Do you know what these similar Spanish words mean?


Let me ask you a question: Do you know these words in English that sound very similar but have totally different meanings? Well, something similar (no pun intended) also exists in Spanish!

In this article we will go over similar Spanish words.

Knowing the difference between these words that sound very similarly will really improve your comprehension of Spanish and avoid some embarrassing moments… like accidentally complimenting someone’s body hair! 

1. Similar Spanish words: same pronunciation, different spelling

In Spanish, words that have similar or the same pronunciation but have different meanings are called homónimos (homonyms). There are three ways that words may differ: spelling, meaning, and accentuation.

Here’s an overview table:

Similar Words with Same Pronunciation but Different Spelling

Similar WordsMeaning in English
Haber / A verTo have / Let’s see
Asia / HaciaAsia / Towards
Bello / VelloBeautiful / Body hair
Votar / BotarTo vote / To toss or throw

So let’s see some examples of words that sound the same, but are written differently, one-by-one:

Haber / A ver (To have/ Let’s see)

This one is really easy to spot since the second is actually two words and their meanings are rather different.

Haz / Has (Beam or make / have you)

This one might be tricky if you’re in Latin America, since we don’t really differentiate the Z from the S. But in Spain, however, you can tell the difference by pronunciation.

Asia / Hacia (Asia / locative “To”)

Asia es un continente (Asia is a continent) and hacia is similar to the preposition “to”, as in: Este vuelo va hacia Asia (This flight goes to Asia).

By the way, hacia has another homónimo: hacía and the accentuation is different.

Bello / Vello (Beautiful / Body hair)

There’s a slight difference in the way we pronounce the B and V, but mainly you’ll spot the meaning from context. Y, amigo, son muy diferentes (And boy, are they different!)

Votar / Botar (To vote / To toss or throw)

Again, it’s a very Latin American thing to pronounce both words identically, but the right pronunciation should stress the type of B you’re using. 

2. Similar Spanish words with same spelling, different meaning

In Spanish, una lima puede ser lima (a nail file can be lime-colored), una cara puede ser cara (a face can be expensive) y yo río cuando estoy en el río (and I laugh when I’m in the river). 

You have no idea of what’s happening here, right?

Well, that is because in Spanish, there are some words that are written the same, but have different meanings! Like these:

WordMeaning in English
vinoCame / Wine
trajeI brought / Suit
curaPriest / Cure
llamaFlame or fire / Llama / Call

Llama is a bit different but you can always learn more about it!

  • llama (flame or fire / llama / call) ―So when your Peruvian landlord tells you que bajes la llama de la cocina (to turn down the flame in the kitchen), you may want to check what kind of llama they’re talking about.

3. Spanish accent marks make a difference

Now, one of the trickiest parts of Spanish is los acentos (accent marks) and they change many things in the way you speak ―meanings are one of those things. There are words that are written similarly, but adding an accent mark somewhere can change the meaning greatly. 

Remember when we talked about hacia? Well, if you add an accent mark on the I and say hacía, the meaning changes completely! Instead of “where to”, now you’d be saying “there was”. 

Now, let’s see more examples with accent marks:

Similar WordsMeaning in English
Haz / HasBeam or make / Have you
Bebe / BebéDrink / Baby
Papá / PapaDad / Potato or Pope
Mamá / MamaMom / Suck or breast
Ejército / Ejercito / EjercitóArmy / Work out / Worked out

That’s right! Just by changing the stressed syllable, we can even have three different meanings. Cool, isn’t it?

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