To introduce the following topic, we ask you to reflect on the word banco and its possible meanings. As you know, the Spanish word banco can refer to different things, depending on the context in which this word is used.

Thus, a banco (bench) is designed to sit on, but it is also the place where you can keep your money (bank). Not only that, you can also talk about a banco de peces (school of fish), that is, when many fish are together.

These are the HOMONYM WORDS: words that may overlap both in writing and in pronunciation but have a different origin and their meaning also differs.

We will now introduce some homonymous words that always create controversy when learning a new language, Spanish.

Words that match in pronunciation but not in writing in Spanish



Vaca: the female of the bull (cow).

Baca: support placed on the roof of vehicles to transport luggage (roof rack).

Normalmente se dice que las vacas son más tranquilas que los toros. – It is usually said that cows are more peaceful than bulls.

Mientras íbamos de camino a nuestro hotel, nos dimos cuenta que nuestro equipaje no estaba; mi novio montó la baca mal y produjo que todo nuestro equipaje se cayera. – While we were on our way to our hotel, we realized that our luggage was missing; my boyfriend set up the roof rack wrong and caused our entire luggage to fall down.



Calló: third person singular of the past tense of the verb callar, not to speak (shut up).

Cayó: third person singular of the preterit of the verb caer, to lose balance and to find oneself on the ground (fell).

El padre de Ana casi nunca se enfada, pero ese día su padre gritó y Ana se calló de repente. – Ana’s father almost never gets angry, but that day her father screamed and Ana suddenly fell silent.

Aunque se cayó de un tercer piso, no sufre problemas en el cuerpo. – Although she fell from a third floor, she has no physical injuries.



Tuvo: third personal singular of the past perfect of the verb tener, which indicates possession (had).

Tubo: cylindrical and hollow object, with both ends open (tube).

María tuvo que reclamar la cuenta otra vez. – Maria had to claim the bill again.

El mecánico se equivocó y puso el tubo en el lugar equivocado. – The mechanic made a mistake and inserted the tube in the wrong place.



Ola: a wave that forms on the surface of water (wave).

Hola: greeting (hello).

Era una ola muy pequeña, pero parecía un tsunami para ella. – It was a very small wave, but it looked like a tsunami to her.

El niño se acercó y saludó a sus amigos con un hola efusivo. – The boy approached and greeted his friends with an effusive hello.



Cave: third personal singular of the present of the subjunctive and second person singular of the imperative of the verb cavar, which means to raise the earth or to deepen a question (dig deeper).

Cabe: third person singular of the present indicative of the verb caber, something has room anywhere (something does not fit somewhere).

Dile a Mario que cave más profundo o no encontrará el tesoro. – Tell Mario to dig deeper or he won’t find the treasure

La caja de zapatos es muy grande y por eso no me cabe en el armario. – The shoe box is very big and that’s why it doesn’t fit in my closet.



Vote: first- and third-person singular of the subjunctive of the verb votar, elect (to vote).

Bote: jump that gives an object when it falls to the surface or small boat that does not have a deck designed for short trips (boat).

El grupo que vote en la siguiente ronda será decisivo para saber quién ganará. – The group that votes in the next round will be decisive for who will win.

Ese es mi bote, el azulado con las palas de remar grises. – That’s my boat, the blue one with the gray paddles.

Words that match in writing but have different meanings.



Owner or possessor of something (owner).

First person singular of the present indicative of the verb amar (to love).

En la antigüedad, los criados debían trabajar y obedecer a sus amos. – In ancient times, servants had to work and obey their masters.

Me encanta viajar por todo el país, de verdad lo amo. – I enjoy traveling all over the country, I really love it.



Poisonous snake, up to two meters long (cobra).

Third person singular of the present indicative of the verb to charge, to receive money for a job done (to get paid).

Caminando por la montaña me encontré una cobra enorme; por suerte me di cuenta enseguida y me alejé. – Walking through the mountain I came across a huge cobra; luckily, I noticed it immediately and walked away

Él no cobra hasta que no termine de hacer su trabajo. – dijo su jefa. – He doesn’t get paid until he finishes his work. – said his boss.



Alcoholic beverage obtained from grapes (wine).

Third person singular of the past tense of the verb venir, to go from one place to another, to return (to come).

Sin querer golpeé su mano, provocando que derramara todo su vino en la blusa. – I accidentally hit his hand, causing him to spill all his wine on his blouse.

Él vino a la fiesta sin saber que no estaba invitado. – He came to the party not knowing he was not invited.



Unit of length used to measure (meter).

Subway train (metro).

Los carpinteros siempre llevan un metro con ellos que utilizan para medir puertas, paredes, etc. – Carpenters always carry a meter with them that they use to measure doors, walls, etc.

El metro de Londres es el más antiguo, pero a la vez famoso. – The London Underground is the oldest, but also the most famous.



Cup with foot, usually made of glass used for drinking (glass).

Prize obtained by winning a competition or contest (trophy).

Ella sirvió un poco de vino en mi copa, pero yo ya no podía beber más. – She poured some wine into my glass, but I couldn’t drink any more.

Todos reunidos en el podio alzaron la copa al aire entre vítores. – All gathered on the podium and raised the trophy in the air between cheers.



Text: Rocío Balada López

Photo: Photo by willsantt from Pexels

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