Getting to know Spanish vocabulary is an essential part of learning the Spanish language. Along with Spanish grammar, Spanish vocabulary is the most important skill to know when you’re learning Spanish. After all, you can’t actually use a new language without knowing the words, expressions and phrases that make up that language! The more Spanish vocabulary you know, the more you’re able to talk about everything in your world — from what you do for work to your hobbies to your favorite colors and foods to the weather outside and everything in between.

The Roots Of Spanish Vocabulary

Spanish is a part of the Romance language family, which means that it (along with Italian, French and Portuguese, among others) derived from Vulgar Latin, the variety of Latin variety by the commoners in the Roman Empire. That means if you know one Romance language (or if you’ve studied Latin), you’re bound to find plenty of words you recognize across the languages.

Over the past centuries, English has adopted many words from Latin and languages like French and Spanish that trace their roots to Latin. That means you’ll find countless cognates, or words that sound the same and have the same meaning across both languages, in both Spanish and English. You can probably figure out the English translations of words like el animal, la celebración or público without needing to consult a Spanish dictionary.

Did you know that the second largest influence on Spanish vocabulary after Latin comes from Arabic? Many nouns beginning with al- in Spanish, like la almohada (“the pillow”), la alfombra (“the rug”), or el algodón (“the cotton”) trace their origins back to the Arabic the Moors brought with them when they conquered the Iberian peninsula in the 8th century. In fact, there are about 4,000 modern Spanish words that come from Arabic, a lasting language legacy imprinted on the Spanish of today from centuries ago in history.


How Can I Improve My Spanish Vocabulary?

There’s no right or wrong way to practice Spanish vocabulary. The most important thing is that you find a way that works for you and helps you remember words and phrases when you need them most in conversation, writing or any other context.

Many people find it helpful to practice Spanish vocabulary with flashcards. The typical Spanish flashcard has an English word on one side and the Spanish translation on the other, but you can write anything on either side of the cards — from definitions to example sentences using the word you’re learning.

Online learning sites like Quizlet are great for studying Spanish vocabulary. When you use Quizlet Spanish flashcards or the platform’s other games and tools, you can boost your memory retention and word recall, hone your spelling skills and practice Spanish vocabulary in interactive, engaging ways.

Some people like to practice Spanish vocabulary in more real-world ways. You might have heard of the sticky note method, where learners write the Spanish word for items in their kitchens or living rooms on sticky notes, for example, and post them on those items to help them make the association with the Spanish vocabulary word each time they look at or use that item. You can expand the system to label nearly everything in your home and to put notes of words you want to learn where you’re sure to see them, like on your shower door or on your ceiling above your bed for extra practice. This can be a really helpful learning strategy for people who like to learn visually!

You can also recruit someone else to help you study Spanish vocabulary. Have a friend, roommate or partner quiz you on word definitions and translations from a list you prepare. If you’re both learning Spanish, challenge each other to review one list of vocabulary every day, and if one of you fails or falls behind, that friend owes the other a drink or a coffee, for example. Or point out different objects in your environment to each other and see who can name the most items in Spanish without consulting a dictionary or other resource. There are so many ways to practice Spanish vocabulary with another person, whether they’re learning Spanish or not!

Learning Spanish Vocabulary With Babbel

Babbel makes learning and practicing Spanish vocabulary easy, interactive and fun. Our Spanish learning content is designed by language experts and teachers who know the best methods to build your Spanish vocabulary skills and make sure they stick. A variety of speaking, writing, reading and listening exercises reinforce all the elements of language learning so you’ll be ready to use the terms you’re learning in different situations.

The Review feature brings back Spanish vocabulary from earlier lessons when you’re most at risk of forgetting them, helping you strengthen your word recall skills with interactive flashcard and spelling exercises. Ready to get started learning Spanish vocabulary? Try a free Spanish lesson with Babbel and see for yourself how quickly you’ll be on your way to speaking Spanish with confidence — like you’ve always wanted to!

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