Eating Abroad: What to Call Your Waiter in Spanish

As we know, the words Spanish speakers use to talk about different things varies based on location: a Spaniard might not recognize what an Argentinian is saying because the words used are completely different. By the title of this post, you can assume we're going to talk about saying the word waiter in Spanish.

So why do different Spanish-speaking regions speak so differently? There’s a lot of reasons, usually to do with different cultures that have invaded different parts of the world. Different words were “borrowed”, creating different variations, accents, and phrases. Latin America and Spain are on different sides of the world; even though both languages came from the same place, they’ve had a lot of years to evolve into different animals.

What to call your waiter in Spanish​

So let's get down to it: the word waiter in Spanish. We’ve got several different words to choose from, depending on what country we want to talk about. Camarero/a and mesero/a are pretty common, and are the words you’ll come across in most Spanish textbooks.

However, we can’t go on accepting other words don’t exist, like mozo in South American countries like Uruguay and Peru, and mesenero in Venezuela. To keep it interesting, Uruguay uses camarero/a too, but more in hotels than anything else. What a wild ride, huh?

So how did all these different words for waiter in Spanish come to be?

Camarero

Do you see that cama prefix? That there’s a clue. Let’s take this conversation back a tick.

Camarero/a comes from cámara, which translates to chamber (and yes, camera, but that’s besides the point), or bedchamber. Back in the day, Spanish nobility would have a camarero or camarera, something like a maid, who would help out around the cámara, or bedchamber. These maids would clean the cámara, dress their noble employers, etc. Think like a Victorian maid. Make sense so far? A camarero/a would always be waiting on their noble. Yep, this is where we get the term for a waiter in Spanish!

Mesero

Well, okay, this one’s not quite so complicated. Mesero/a comes from mesa, meaning table. A mesero/a waits on the mesa. Pretty simple.

Mesonero/a

Like above, the word mesonero or mesonera hijacked the word el mesón, meaning large table. This is a bit fancier and more formal – think of, again, those Victorians who had long, elegant tables just to show off how fancy they were.

Normally, though, a mesonero/a would refer more to a waiter working in a tavern or inn, or another place that would entertain a significant amount of guests. This would be a more common place to find a large table, of course.

Mozo/a

This term goes way way back to the Medieval days, where mozo/a referred to a page, apprentice, or someone else who served others. Again, very simple.

So there you go. While these variations seem whacky and random, there’s a reason for everything, especially in language. Besides all the crazy ways to refer to a waiter in Spanish, what is your favorite funky word variation?

Jamie

I'm Jamie, and I have an unquenchable thirst for the world. I'm currently situated in Tampa, Florida with my boyfriend and his two little ones. I want to travel everywhere, experience everything, and learn as many languages as possible!

Comments

  1. I learned mostly Camarero for waiters, and I have no idea that it actually means chamber maid. The explanation and the originality you gave it here makes me easy to understand the meaning of these words. I am soon travel to South America and it amazes me how different Spanish-speaking countries speaks Spanish differently.

  2. Hi Jamie,

    Mesero makes the most sense to this Gringo 😉 When traveling through Spanish-speaking countries even though I am a little fluent I usually just wave politely and smile. Or maybe a “por favor” and wink and I receive service. Cool list. Thanks for sharing 🙂

    Ryan

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