Spanish () or Castilian (, ) is a Romance language that originated in the Iberian Peninsula of Europe. Today, it is a global language with nearly 500 million native speakers, mainly in Spain and the Americas. It is the world's second-most spoken native language after Mandarin Chinese, and the world's fourth-most spoken language overall after English, Mandarin Chinese, and Hindi. Spanish is a part of the Ibero-Romance group of languages of the Indo-European language family, which evolved from several dialects of Vulgar Latin in Iberia after the collapse of the Western Roman Empire in the 5th century. The oldest Latin texts with traces of Spanish come from mid-northern Iberia in the 9th century, and the first systematic written use of the language happened in Toledo, a prominent city of the Kingdom of Castile, in the 13th century. Modern Spanish was then taken to the viceroyalties of the Spanish Empire beginning in 1492, most notably to the Americas, as well as territories in Africa and the Philippines. As a Romance language, Spanish is a descendant of Latin and has one of the smaller degrees of difference from it (about 20%) alongside Sardinian and Italian. Around 75% of modern Spanish vocabulary is derived from Latin, including Latin borrowings from Ancient Greek. Its vocabulary has also been influenced by Arabic, having developed during the Al-Andalus era in the Iberian Peninsula, with around 8% of its vocabulary having Arabic lexical roots.,, It has also been influenced by Basque, Iberian, Celtiberian, Visigothic, and other neighboring Ibero-Romance languages. Additionally, it has absorbed vocabulary from other languages, particularly other Romance languages such as French, Italian, Mozarabic, Portuguese, Galician, Catalan, Occitan, and Sardinian, as well as from Quechua, Nahuatl, and other indigenous languages of the Americas. Spanish is one of the six official languages of the United Nations, and it is also used as an official language by the European Union, the Organization of American States, the Union of South American Nations, the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, the African Union and many other international organizations. Alongside English and French, it is also one of the most taught foreign languages throughout the world. Despite its large number of speakers, Spanish does not feature prominently in scientific writing and technology, though it is better represented in the humanities and social sciences. Spanish is the third most used language on internet websites after English and Russian.

Name of the language and etymology

Name of the language

In Spain and in some other parts of the Spanish-speaking world, Spanish is called not only but also (Castilian), the language from the kingdom of Castile, contrasting it with other languages spoken in Spain such as Galician, Basque, Asturian, Catalan, Aragonese and Occitan. The Spanish Constitution of 1978 uses the term to define the official language of the whole Spanish State in contrast to (lit. "the other Spanish languages"). Article III reads as follows: The Royal Spanish Academy (''Real Academia Española''), on the other hand, currently uses the term in its publications, but from 1713 to 1923 called the language . The (a language guide published by the Royal Spanish Academy) states that, although the Royal Spanish Academy prefers to use the term in its publications when referring to the Spanish language, both terms— and —are regarded as synonymous and equally valid.


The term comes from the Latin word , which means "of or pertaining to a fort or castle". Different etymologies have been suggested for the term (Spanish). According to the Royal Spanish Academy, derives from the Provençal word ''espaignol'' and that, in turn, derives from the Vulgar Latin . It comes from the Latin name of the province of Hispania that included the current territory of the Iberian Peninsula. There are other hypotheses apart from the one suggested by the Royal Spanish Academy. Spanish philologist Menéndez Pidal suggested that the classic or took the suffix from Vulgar Latin, as it happened with other words such as (Breton) or (Saxon). The word evolved into the Old Spanish , which eventually, became .


