Everyone who has learned another language has had their fair share of embarrassing stories. Some are for using the completely wrong word, like calling a car borracho instead of barato (true story!). However, sometimes, words can have a different meaning depending on the country. If you aren’t familiar with the slang or culture of a particular dialect or region, you could find yourself using words that actually have double meanings!
Using these words wouldn’t technically be incorrect, but just like in English, some regions use different terms. This means that a word you might have learned in Spanish class might be true for most parts of the Spanish-speaking world, but not all of it.
Words with double meanings in Spanish
- Taco- While this is a tasty food from Mexico, it actually means that you’re stuck in a traffic jam in Colombia or Chile. However, in Venezuela, a taco is to be very smart, but could mean “a lot of” in Spain. You’ll hear this word around the world, just for different reasons!
- Fresa- For much of the Spanish-speaking countries, this is the word for strawberry. Particularly in Mexico, fresa is used to describe someone as snooty or preppy. It’s a slang way to describe a stereotype of young, superficial people.
- Cacho- Throughout Latin America, this means “a little bit of time”, like the expression “Espérame un cacho”. It roughly means “wait a bit!”. In Spain, it means “a portion”, whereas Chileans might describe it as something that isn’t useful anymore. Ecuadorians might use it to tell you a joke or a lie, but Venezuelans could use it to say someone is cheating on you.
- Palo- In Argentina, it’s a strong blow, like being hit hard. In Puerto Rico, it’s a drink. In Spain, it could be used to say they’re being embarrassed by saying “me da palo…”, but it could also mean bad news or a high price.