This blog post is actually from an email that I sent to my newsletter subscribers where I tried to play devil’s advocate and argue that Spanish has more words – despite the fact that linguists say that the English language has more words.
After I sent an email to my newsletter subscribers saying that in my opinion the Spanish language has more words than the English language, I received at least a dozen emails from readers saying “Patrick, this time you are absolutely wrong. It is common knowledge that there are more words in the English language than Spanish.”
So I then gave my side of the argument and showed why I think the Spanish has a lot more vocabulary words than the English language.
Which Language Has More Words English or Spanish?
I have several Spanish-English dictionaries. And all of them have more English words than Spanish words. Yes, you heard me correctly. All of my Spanish-English dictionaries have more English words than Spanish words.
“Por ejemplo” (for example), I have one Spanish-English dictionary that has 576 pages in the Spanish section and 667 pages in the English section.
But for TWO different reasons, I still INSIST that the Spanish language has more words — a whole lot more!
Reason Number One:
One problem is that English dictionaries include not only every word that we commonly use as English speakers, but the English dictionaries also include words that we rarely use as English speakers – that is, archaic words.
On the other hand, the Spanish dictionaries don’t include MANY Spanish words that Spanish speakers use everyday.
To prove my point I made a list of Spanish words that I thought I would not find in a Spanish dictionary. I then made a list of English words that I thought that I would not find in an English dictionary.
The overwhelming majority of the words on my Spanish list I could not find in any Spanish-English dictionary or any Spanish dictionary. I was able to find a couple in some Spanish dictionaries but not in others. But there was NOT one Spanish word from my list that appeared in every Spanish dictionary that I own.
Like I said, the majority of the words on my list did NOT appear in any Spanish dictionary.
And the words on my list of Spanish words were not slang (maybe one was a slang word). But all of them are common everyday words that I have either heard Colombians use here in Medellin or when
I lived on the coast (Barranquilla) or words that I have heard Dominicans or Puerto Ricans use in New York.
Here’s my list of Spanish words that I could not find in at least one Spanish dictionary (most did NOT appear in any Spanish dictionary):
1. maluco (bad, Colombia)
2. malparido (bad person, everywhere in Latin America, this word is offensive)
3. parcero (friend or “amigo,” this word is very “Paisa” or commonly used in Medellin)
4. mofongo (dish made from mashed green plantains, Puerto Rico and Dominican Republic)
5. cucallo (dish consisting of rice that is stuck to the bottom of the pot, Colombia, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic)
6. pegao (same as “cucallo”)
7. mojarra (fish that reminds me of a Red Snapper, everywhere in Latin America, especially Colombia and Mexico)
8. Saragosa (beans or “frijoles” — this word is very “costeña” or costal and used on the Caribbean coast of Colombia in cities such as Barranquilla, Santa Marta and Cartagena)
9. apanado (fried or “frito” — A popular fast food favorite in Colombia is “pollo apanado” or fried chicken)
10. patacones (fried plantain, Colombia, but called “tostones” in Puerto Rico and Dominican Republic).
The above image is a dish of patacones/tostones.
From looking at my list of Spanish words, I guess it is obvious what I like most about Latin American culture besides the language: The FOOD.
I actually found the word “patcacón” in my Spanish dictionary. It is defined as “an old silver coin.” A definition completely different from how the word is used here in Colombia.
I could also give you several words that are used here in Medellin on a daily basis that I have never heard anywhere else. Or words that have a completely different definition when I looked the words
up in a dictionary. For example, “charro” means “funny” in Medellin. And “amañado” means happy or “contento.”
Here’s a list or several of my English words that I thought that I would NOT find in the English section of my Spanish-English dictionary.
1. diss (slang for disrespect)
2. slam-dunk (basketball term)
3. lockdown (confining of inmates to their cells following a riot or other disturbance)
I found ALL of the above words in the English section of my Spanish-English dictionary. It seems that English dictionaries include every word imaginable from the English language. But Spanish dictionaries only include words that are commonly used in BOTH Spain and ALL Latin American countries AND regions.
I did say that I have two reasons why I continue to argue that Spanish has more words than the English language. I will give you my second reason in my next blog post.