The Spanish language evolved from Vulgar Latin, which was brought to the Iberian Peninsula by the Romans during the Second Punic War, beginning in 210 BC. Previously, several pre-Roman languages (also called Paleohispanic languages)—some related to Latin via Indo-European, and some that are not related at all—were spoken in the Iberian Peninsula. These languages included Basque (still spoken today), Iberian, Celtiberian and Gallaecian. The first documents to show traces of what is today regarded as the precursor of modern Spanish are from the 9th century. Throughout the Middle Ages and into the modern era, the most important influences on the Spanish lexicon came from neighboring Romance languagesMozarabic (Andalusi Romance), Navarro-Aragonese, Leonese, Catalan, Portuguese, Galician, Occitan, and later, French and Italian. Spanish also borrowed a considerable number of words from Arabic, as well as a minor influence from the Germanic Gothic language through the migration of tribes and a period of Visigoth rule in Iberia. In addition, many more words were borrowed from Latin through the influence of written language and the liturgical language of the Church. The loanwords were taken from both Classical Latin and Renaissance Latin, the form of Latin in use at that time. According to the theories of Ramón Menéndez Pidal, local sociolects of Vulgar Latin evolved into Spanish, in the north of Iberia, in an area centered in the city of Burgos, and this dialect was later brought to the city of Toledo, where the written standard of Spanish was first developed, in the 13th century. In this formative stage, Spanish developed a strongly differing variant from its close cousin, Leonese, and, according to some authors, was distinguished by a heavy Basque influence (see Iberian Romance languages). This distinctive dialect spread to southern Spain with the advance of the , and meanwhile gathered a sizable lexical influence from the Arabic of Al-Andalus, much of it indirectly, through the Romance Mozarabic dialects (some 4,000 Arabic-derived words, make up around 8% of the language today). The written standard for this new language was developed in the cities of Toledo, in the 13th to 16th centuries, and Madrid, from the 1570s. The development of the Spanish sound system from that of Vulgar Latin exhibits most of the changes that are typical of Western Romance languages, including lenition of intervocalic consonants (thus Latin > Spanish ). The diphthongization of Latin stressed short and —which occurred in open syllables in French and Italian, but not at all in Catalan or Portuguese—is found in both open and closed syllables in Spanish, as shown in the following table:
Spanish is marked by the palatalization of the Latin double consonants and (thus Latin > Spanish , and Latin > Spanish ). The consonant written or in Latin and pronounced in Classical Latin had probably "fortified" to a bilabial fricative in Vulgar Latin. In early Spanish (but not in Catalan or Portuguese) it merged with the consonant written ''b'' (a bilabial with plosive and fricative allophones). In modern Spanish, there is no difference between the pronunciation of orthographic and , with some exceptions in Caribbean Spanish. Peculiar to Spanish (as well as to the neighboring Gascon dialect of Occitan, and attributed to a Basque substratum) was the mutation of Latin initial into whenever it was followed by a vowel that did not diphthongize. The , still preserved in spelling, is now silent in most varieties of the language, although in some Andalusian and Caribbean dialects it is still aspirated in some words. Because of borrowings from Latin and from neighboring Romance languages, there are many -/-doublets in modern Spanish: and (both Spanish for "Ferdinand"), and (both Spanish for "smith"), and (both Spanish for "iron"), and and (both Spanish for "deep", but means "bottom" while means "deep"); (Spanish for "to make") is cognate to the root word of (Spanish for "to satisfy"), and ("made") is similarly cognate to the root word of (Spanish for "satisfied"). Compare the examples in the following table:
Some consonant clusters of Latin also produced characteristically different results in these languages, as shown in the examples in the following table:
In the 15th and 16th centuries, Spanish underwent a dramatic change in the pronunciation of its sibilant consonants, known in Spanish as the , which resulted in the distinctive velar pronunciation of the letter and—in a large part of Spain—the characteristic interdental ("th-sound") for the letter (and for before or ). See History of Spanish (Modern development of the Old Spanish sibilants) for details. The , written in Salamanca in 1492 by Elio Antonio de Nebrija, was the first grammar written for a modern European language. According to a popular anecdote, when Nebrija presented it to Queen Isabella I, she asked him what was the use of such a work, and he answered that language is the instrument of empire. In his introduction to the grammar, dated 18 August 1492, Nebrija wrote that "... language was always the companion of empire." From the sixteenth century onwards, the language was taken to the Spanish-discovered America and the Spanish East Indies via Spanish colonization of America. Miguel de Cervantes, author of ''Don Quixote'', is such a well-known reference in the world that Spanish is often called ("the language of Cervantes"). In the twentieth century, Spanish was introduced to Equatorial Guinea and the Western Sahara, and to areas of the United States that had not been part of the Spanish Empire, such as Spanish Harlem in New York City. For details on borrowed words and other external influences upon Spanish, see Influences on the Spanish language.

Geographical distribution

Spanish is the primary language in 20 countries worldwide. As of 2020, it is estimated that about 463 million people speak Spanish as a native language, making it the second most spoken language by number of native speakers. An additional 75 million speak Spanish as a second or foreign language, making it the fourth most spoken language in the world overall after English, Mandarin Chinese, and Hindi with a total number of 538 million speakers. Spanish is also the third most used language on the Internet, after English and Russian.


In Europe, Spanish is an official language of Spain, the country after which it is named and from which it originated. It is also widely spoken in Gibraltar and Andorra. Spanish is also spoken by immigrant communities in other European countries, such as the United Kingdom, France, Italy, and Germany. Spanish is an official language of the European Union.


Hispanic America

Most Spanish speakers are in Hispanic America; of all countries with a majority of Spanish speakers, only Spain and Equatorial Guinea are outside the Americas. Nationally, Spanish is the official language—either ''de facto'' or ''de jure''—of Argentina, Bolivia (co-official with Quechua, Aymara, Guarani, and 34 other languages), Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico (co-official with 63 indigenous languages), Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay (co-official with Guaraní), Peru (co-official with Quechua, Aymara, and "the other indigenous languages"), Puerto Rico (co-official with English), Uruguay, and Venezuela. Spanish has no official recognition in the former British colony of Belize; however, per the 2000 census, it is spoken by 43% of the population. Mainly, it is spoken by the descendants of Hispanics who have been in the region since the seventeenth century; however, English is the official language. Due to their proximity to Spanish-speaking countries, Trinidad and Tobago and Brazil have implemented Spanish language teaching into their education systems. The Trinidad government launched the ''Spanish as a First Foreign Language'' (SAFFL) initiative in March 2005. In 2005, the National Congress of Brazil approved a bill, signed into law by the President, making it mandatory for schools to offer Spanish as an alternative foreign language course in both public and private secondary schools in Brazil. In September 2016 this law was revoked by Michel Temer after impeachment of Dilma Rousseff. In many border towns and villages along Paraguay and Uruguay, a mixed language known as Portuñol is spoken.

