Spanish Vocabulary Quiz



By: Beth Hendricks

6 Min Quiz

Image: BraunS / E+ / Getty Images

About This Quiz

We grasp the basics of other languages as early as elementary school, making a game of learning to count to 10: Uno, dos, tres ... all the way to "diez." Later, as we approach high school and college, we make a serious attempt at learning a foreign language. Not only does it help us to interact in an increasingly global society, but science says it's great for other reasons, too. Experts agree that people who spend time learning a second (or third or fourth) language have better memories and can multi-task more efficiently and do a better job solving problems and thinking critically. It's all because you started learning how to count to 10 in Spanish (or French or German) in elementary school!

This quiz is all about the Spanish language, a language that is natively spoken by roughly 400 million people on the planet today – even more than native English speakers. That means it's popular and growing more so every day. 

So, let's brush up on your Spanish vocabulary! Would you know how to find a shopping mall in Mexico? How would you ask for a glass of tea in Spain? What type of insect is crawling up your leg? (We hope it's not an araña!) Fix your foreign language skills on this quiz and test your "capacidad" (that's ability) for recognizing these common everyday things. Vamonos ... let's go!

He asked me to pass him "la cinta métrica." What did he want?

The word "métrica" in "la cinta métrica" may have more easily given away the right answer here since it sounds like our English word, "metric," a system of measuring things. "Cinta" in Spanish means "tape," "ribbon" or "string."


Let me grab "la bolsa," and we'll get out of here. What am I reaching for?

"La bolsa" is Spanish for "the bag," or a purse, an item most women carry wherever they go. Spanish purse designs mimic Spanish interior design with lots of bright colors and interesting patterns.


He stole one of my "papas fritas." Now he's in trouble! But what did he grab?

"Las papas fritas" is Spanish for french fries and, in some circles, may also be used to indicate potato chips. "Papas" means "potatoes" in Spanish while "frita" means fried. That's covering all our bases!


I only go to the movies for "las palomitas de maíz." What do I look forward to?

"Las palomitas de maíz," or popcorn in English, is the highlight of going to the movies, in our opinion. If you look closely, you'll see "maíz" in that word, which translates to corn in English.


The beautiful butterfly first begins as a crawly caterpillar. Which word is Spanish for butterfly?

"La mariposa" is Spanish for the insect we know as the butterfly. The origin of the word is likely a mash-up of the words "María," for the Virgin Mary, and "posar" which means to "come down or settle."


Barney the dinosaur is a fan of this color, which is "morado" in Spanish. What color is it?

Of course, Barney is a fan of "morado," which means purple in English! He's a big purple dinosaur! Some people believe the word "morado" comes from a type of purple berry found in Latin America.


If you've been at the beach all day, you'll want to take a shower and wash your hair. Which of these will help?

"El champú" sort of looks like its English interpretation, "shampoo," doesn't it? Both likely are derived from the Hindi word "chāmpo." Regardless, be sure to lather, rinse and repeat.


The first stop on my trip will be to a cake shop. What word can I use for "cake shop" when asking for directions?

If your first stop is a cake shop or bakery, ask a local for the nearest "pastelería." Here you'll find desserts, pastries and confections of all varieties. Sounds like a good first stop to us!


I took advantage of "la oferta" at the mall today. What does "la oferta" mean?

Trust us when we say, there's nothing we love more than a good "oferta," or "sale," no matter where it's happening. It doesn't get much better than reduced prices on something we were considering buying anyway.


Ugh! He threw the "béisbol" over the fence. What did he throw?

"Béisbol" in Spanish and baseball in English are pretty similar, aren't they? Major League Baseball has had some pretty spectacular Hispanic baseball players in its history, including Roberto Clemente, Albert Pujols and Mariano Rivera.


Ouch! I just got stung by a bee. Which word is "bee" in Spanish?

