Spanish VocabularyLearn 10 Spanish words per day and know 2,500 words after one year!
Many words in Spanish and English are similar, but similar words can have very different meanings, so be careful.
hombre m. man; mankind, humankind
mujer f. woman; wife
José Joseph, Joe
padre m. father (padres parents; padre de familia [used in U.S. as a translation of the singular, grammatically neuter "parent"])
madre f. mother
dios m. god (diosa goddess; Dios God)
amor m. love
hijo son (hija daughter; hijos sons and daughters; sons; hijas daughters)
niño child; boy (niña girl; niños children; boys; niñas girls)
José and María are the Spanish names of Joseph and Mary, the parents of Jesus of Nazareth.
Traditionally, it is quite common in Spanish-speaking countries for a person to be given one of those names (José for boys, María for girls) as part of his or her nameand sometimes even both names (José María for boys, and María José for girls).
When just one of these names is given, it is often the first part of the name, and the person usually uses the second part of his or her name in daily life. So, in Spain or Latin America, María Elena probably goes by "Elena" (or one of many possible affectionate nicknames ['nombres hipocorísticos']Malena, Nena, Marilé, Mariela, etc.a whole other discussion) and may even write her name as Ma Elena. For his part, José Manuel probably goes by "Manuel" (or a nickname, possibly Josema) and may even write his name as J. Manuel.
This tradition of using the second part of one's name becomes hard to maintain in the English-speaking world, where everyone is used to calling others by their "first name," and many Spanish-speaking immigrants give up the fight and just start answering to María and José, even if that is not the name they have usually used in daily life.
It is worth noting that an American with a name like Mary Lee Smith will consider "Mary" to be her "first name" and "Lee" to be her "middle name," but for someone from the Spanish-speaking world named María Elena Sánchez García, "María Elena" will be considered her name, period, full stop. It is a compound name (consisting of more than one word), but it is not considered to be a first name and middle name. As far as she is concerned, she does not have a middle name or a first name, but just a name: "María Elena."
The difficulty for an immigrant only gets worse when it comes to his or her two last names. Imagine that you had two last names (if you don't): the one you have now (traditionally from your dad) plus a second last name, which in the English-speaking world we would call your mom's "maiden name." So just write out your full name with your mom's maiden name added at the end. It is not really any more complicated than that. (The laws do allow other possibilities, but this is, by far, the most common and traditional way.)
In situations when only one last name is used, it will be the first last name. In signatures, it is common to write out your first last name and then the initial of your second last name. Using both last names is also possible and not infrequent.
Someone named María Elena Sánchez García would, in the Spanish-speaking world, most likely be known as Elena Sánchez. Her signature might be "Ma Elena Sánchez G." Upon moving to an English-speaking country, however, it may take some real effort on her part to not become known as María García, due to the Anglo tendency to think in terms of "first name" and "last name." Hyphenating the two last names can help English speakers get the last name right, but that hyphen is not used, or necessary, in the Spanish-speaking world.
There used to be a fairly complicated way that women changed their names when they got married, but it is far more common now for women to just maintain their original last names. The children, though, still typically have their father's paternal last name as their first last name and their mother's paternal last name (from her father) as their second last name. So if María Elena Sánchez García has children with José Manuel Ramírez Lizárraga, the children would have the last names "Ramírez Sánchez," Ramírez being the children's "paternal last name" and Sánchez being the children's "maternal last name." (If you are really digging this, it is not too hard to work out that these children's first cousins will all have either Ramírez or Sánchez as their paternal or maternal last name, depending on whether they are related to their first cousins ['primos hermanos'] through Mom's or Dad's brother or sister. The short version, for the rest of you, is that any two people who are first cousins will, typically, have one of their two last names in common.)
If any of these children wrote a book, it would be alphabetized under "R" (their first/paternal last name) not "S" (their second/maternal last name). This is why, for example, Gabriel García Márquez's books are correctly filed under "G," not "M." His paternal last name (the name equivalent to our "last name") is García. He is Mr. García Márquez (we might say Mr. García-Márquez), or Mr. García, but not Mr. Márquez!
es el hombre de sus sueños, su príncipe azul he is the man of her dreams, her Prince Charming ('her blue prince')
necesito hablarlo primero con mi mujer I need to talk it over with my wife first
San José es la capital de Costa Rica San José ('Saint Joseph') is the capital of Costa Rica
Dios te salve, María, llena eres de gracia, el Señor es contigo Hail ('God greets you'), Mary, [you are] full of grace, the Lord is with you
Estimado padre de familia o tutor: Dear parent or guardian, [currently U.S. use only]
las Iglesias católica y ortodoxa dicen que María es la Madre de Dios the Catholic and Orthodox churches say that Mary is the Mother of God
Freyja es la diosa nórdica del amor Freyja is the Norse goddess of love
ella es el amor de su vida she is the love of his life
ellos tienen cuatro hijos: tres niños y una niña they have four children: three boys and a girl
había muchos niños en la fiesta there were lots of children at the party
Note: You may notice some differences in capitalization between the Spanish and the English on this page and others. The rules for capitalization, and for writing, are different in Spanish, and could fill a bookand they do! The current book is 745 pages long: http://www.rae.es/obras-academicas/ortografia/ortografia-2010 (also shown at https://www.amazon.com/Ortografia-Lengua-Espa%C3%B1ola-RAE-Spanish/dp/8467034262/)
© 2017-2018 Chris Marquardt, Spanish Pronto
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