United States

According to 2006 census data, 44.3 million people of the U.S. population were Hispanic or Hispanic American by origin; 38.3 million people, 13 percent of the population over five years old speak Spanish at home. The Spanish language has a long history of presence in the United States due to early Spanish and, later, Mexican administration over territories now forming the southwestern states, also Louisiana ruled by Spain from 1762 to 1802, as well as Florida, which was Spanish territory until 1821, and Puerto Rico which was Spanish until 1898. Spanish is by far the most common second language in the US, with over 50 million total speakers if non-native or second-language speakers are included. (in Spanish) While English is the de facto national language of the country, Spanish is often used in public services and notices at the federal and state levels. Spanish is also used in administration in the state of New Mexico. The language also has a strong influence in major metropolitan areas such as those of Los Angeles, Miami, San Antonio, New York, San Francisco, Dallas, and Phoenix; as well as more recently, Chicago, Las Vegas, Boston, Denver, Houston, Indianapolis, Philadelphia, Cleveland, Salt Lake City, Atlanta, Nashville, Orlando, Tampa, Raleigh and Baltimore-Washington, D.C. due to 20th- and 21st-century immigration.


In Africa, Spanish is official in Equatorial Guinea (alongside French and Portuguese), where it is the predominant language, while Fang is the most spoken language by number of native speakers. It is also an official language of the African Union. Spanish is also spoken in the integral territories of Spain in North Africa, which include the cities of Ceuta and Melilla, the Canary Islands located some off the northwest coast of mainland Africa, and minuscule outposts known as ''plazas de soberanía''. In northern Morocco, a former Spanish protectorate, approximately 20,000 people speak Spanish as a second language, while Arabic is the ''de jure'' official language and French is a second administrative language. Spanish is spoken by very small communities in Angola due to Cuban influence from the Cold War and in South Sudan among South Sudanese natives that relocated to Cuba during the Sudanese wars and returned for their country's independence. In Western Sahara, formerly Spanish Sahara, Spanish was officially spoken during the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Today, Spanish is present alongside Arabic in the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic, although this entity receives limited international recognition and the number of Spanish speakers is unknown.


Spanish was an official language of the Philippines from the beginning of Spanish administration in 1565 to a constitutional change in 1973. During Spanish colonization (1565–1898), it was the language of government, trade, and education, and was spoken as a first language by Spaniards and educated Filipinos. In the mid-nineteenth century, the colonial government set up a free public education system with Spanish as the medium of instruction. While this increased the use of Spanish throughout the islands and led to the formation of a class of Spanish-speaking intellectuals called the ''Ilustrados'', only populations in urban areas or with places with a significant Spanish presence used the language on a daily basis or learned it as a second or third language. By the end of Spanish rule in 1898, only about 10% of the population had knowledge of Spanish, mostly those of Spanish descent or elite standing. Despite American administration of the Philippines after the defeat of Spain in the Spanish–American War, Spanish continued to be used in Philippine literature and press during the early years of American administration. Gradually however, the American government began promoting the use of English at the expense of Spanish, characterizing it as a negative influence of the past. Eventually, by the 1920s, English became the primary language of administration and education. Nevertheless, despite a significant decrease in influence and speakers, Spanish remained an official language of the Philippines upon independence in 1946, alongside English and Filipino, a standardized version of Tagalog. Spanish was briefly removed from official status in 1973 under the administration of Ferdinand Marcos, but regained official status two months later under Presidential Decree No. 155, dated 15 March 1973. It remained an official language until 1987, with the ratification of the present constitution, in which it was re-designated as a voluntary and optional auxiliary language. In 2010, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo encouraged the reintroduction of Spanish-language teaching in the Philippine education system. However, the initiative failed to gain any traction, with the number of secondary schools at which the language is either a compulsory subject or offered as an elective remaining very limited. Today, while the most optimistic estimates place the number of Spanish speakers in the Philippines at around 1.8 million people, interest in the language is growing, with some 20,000 students studying the language every year. Aside from standard Spanish, a Spanish-based creole language called Chavacano developed in the southern Philippines. However, it is not mutually intelligible with Spanish. The number of Chavacano-speakers was estimated at 1.2 million in 1996. The local languages of the Philippines also retain significant Spanish influence, with many words derived from Mexican Spanish, owing to the administration of the islands by Spain through New Spain until 1821, until direct governance from Madrid afterwards to 1898.


Spanish is the official and most spoken language on Easter Island, which is geographically part of Polynesia in Oceania and politically part of Chile. However, Easter Island's traditional language is Rapa Nui, an Eastern Polynesian language. As a legacy of comprising the former Spanish East Indies, Spanish loan words are present in the local languages of Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, Palau, Marshall Islands and Micronesia.


