5 Words That Could Make or Break Your Trip to Spain

The thing with Spanish and English – and any other languages, really, since you’d never believe how some seemingly random languages are related – is that sometimes words seems really, really similar. Sometimes they mean the same things, but sometimes they mean something totally and utterly different.

Some of the words below are going to be like this, and some of them are going to be little cultural quirks you’ll find in Spain and other Spanish-speaking countries that might throw you through a little bit of a loop. While these make for great stories sometimes, they also can make an already stressful trip abroad just a little bit harder.

Hola guapa/o

This translates to hello pretty (or handsome), and isn’t used in the sense that it would be used in English. You definitely won’t see any green witches cackling “hello, my pretty!” (Wicked Witch of the West joke, anyone?), but you’ll almost certainly come across complete strangers who will refer to you as such, as well as using other forms of greetings. Sorry guys, it’s not really a compliment, either – it’s just show Spaniards acknowledge each other. It is a nice touch though, don’t ya think?


Ah, false friends. False friends are words that are so similar across languages that you’d assume they mean the same thing, but they really, really don’t. This one’s a good one to get you into all kinds of weird situations. While it looks and sounds like embarrassed, it actually means pregnant in Spanish. I know, right? Like I said, SO much opportunity for an embarrassing situation (pun absolutely intended).


This one’s more along the lines of hola guapo/a. Bueno can be used as a lot of things that don’t necessarily mean good (its direct translation). For example, bueno might be used as a placeholder, like well, okay, or so. You might also use it to answer the phone. Bueno is a nice, positive word that can be used in a variety of situations. Take your pick!


Don’t worry, this one’s a false friend, too (fortunately). This one can definitely be a doozy for the beginner Spanish learner, because it really does not seem like the kind of vocab you’d be learning right off the bat, right? Molestar does not mean to molest, but to annoy or bother. So yeah, this translation definitely makes a lot more sense to learn pretty early on in your Spanish career.

Constiparse/una constipación

Well you already know you’re not going to be forgetting this one, right? Constipation? The thing where your body does that thing that maybe we shouldn’t be talking about on this blog? So this false friend would have you believe! Constiparse actually means to catch a cold, while una constipación is a cold. You’ll always remember the most ridiculous words, so you can count on this one!

What about you? What's your favorite false friend? Has it gotten you into any sticky situations?​


  1. I recall a Spanish teacher from high school who led off lines with….”Bueno, entonces….” Got me in the habit of the bueno placeholder within a sentence. Now when I’m in a Spanish-speaking country I know the use isn’t necessarily indicating “good” but just a “OK holding for a second, time to move on” type transition in a sentence. Fab round up. Totally alien to the last one. Spanish meaning. Not English meaning LOL. Thanks Jamie 🙂


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