Hey everyone!

I’ve got a new vocab video up on my Spanish YouTube channel this week.

Here’s the thing: I’ve been teaching English for quite a while online, but I also like Spanish.

And I’m a fan of Spain and the culture.

So with that in mind, I’m making a few videos about common Spanish expressions and vocabulary you might need if you’re travelling around – or living in Spain.

So without any further ado, here are some words that change meanings depending on their gender.

Some of them get sort of sexy and anatomical, so if you’re offended by that kind of thing, maybe don’t watch.

Still here?

Here goes…

Spanish words that change meaning according to gender

I invited Laura from La Casita de Laura to join me for the video.

She gives Spanish classes down in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, and also online. Check her out on Instagram: La Casita de Laura and also on Facebook here.

We also met up when I was down in Gran Canaria last year.

This video, of course, is on Zoom…

Okay, so what are these words?

Basically, words that have a completely different meaning when you change their grammatical gender, and change the -o to an -a on the end.

There are other words like la cura (cure) and el cura (priest) that only change the article and the meaning, without changing the final letter. Maybe we’ll do those another day..

Anyway, here are some written examples, more or less the same as in the video…

caballo / caballa

You might know that caballo is horse, but did you know that caballa is nothing of the kind?

It’s actually a kind of fish: a mackerel.

Not even a seahorse, that’s a caballito de mar.

The lady horse, in Spanish, is a yegua.

After that we’ve got…

pollo / polla

Pollo is chicken (both the animal and the food) but polla is penis. Or, if you prefer something more colloquial, dick.

Told you this was going to get anatomical.

Expressions include “pollas en vinagre” which is pretty difficult to explain. Literally, it’s “pickled dicks”, but basically you use it to express frustration.

Also “me parto la polla” which is what you say when something is really funny. ROFL.

coño / coña

The word coño is pussy, basically. It can be anatomical, but it’s also used in a variety of expressions, and as an exclamation.

Déjame en paz, ¡coño! = Leave me alone, for fuck’s sake!

Although as an exclamation it can also be used for happiness, surprise, or basically whatever you want.

And coña is a joke.

Ni de coña. = No fucking way.

¿Estás de coña? = Are you joking?

That’s all the sexy ones for this article. Moving on…

cuento / cuenta

Un cuento is a story, but una cuenta is a bank account, or the bill at a restaurant.

Laura explains the expression “No me vengas con el cuento” which is basically “Don’t give me your excuses.”

Cuentas can also be beads, for making a necklace, for example.

And the normal word for “bill” is factura or recibo – or if you’re talking about money, billete.

I guess that’s a Spanish vocab lesson for another day.

pulpo / pulpa

Pulpo is octopus.

Here’s pulpo a la gallega, one of my favorite Spanish foods.

pulpo a la gallega spanish cuisine

And pulpa is pulp, like in orange juice. In a shop, you can buy “zumo de naranja con pulpa”, or “sin pulpa”.

While we’re on the topic, pulpa can also be the pulp used to make paper.

foco / foca

Un foco is either one of headlights on a car, or the spotlight in a theatre (for example).

The expression “estar en el foco de la atención” is to be the center of attention.

Foca, on the other hand, is a seal – the marine mammal, not the thing you use to close something.

libro / libra

You probably know that libro is a book, but what about libra?

That’s actually a pound, either the unit of weight or the pound sterling.

And as Laura mentions in the video, both can be conjugations of the verb “librar”, which is basically “to have a day off work”.

For example: Yo libro el lunes, pero ella libra el martes.

And Libra is, of course, also an astrological sign, if you’re into that sort of thing.

puerto / puerta

Puerto has a couple of meanings. It can be a port, as in a sea port. We use it for the “port” in aeropuerto also.

And it’s a mountain pass, like Puerto de Navacerrada in Madrid.

Puerta is a door, so you can say “abre la puerta” or “cierra la puerta” among (many) other things.

plato / plata

Plato is a plate, and it’s also a dish (meaning the type of food). On a restaurant menu, you might see “primeros platos”, or “segundos platos” or “platos principales”.

On the other hand, plata is silver, or they use it more generally to mean money. Think Pablo Escobar, in Narcos, saying his famous catchphrase “Plata o plomo.”

Laura mentions that in Spain, for money they say “pasta” meaning dough. Which I guess we can do in English as well. Check out a Jay-Z and Biggie song I like a lot: I Love the Dough.

And finally…

bolso / bolsa

Bolso is handbag, whereas bolsa is just a bag in general.

And of course, Spanish has a lot of vocabulary, so you’ve also got maleta (suitcase), maletín (briefcase), mochila (backpack) and more.

In the video, Laura mentions that La Bolsa, with a capital B, is the stock market.

So that’s about it…

Want to learn more Spanish vocabulary?

I’ve got some more articles here on the web. For example, Spanish proverbs which might shock your inner puritan, and a few obscene Spanish expressions also.

And for a lot more about grammar, check out my friend Olly’s course, Spanish Uncovered. It’ll have you speaking like a pro in no time.

Hope you enjoyed this lesson.

More soon.

Eruditely yours,

Mr Chorizo AKA Mr Daniel.

P.S. I guess that “Spanish words that change meaning according to gender” is about the worst keyword in the history of keywords, but let’s repeat it one more time for the bots. And if you want more about SEO, check out my article on building blog traffic. Have fun!

Related Posts

December 27, 2023

I recently visited Madrid. It was a short trip this time, and Read More

December 8, 2023

I’ve spent the last few weeks listening to the Revolutions podcast. More Read More

November 21, 2023

Morena and I recently became homeowners. How? you ask. Well, Barcelona’s not Read More

About the Author Daniel

How did I end up in Spain? Why am I still here almost 20 years later? Excellent questions. With no good answer... Anyway, at some point I became a blogger, bestselling author and contributor to Lonely Planet. So there's that. Drop me a line, I'm happy to hear from you.

Share your thoughts

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

  1. Mackerel in the UK, used a lot, often caught off the south Cornish and Devon coast. You can hire a boat and go out for a few hours and come back with loads or nothing!!

    1. Yeah, I’d definitely seen the word used in literature. Where I grew up, in the desert, we only ever ate salmon (about once a year) or tuna from a can. Not a lot of mackerel. Anyway, thanks for the comment!

  2. Pollo. Puede significar problemas o líos ej.: Menudo pollo se armó ayer. De otro lado se puede usar para referirse a una persona. Ej.: Mira ese es el pollo con el que nos vimos ayer.
    Polla. En Latinoamérica significa lotería.
    Pulpo, puede significar que recibió una paliza ej. Le dieron la del pulpo por entrometido
    Foca. Además de animal, puede significar estar gordo o gorda. Tengo que ir al gimnasio estoy hecho una foca.
    Libra, también es una medida de peso. Una libra de clavos.

{"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}