Most of the grammatical and typological features of Spanish are shared with the other Romance languages. Spanish is a fusional language. The noun and adjective systems exhibit two genders and two numbers. In addition, articles and some pronouns and determiners have a neuter gender in their singular form. There are about fifty conjugated forms per verb, with 3 tenses: past, present, future; 2 aspects for past: perfective, imperfective; 4 moods: indicative, subjunctive, conditional, imperative; 3 persons: first, second, third; 2 numbers: singular, plural; 3 verboid forms: infinitive, gerund, and past participle. The indicative mood is the unmarked one, while the subjunctive mood expresses uncertainty or indetermination, and is commonly paired with the conditional, which is a mood used to express "would" (as in, "I would eat if I had food); the imperative is a mood to express a command, commonly a one word phrase – "¡Di!", "Talk!". Verbs express T-V distinction by using different persons for formal and informal addresses. (For a detailed overview of verbs, see Spanish verbs and Spanish irregular verbs.) Spanish syntax is considered right-branching, meaning that subordinate or modifying constituents tend to be placed after head words. The language uses prepositions (rather than postpositions or inflection of nouns for case), and usually—though not always—places adjectives after nouns, as do most other Romance languages. Spanish is classified as a subject–verb–object language; however, as in most Romance languages, constituent order is highly variable and governed mainly by topicalization and focus rather than by syntax. It is a "pro-drop", or "null-subject" language—that is, it allows the deletion of subject pronouns when they are pragmatically unnecessary. Spanish is described as a "verb-framed" language, meaning that the ''direction'' of motion is expressed in the verb while the ''mode'' of locomotion is expressed adverbially (e.g. ''subir corriendo'' or ''salir volando''; the respective English equivalents of these examples—'to run up' and 'to fly out'—show that English is, by contrast, "satellite-framed", with mode of locomotion expressed in the verb and direction in an adverbial modifier). Subject/verb inversion is not required in questions, and thus the recognition of declarative or interrogative may depend entirely on intonation.


The Spanish phonemic system is originally descended from that of Vulgar Latin. Its development exhibits some traits in common with the neighboring dialects—especially Leonese and Aragonese—as well as other traits unique to Spanish. Spanish is unique among its neighbors in the aspiration and eventual loss of the Latin initial sound (e.g. Cast. vs. Leon. and Arag. ). The Latin initial consonant sequences , , and in Spanish typically become (originally pronounced ), while in Aragonese they are preserved in most dialects, and in Leonese they present a variety of outcomes, including , , and . Where Latin had before a vowel (e.g. ) or the ending , (e.g. ), Old Spanish produced , that in Modern Spanish became the velar fricative (, , where neighboring languages have the palatal lateral (e.g. Portuguese , ; Catalan , ).

Segmental phonology

The Spanish phonemic inventory consists of five vowel phonemes (, , , , ) and 17 to 19 consonant phonemes (the exact number depending on the dialect). The main allophonic variation among vowels is the reduction of the high vowels and to glides— and respectively—when unstressed and adjacent to another vowel. Some instances of the mid vowels and , determined lexically, alternate with the diphthongs and respectively when stressed, in a process that is better described as morphophonemic rather than phonological, as it is not predictable from phonology alone. The Spanish consonant system is characterized by (1) three nasal phonemes, and one or two (depending on the dialect) lateral phoneme(s), which in syllable-final position lose their contrast and are subject to assimilation to a following consonant; (2) three voiceless stops and the affricate ; (3) three or four (depending on the dialect) voiceless fricatives; (4) a set of voiced obstruents—, , , and sometimes —which alternate between approximant and plosive allophones depending on the environment; and (5) a phonemic distinction between the "tapped" and "trilled" ''r''-sounds (single and double in orthography). In the following table of consonant phonemes, is marked with an asterisk (*) to indicate that it is preserved only in some dialects. In most dialects it has been merged with in the merger called . Similarly, is also marked with an asterisk to indicate that most dialects do not distinguish it from (see ), although this is not a true merger but an outcome of different evolution of sibilants in Southern Spain. The phoneme is in parentheses () to indicate that it appears only in loanwords. Each of the voiced obstruent phonemes , , , and appears to the right of a ''pair'' of voiceless phonemes, to indicate that, while the ''voiceless'' phonemes maintain a phonemic contrast between plosive (or affricate) and fricative, the ''voiced'' ones alternate allophonically (i.e. without phonemic contrast) between plosive and approximant pronunciations.


Spanish is classified by its rhythm as a syllable-timed language: each syllable has approximately the same duration regardless of stress. Spanish intonation varies significantly according to dialect but generally conforms to a pattern of falling tone for declarative sentences and wh-questions (who, what, why, etc.) and rising tone for yes/no questions. There are no syntactic markers to distinguish between questions and statements and thus, the recognition of declarative or interrogative depends entirely on intonation. Stress most often occurs on any of the last three syllables of a word, with some rare exceptions at the fourth-to-last or earlier syllables. Stress tends to occur as follows: * in words that end with a monophthong, on the penultimate syllable * when the word ends in a diphthong, on the final syllable. * in words that end with a consonant, on the last syllable, with the exception of two grammatical endings: , for third-person-plural of verbs, and , for plural of nouns and adjectives or for second-person-singular of verbs. However, even though a significant number of nouns and adjectives ending with are also stressed on the penult (, , ), the great majority of nouns and adjectives ending with are stressed on their last syllable (, , , ). * Preantepenultimate stress (stress on the fourth-to-last syllable) occurs rarely, only on verbs with clitic pronouns attached (e.g. 'saving them for him/her/them/you'). In addition to the many exceptions to these tendencies, there are numerous minimal pairs that contrast solely on stress such as ('sheet') and ('savannah'); ('boundary'), ('he/she limits') and ('I limited'); ('liquid'), ('I sell off') and ('he/she sold off'). The orthographic system unambiguously reflects where the stress occurs: in the absence of an accent mark, the stress falls on the last syllable unless the last letter is , , or a vowel, in which cases the stress falls on the next-to-last (penultimate) syllable. Exceptions to those rules are indicated by an acute accent mark over the vowel of the stressed syllable. (See Spanish orthography.)

