You might be surprised to learn that la tuna or las tunas in Spanish has at least 3 different meanings in English:
- the fish, more commonly known in Spanish as atún,
- a type of fruit and
- a specific type of musical group (video link below).
There’s a difference between tuna and tunas in Spanish and it’s easy to mix them up. Luckily, most servers are forgiving and probably know what you are trying to order.
Most Spanish-speakers and learners would recognize the word atún as the translation of the fish tuna, from English. Which is how I also said the word in Spanish.
But then I arrived in Puerto Rico and began hearing the words tuna and tunas in Spanish, instead of using atún. I haven’t run across this in any other Spanish-speaking country so still believe only Puerto Rico uses it (anyone know of another country?).
What does tuna mean in Spanish? 3 Different Meanings For One Spanish Word
For a Chilean, a Spaniard, or me, hearing tuna will be confusing since tuna has other meanings in Spanish besides the type of fish.
I had learned that tuna is a type of fruit, green, oblong, and with a melon-like consistency on the inside. In English, it is known as prickly pear and looks similar to a cactus. The spines or thorns are so small you barely notice them, until you try to grab one. Then you feel them all stuck in your hand.
‘Tuna’ as a fruit flavor would be prickly pear – it’s very popular and you see it on all sorts of products.
Prickly Pear Ale, face moisturizer, mimosas, ice cream, jelly, vodka, candy, flavor syrup and much more.
In English you might say: I’ll try the prickly pear margarita, please.
In Spanish: Probaré la margarita de tuna, por favor. (Don’t worry, you won’t get a fish flavored margarita.)
Prickly Pear, Cactus Fruit or sometimes it’s even called Tuna Fruit – tastes like a sweet melon mixed with bubblegum – kind of.
Tuna is also a type of music group, originally from Spain, dressed in traditional student garb, that roamed the streets playing music in exchange for coins or food. Watch a video of a performance of Tuna de Segreles here.
Frequently asked questions (FAQs)
How do you say tuna in spanish?
Tuna in Spanish is atún, to mean the fish, both fresh or in a can. However in Puerto Rico, tuna is said as tuna!
What is tunas in Spanish?
In Spanish, the plural of tunas (as in several of the fish tuna) is atunes, without the accent over the U. Atún is one tuna fish.
So the plural tunas would not refers to the fish, but more likely refer to more than one fruit or more than one musical group.
What are tunas in English?
Translating tunas into English is just the plural of each meaning, so it could be more than one fish (mostly used in Puerto Rico), more than one musical group, or more than one prickly pear.
Check out these other articles about the Spanish Language.