When learning a new language, it can be frustrating when you believe you are saying things correctly yet for some reason cannot make yourself understood. Living in Argentina, I have heard foreign friends say “oh they are just pretending not to understand me because they know I am foreign” or something along those lines more times than I can count. Often, I just don’t have the heart to tell them that they were close yet so far from saying the word correctly.
Sometimes, a one letter difference in Spanish words will completely change the meaning of a word. Here are a few examples that come to mind:
Caballo vs. Cabello
Caballo means horse, while cabello means hair. Imagine asking to ride a hair, or where to get your horse cut.
Pato vs. Pata
Pato means duck, while pata means paws. Once, I was trying to be funny and imitate a dog and said “me duelen los patos.” I quickly realized my mistake, “my ducks hurt” is not quite the same as “my paws hurt.”
Cuento vs. Cuenta
Cuento means story, while cuenta means bill. I constantly hear my friends and tourists ask for the “cuento” at restaurants. Hopefully waiters figure it out and don’t think tourists are obsessed with bedtime stories.
Libro | Libra | Libre
Libro means book, libra means pound and libre means free (as in the state of freedom, not cost). I am sure many bookstores have gotten a nice laugh out of people asking for pounds or freedom.
And sometimes it gets dirty…
Sometimes the one letter difference is not just comical, but embarrassing as well.
Peine | Pene | Penne
Peine means comb, pene, on the other hand, means penis. Then there is penne which is a type of pasta. I don’t want to think about the reactions you would get if you asked if you could buy a penis for your hair. Check out this menu mistake. Would you like penis with Alfredo or Primavera sauce?
Año vs. Ano
Año means year, while ano means anus. Spanish speakers absolutely love hearing or seeing foreigners type “Tengo 20 anos”. 20 anuses is a lot different than 20 years.
Cancha vs. Concha
Cancha means sports field, while concha means shell. However, in some countries (such as Argentina) concha also means cunt. Read CONCHA: A Sea Shell or a Woman’s Vajajay for more information. Be careful not to ask the guys if they want to hit up the cunt for a game of fútbol.
Mamado vs. Mamada
In Mexico, mamado means a buff, muscular man, while a mamada is a blow job. You could really freak some people out at the gym by pointing out the blow job in the corner.
Can you think of any other Spanish words with one letter differences?
Check out these other articles about the Spanish Language.