Speaker population

Spanish is the official, or national language in 18 countries and one territory in the Americas, Spain, and Equatorial Guinea. With a population of over 410 million, Hispanophone America accounts for the vast majority of Spanish speakers, of which Mexico is the most populous Spanish-speaking country. In the European Union, Spanish is the mother tongue of 8% of the population, with an additional 7% speaking it as a second language. Additionally, Spanish is the second most spoken language in the United States and is by far the most popular foreign language among students. In 2015, it was estimated that over 50 million Americans spoke Spanish, about 41 million of whom were native speakers. With continued immigration and increased use of the language domestically in public spheres and media, the number of Spanish speakers in the United States is expected to continue growing over the forthcoming decades.

Spanish speakers by country

The following table shows the number of Spanish speakers in some 79 countries.

Dialectal variation

There are important variations (phonological, grammatical, and lexical) in the spoken Spanish of the various regions of Spain and throughout the Spanish-speaking areas of the Americas. The variety with the most speakers is Mexican Spanish. It is spoken by more than twenty percent of the world's Spanish speakers (more than 112 million of the total of more than 500 million, according to the table above). One of its main features is the reduction or loss of unstressed vowels, mainly when they are in contact with the sound /s/. In Spain, northern dialects are popularly thought of as closer to the standard, although positive attitudes toward southern dialects have increased significantly in the last 50 years. Even so, the speech of Madrid, which has typically southern features such as yeísmo and s-aspiration, is the standard variety for use on radio and television. However, the variety used in the media is that of Madrid's educated classes, where southern traits are less evident, in contrast with the variety spoken by working-class Madrid, where those traits are pervasive. The educated variety of Madrid is indicated by many as the one that has most influenced the written standard for Spanish.


The four main phonological divisions are based respectively on (1) the phoneme ("theta"), (2) the debuccalization of syllable-final , (3) the sound of the spelled , (4) and the phoneme ("turned ''y''"), * The phoneme (spelled before or and spelled elsewhere), a voiceless dental fricative as in English ''thing'', is maintained by a majority of Spain's population, especially in the northern and central parts of the country. In other areas (some parts of southern Spain, the Canary Islands, and the Americas), doesn't exist and occurs instead. The maintenance of phonemic contrast is called in Spanish, while the merger is generally called (in reference to the usual realization of the merged phoneme as ) or, occasionally, (referring to its interdental realization, , in some parts of southern Spain). In most of Hispanic America, the spelled before or , and spelled is always pronounced as a voiceless dental sibilant. * The debuccalization (pronunciation as , or loss) of syllable-final is associated with the southern half of Spain and lowland Americas: Central America (except central Costa Rica and Guatemala), the Caribbean, coastal areas of southern Mexico, and South America except Andean highlands. Debuccalization is frequently called "aspiration" in English, and in Spanish. When there is no debuccalization, the syllable-final is pronounced as voiceless "apico-alveolar" sibilant or as a voiceless dental sibilant in the same fashion as in the next paragraph. * The sound that corresponds to the letter is pronounced in northern and central Spain as a voiceless "apico-alveolar" sibilant (also described acoustically as "grave" and articulatorily as "retracted"), with a weak "hushing" sound reminiscent of fricatives. In Andalusia, Canary Islands and most of Hispanic America (except in the Paisa region of Colombia) it is pronounced as a voiceless dental sibilant , much like the most frequent pronunciation of the /s/ of English. Because /s/ is one of the most frequent phonemes in Spanish, the difference of pronunciation is one of the first to be noted by a Spanish-speaking person to differentiate Spaniards from Spanish-speakers of the Americas. * The phoneme spelled , palatal lateral consonant sometimes compared in sound to the sound of the of English ''million'', tends to be maintained in less-urbanized areas of northern Spain and in highland areas of South America. Meanwhile, in the speech of most other Spanish-speakers, it is merged with ("curly-tail ''j''"), a non-lateral, usually voiced, usually fricative, palatal consonant, sometimes compared to English (''yod'') as in ''yacht'' and spelled in Spanish. As with other forms of allophony across world languages, the small difference of the spelled and the spelled is usually not perceived (the difference is not heard) by people who do not produce them as different phonemes. Such a phonemic merger is called in Spanish. In Rioplatense Spanish, the merged phoneme is generally pronounced as a postalveolar fricative, either voiced (as in English ''measure'' or the French ) in the central and western parts of the dialectal region (), or voiceless (as in the French or Portuguese ) in and around Buenos Aires and Montevideo ().


