions 42-43, Yago - 6 Mentiras

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Here you can read the entire lyrics of Tinta roja and a translation.

Expressions

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