Darn "la abejas!" It doesn't matter whether you get stung by a bee in the United States or stung by a bee in Mexico, that sucker is still going to hurt. At least now you know what to call it.


Don't buy a house without "un lavaplatos." Which of these appliances is a deal-breaker?

Sure, you most likely need a refrigerator, stove and microwave, too, but "un lavaplatos" (or dishwasher) is a critical appliance if you don't want to spend every evening hand-washing your dinner plates.


"Hormigas" can ruin a perfectly good picnic. What are "hormigas" in Spanish?

Watch out for "hormigas" – that's ants for the English-speaking among us. Did you ever have an ant farm as a kid? In Spanish, that would be "granja de hormigas." Sounds more impressive, doesn't it?


He took the elevator to the penthouse on the 42nd floor. What is the Spanish term for "elevator"?

It's fitting that the Spanish word for elevator, "el ascensor," is pretty close to our English word, "ascend," which means to go up. Of course, elevators also go down ... at least we hope they do if you're on the 42nd floor.


Eek! An "araña!" What did we just spot?

If you have arachnophobia, you won't be too pleased by this visitor — or perhaps even this question! In Spanish, an eight-legged creature we know as a spider is called an "araña." Come to think of it, "araña" and the start of the word "arachnophobia" (a fear of spiders) are pretty similar.


Mona Lisa is a famous painting. What is the word for "painting" in Spanish?

"Pintura" means painting in Spanish. The Mona Lisa was painted by Leonardo da Vinci, but there are plenty of famous Spanish painters, including one of the most popular of all-time – Pablo Picasso. Pintura in some circles also means paint.


You'll find "el pescado" in a seafood restaurant. What does "pescado" mean?

The term "pescado" is a general term in Spanish that translates to fish in English, though no specific type. If someone tells you they're eating "pescado frito," they're having fried fish. Why didn't they invite us over?


Did you ever sing the song, "La Cucaracha"? What is that song about?

Would you have ever knowingly sung a song about cockroaches? Well, you might have, if you ever sung along with the song, "La Cucaracha." In Spanish, the song is about a cockroach that's unable to walk ... seriously.


She spent the weekend running errands with her "abuela." Who was it?

It was her grandma, "su abuela," who occupied her weekend errand-running. "Abuela" is quite close to another important family member in Spanish, "abuelo," which is "grandpa."


Kids in the U.S. go to school. What is a school called in Spanish-speaking countries?

The Spanish word for school is "escuela" and sometimes "colegio," which we might more closely associate with the word college in the United States. To make matters more confusing, university in English is "universidad" in Spanish. Phew!


You might offer one of these to a hungry baby. Which of these would you pick?

If you want to stifle the cries of a hungry baby, you'd want to pick "el biberón" – the Spanish word for baby bottle. If you offer any of the other choices (a crib, cradle and stroller, respectively), you're probably going to have an even more unhappy tot.


As the saying goes, "Out of 'la sartén,' into the fire." What is "la sartén" in Spanish?

The popular phrase, "Out of the frying pan, into the fire," sounds a bit different if you insert the Spanish word for pan, "la sartén," in the mix, doesn't it? Either way, be careful you don't get burned!


Fly, eagles, fly! Which of these birds is the national bird of the United States?

The national bird of the United States is the bald eagle, but that doesn't mean that's the only place you can find them. If you spot an "águila" in another country, surprise! You found an eagle.


If you're in need of a bathroom in Spain, which of these should you look for?

This is probably one of the first words you need to learn if you're traveling outside the United States in a Spanish-speaking country. Memorize this one, and you're guaranteed to at least be, um, comfortable.


I want to enjoy a long soak in "la bañera." What am I talking about?

After a long week, there's nothing more relaxing than a long soak in the bathtub, or "la bañera," if you were traveling in a Spanish-speaking country. You can find la bañera in el baño. It makes sense, right?


Boarding an airplane? You'll need one of these. What are we referencing?