The main morphological variations between dialects of Spanish involve differing uses of pronouns, especially those of the second person and, to a lesser extent, the object pronouns of the third person.


Virtually all dialects of Spanish make the distinction between a formal and a familiar register in the second-person singular and thus have two different pronouns meaning "you": in the formal and either or in the familiar (and each of these three pronouns has its associated verb forms), with the choice of or varying from one dialect to another. The use of (and/or its verb forms) is called . In a few dialects, all three pronouns are used, with , , and denoting respectively formality, familiarity, and intimacy. In , is the subject form (, "you say") and the form for the object of a preposition (, "I am going with you"), while the direct and indirect object forms, and the possessives, are the same as those associated with : ("You know your friends respect you"). The verb forms of ''general voseo'' are the same as those used with except in the present tense (indicative and imperative) verbs. The forms for generally can be derived from those of (the traditional second-person familiar ''plural'') by deleting the glide , or , where it appears in the ending: > ; > , () > (), () > () . In Chilean on the other hand, almost all verb forms are distinct from their standard -forms. The use of the pronoun with the verb forms of () is called "pronominal ". Conversely, the use of the verb forms of with the pronoun ( or ) is called "verbal ".
In Chile, for example, ''verbal voseo'' is much more common than the actual use of the pronoun ''vos'', which is usually reserved for highly informal situations. And in Central American , one can see even further distinction.

= Distribution in Spanish-speaking regions of the Americas

= Although is not used in Spain, it occurs in many Spanish-speaking regions of the Americas as the primary spoken form of the second-person singular familiar pronoun, with wide differences in social consideration. Generally, it can be said that there are zones of exclusive use of (the use of ) in the following areas: almost all of Mexico, the West Indies, Panama, most of Colombia, Peru, Venezuela and coastal Ecuador. as a cultured form alternates with as a popular or rural form in Bolivia, in the north and south of Peru, in Andean Ecuador, in small zones of the Venezuelan Andes (and most notably in the Venezuelan state of Zulia), and in a large part of Colombia. Some researchers maintain that can be heard in some parts of eastern Cuba, and others assert that it is absent from the island. exists as the second-person usage with an intermediate degree of formality alongside the more familiar in Chile, in the Venezuelan state of Zulia, on the Caribbean coast of Colombia, in the Azuero Peninsula in Panama, in the Mexican state of Chiapas, and in parts of Guatemala. Areas of generalized include Argentina, Nicaragua, eastern Bolivia, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Costa Rica, Paraguay, Uruguay and the Colombian departments of Antioquia, Caldas, Risaralda, Quindio and Valle del Cauca.


functions as formal and informal second person plural in over 90% of the Spanish-speaking world, including all of Hispanic America, the Canary Islands, and some regions of Andalusia. In Seville, Huelva, Cadiz, and other parts of western Andalusia, the familiar form is constructed as , using the traditional second-person plural form of the verb. Most of Spain maintains the formal/familiar distinction with and respectively.


is the usual second-person singular pronoun in a formal context, but it is used jointly with the third-person singular voice of the verb. It is used to convey respect toward someone who is a generation older or is of higher authority ("you, sir"/"you, ma'am"). It is also used in a ''familiar'' context by many speakers in Colombia and Costa Rica and in parts of Ecuador and Panama, to the exclusion of or . This usage is sometimes called in Spanish. In Central America, especially in Honduras, is often used as a formal pronoun to convey respect between the members of a romantic couple. is also used that way between parents and children in the Andean regions of Ecuador, Colombia and Venezuela.

Third-person object pronouns

Most speakers use (and the prefers) the pronouns and for ''direct'' objects (masculine and feminine respectively, regardless of animacy, meaning "him", "her", or "it"), and for ''indirect'' objects (regardless of gender or animacy, meaning "to him", "to her", or "to it"). The usage is sometimes called "etymological", as these direct and indirect object pronouns are a continuation, respectively, of the accusative and dative pronouns of Latin, the ancestor language of Spanish. Deviations from this norm (more common in Spain than in the Americas) are called "", "", or "", according to which respective pronoun, , , or , has expanded beyond the etymological usage ( as a direct object, or or as an indirect object).


Some words can be significantly different in different Hispanophone countries. Most Spanish speakers can recognize other Spanish forms even in places where they are not commonly used, but Spaniards generally do not recognize specifically American usages. For example, Spanish , and (respectively, 'butter', 'avocado', 'apricot') correspond to (word used for lard in Peninsular Spanish), , and , respectively, in Argentina, Chile (except ), Paraguay, Peru (except and ), and Uruguay.

Relation to other languages

Spanish is closely related to the other West Iberian Romance languages, including Asturian, Aragonese, Galician, Ladino, Leonese, Mirandese and Portuguese. It is generally acknowledged that Portuguese and Spanish speakers can communicate in written form, with varying degrees of mutual intelligibility. Mutual intelligibility of the ''written'' Spanish and Portuguese languages is remarkably high, and the difficulties of the spoken forms are based more on phonology than on grammatical and lexical dissimilarities. ''Ethnologue'' gives estimates of the lexical similarity between related languages in terms of precise percentages. For Spanish and Portuguese, that figure is 89%. Italian, on the other hand its phonology similar to Spanish, but has a lower lexical similarity of 82%. Mutual intelligibility between Spanish and French or between Spanish and Romanian is lower still, given lexical similarity ratings of 75% and 71% respectively. And comprehension of Spanish by French speakers who have not studied the language is much lower, at an estimated 45%. In general, thanks to the common features of the writing systems of the Romance languages, interlingual comprehension of the written word is greater than that of oral communication. The following table compares the forms of some common words in several Romance languages:
1. In Romance etymology, Latin terms are given in the Accusative since most forms derive from this case.
2. As in "us very selves", an emphatic expression.
3. Also in early modern Portuguese (e.g. ''The Lusiads''), and in Galician.
4. Alternatively in French.
5. in many Southern Italian dialects and languages.
6. Medieval Catalan (e.g. ''Llibre dels fets'').
7. Modified with the learned suffix ''-ción''.
8. Depending on the written norm used (see Reintegrationism).
9. From Basque ''esku'', "hand" + ''erdi'', "half, incomplete". Notice that this negative meaning also applies for Latin ''sinistra(m)'' ("dark, unfortunate").
10. Romanian ''caș'' (from Latin ) means a type of cheese. The universal term for cheese in Romanian is ''brânză'' (from unknown etymology).


Judaeo-Spanish, also known as Ladino, is a variety of Spanish which preserves many features of medieval Spanish and Portuguese and is spoken by descendants of the Sephardi Jews who were expelled from Spain in the 15th century. Conversely, in Portugal the vast majority of the Portuguese Jews converted and became 'New Christians'. Therefore, its relationship to Spanish is comparable with that of the Yiddish language to German. Ladino speakers today are almost exclusively Sephardi Jews, with family roots in Turkey, Greece, or the Balkans, and living mostly in Israel, Turkey, and the United States, with a few communities in Hispanic America. Judaeo-Spanish lacks the Native American vocabulary which was acquired by standard Spanish during the Spanish colonial period, and it retains many archaic features which have since been lost in standard Spanish. It contains, however, other vocabulary which is not found in standard Spanish, including vocabulary from Hebrew, French, Greek and Turkish, and other languages spoken where the Sephardim settled. Judaeo-Spanish is in serious danger of extinction because many native speakers today are elderly as well as elderly ''olim'' (immigrants to Israel) who have not transmitted the language to their children or grandchildren. However, it is experiencing a minor revival among Sephardi communities, especially in music. In the case of the Latin American communities, the danger of extinction is also due to the risk of assimilation by modern Castilian. A related dialect is Haketia, the Judaeo-Spanish of northern Morocco. This too tended to assimilate with modern Spanish, during the Spanish occupation of the region.

Writing system

Spanish is written in the Latin script, with the addition of the character (, representing the phoneme , a letter distinct from , although typographically composed of an with a tilde). Formerly the digraphs (, representing the phoneme ) and (, representing the phoneme or ), were also considered single letters. However, the digraph (, 'strong r', , 'double r', or simply ), which also represents a distinct phoneme , was not similarly regarded as a single letter. Since 1994 and have been treated as letter pairs for collation purposes, though they remained a part of the alphabet until 2010. Words with are now alphabetically sorted between those with and , instead of following as they used to. The situation is similar for . Thus, the Spanish alphabet has the following 27 letters: : Since 2010, none of the digraphs () is considered a letter by the Royal Spanish Academy. The letters and are used only in words and names coming from foreign languages (, etc.). With the exclusion of a very small number of regional terms such as (see Toponymy of Mexico), pronunciation can be entirely determined from spelling. Under the orthographic conventions, a typical Spanish word is stressed on the syllable before the last if it ends with a vowel (not including ) or with a vowel followed by or an ; it is stressed on the last syllable otherwise. Exceptions to this rule are indicated by placing an acute accent on the stressed vowel. The acute accent is used, in addition, to distinguish between certain homophones, especially when one of them is a stressed word and the other one is a clitic: compare ('the', masculine singular definite article) with ('he' or 'it'), or ('you', object pronoun) with ('tea'), (preposition 'of') versus ('give' ormal imperative/third-person present subjunctive, and (reflexive pronoun) versus ('I know' or imperative 'be'). The interrogative pronouns (, , , , etc.) also receive accents in direct or indirect questions, and some demonstratives (, , , etc.) can be accented when used as pronouns. Accent marks used to be omitted on capital letters (a widespread practice in the days of typewriters and the early days of computers when only lowercase vowels were available with accents), although the advises against this and the orthographic conventions taught at schools enforce the use of the accent. When is written between and a front vowel or , it indicates a "hard g" pronunciation. A diaeresis indicates that it is not silent as it normally would be (e.g., , 'stork', is pronounced ; if it were written *, it would be pronounced *). Interrogative and exclamatory clauses are introduced with inverted question and exclamation marks ( and , respectively).