Be sure you have "el boleto," or a ticket, if you're trying to board a plane in a Spanish-speaking country. If you're planning ahead, you might tell someone, "Compré los boletos para volar a Fénix," or "I bought my tickets to fly to Phoenix." Comprende?


You won't be able to get into a can without one of these. What is it?

You better grab an "abrelata," or can opener, if you want to get into those green beans to go with dinner. The first U.S. can opener was invented by a Connecticut man and was integral in helping soldiers eat during the Civil War.


They aren't just any zapatos, they're "los zapatos de tacón alto." What does it mean?

It's a long phrase – "los zapatos de tacón alto" – but it means high heel shoes in English. "Zapatos" are shoes, "tacón" means heel and "alto" means high. We think ballet flats are more comfy.


You've probably had a margarita (or two), but the word means something unusual in Spanish. What is it?

Did you know when you ask for a "margarita" in a restaurant that it means "daisy" in Spanish? We're not sure why. But margaritas are delicious ... er, we mean really beautiful.


I love the weekends because you don't have to set one of these. What is it?

Is there anything better than a weekend when you don't have to set an "el despertador?" (That's an alarm clock, in case you hadn't figured it out.) We're amused that the word for alarm clock also looks like "desperate," which is exactly how we feel on Monday mornings.


The kids spent a long time building "el castillo de arena." What are we referencing?

In Spanish, "el castillo de arena" references a sand castle, where "castillo" is castle and "arena" is sand; therefore, "el castillo de arena" is "the sand castle." We're already thinking about our next beach trip.


The "gorra" had the New York Yankees' logo on it. What is "gorra"?

The word "gorra" in Spanish translates to cap — or hat — in English, an article of clothing you'll see men and women wearing. Among the most popular types of caps are those with team logos on them, such as the Yankees.


Arbor Day is all about planting trees. What is the Spanish word for "tree"?

If you're observing Arbor Day in a Spanish-speaking nation, you'll be honoring "el árbol," the tree. The holiday began in the 1970s as a tree-planting program of the Arbor Day Foundation.


Monkeys are famous for their love of bananas. What does the word "monkey" translate to in Spanish?

Monkeys and "monos" are the same. They don't care whether you speak Spanish or English ... or both! But their love of bananas is real, although the ones they encounter in the wild are a bit different than those we find at the grocery store.


She made a pitcher of sweet tea for us to enjoy. What is "pitcher" in Spanish?

A pitcher in Spanish is referred to as a "jarra," similar to our English word for "jar." Another word in the answer choices that's related to a pitcher is "vaso," or cup, which you'll need to enjoy that delicious tea.


My cousin asked me to join his band on "los tambores." What is he asking me to play?

Yeah, baby, rock on! My cousin is asking me to play the drums, "los tambores," in his new band. The word "tambor" has long been used to represent the concept of the drum, dating back to ancient Persia.


If you're wearing undershorts, you're wearing undershorts regardless of the language! But, what are they called in Spanish?

Do you need new underpants while traveling in Mexico? You better ask for "calzoncillos" so somebody knows what you're talking about. "Calzoncillos" specifically refer to men's underpants, just in case you were wondering.


Grip the steering wheel at 10 and 2 when you're driving. What's the Spanish word for "steering wheel"?

All of these answer options are car parts, but only "el volante" represents the crucial steering necessary for guiding the car. The other choices represent the gas pedal, the trunk and the tire, respectively.


Let's do things in the right order. You'll need which of these before you put on shoes?

"Los calcetines" is Spanish for "socks," which is perfect for the male gender, but women have a few more words to remember, including "medias," which can mean tights, and "la pantimedia," which represents pantyhose.


Brrrr! It's chilly outside, so which of these should you grab?

Choose "el abrigo" and you'll find yourself shielded from inclement weather. Why? Because this word translated into English means "coat," a perfect garment to grab if the temperatures take a dip.


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