Royal Spanish Academy

The Royal Spanish Academy ( es|Real Academia Española), founded in 1713, together with the 21 other national ones (see Association of Spanish Language Academies), exercises a standardizing influence through its publication of dictionaries and widely respected grammar and style guides. Because of influence and for other sociohistorical reasons, a standardized form of the language (Standard Spanish) is widely acknowledged for use in literature, academic contexts and the media.

Association of Spanish Language Academies

The Association of Spanish Language Academies (, or ) is the entity which regulates the Spanish language. It was created in Mexico in 1951 and represents the union of all the separate academies in the Spanish-speaking world. It comprises the academies of 23 countries, ordered by date of Academy foundation: Spain (1713), Colombia (1871), Ecuador (1874), Mexico (1875), El Salvador (1876), Venezuela (1883), Chile (1885), Peru (1887), Guatemala (1887), Costa Rica (1923), Philippines (1924), Panama (1926), Cuba (1926), Paraguay (1927), Dominican Republic (1927), Bolivia (1927), Nicaragua (1928), Argentina (1931), Uruguay (1943), Honduras (1949), Puerto Rico (1955), United States (1973) and Equatorial Guinea (2016).

Cervantes Institute

The (Cervantes Institute) is a worldwide nonprofit organization created by the Spanish government in 1991. This organization has branched out in over 20 different countries, with 75 centers devoted to the Spanish and Hispanic American cultures and Spanish language. The ultimate goals of the Institute are to promote universally the education, the study, and the use of Spanish as a second language, to support methods and activities that help the process of Spanish-language education, and to contribute to the advancement of the Spanish and Hispanic American cultures in non-Spanish-speaking countries. The institute's 2015 report "El español, una lengua viva" (Spanish, a living language) estimated that there were 559 million Spanish speakers worldwide. Its latest annual report
El español en el mundo 2018
(Spanish in the world 2018) counts 577 million Spanish speakers worldwide. Among the sources cited in the report is the U.S. Census Bureau, which estimates that the U.S. will have 138 million Spanish speakers by 2050, making it the biggest Spanish-speaking nation on earth, with Spanish the mother tongue of almost a third of its citizens.Stephen Burgen
US now has more Spanish speakers than Spain – only Mexico has more
, US News, 29 June 2015.

Official use by international organizations

Spanish is one of the official languages of the United Nations, the European Union, the World Trade Organization, the Organization of American States, the Organization of Ibero-American States, the African Union, the Union of South American Nations, the Antarctic Treaty Secretariat, the Latin Union, the Caricom, the North American Free Trade Agreement, the Inter-American Development Bank, and numerous other international organizations.

See also

* Fundéu BBVA * List of Spanish-language poets * Spanish as a second or foreign language * Spanish-language literature * Spanish-language music

Spanish words and phrases

* Cuento * List of English–Spanish interlingual homographs * Longest word in Spanish * Most common words in Spanish * Spanish profanity * Spanish proverbs

Spanish-speaking world

* Countries where Spanish is an official language * Hispanic culture * Hispanicization * Hispanidad * Hispanism * Panhispanism

Influences on the Spanish language

* Arabic influence on the Spanish language * List of Spanish words of Germanic origin * List of Spanish words of Philippine origin

Dialects and languages influenced by Spanish

* Caló * Chamorro * Frespañol * Llanito * Palenquero * Papiamento * Philippine languages * Chavacano * Portuñol * Spanglish * List of English words of Spanish origin

Spanish dialects and varieties

* Spanish dialects and varieties * European Spanish ** Andalusian Spanish ** Canarian Spanish ** Castrapo (Galician Spanish) ** Castúo (Extremaduran Spanish) ** Murcian Spanish * Spanish in the Americas ** North American Spanish ** Central American Spanish ** Caribbean Spanish ** South American Spanish ** Spanish in the United States * Spanish in Africa ** Equatoguinean Spanish ** Saharan Spanish * Spanish in Asia ** Spanish in the Philippines




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Further reading

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External links


Real Academia Española (RAE)
Royal Spanish Academy. Spain's official institution, with a mission to ensure the stability of the Spanish language

Cervantes Institute. A Spanish government agency, responsible for promoting the study and the teaching of the Spanish language and culture.

Courses and learning resources

* SpanishBoom.com
Free Spanish course with audio
Free Spanish learning resources
* Curlie.org
Directory of Spanish language resources
* WordReference.co
Spanish-English forum

Online dictionaries

* Royal Spanish Academy (RAE)
Monolingual Spanish dictionary
* SpanishBoom.com
Spanish-English visual dictionary with audio
* WordReference.com
Spanish-English dictionary
* Diccionario del Español de México (DEM)
Monolingual Spanish dictionary covering Mexican usage

Articles and reports

* Instituto Cervante

* British Counci
Spanish: speak the language of 400 million people
{{DEFAULTSORT:Spanish Language Category:Fusional languages Category:Languages of Argentina Category:Languages of Bolivia Category:Languages of Chile Category:Languages of Colombia Category:Languages of Costa Rica Category:Languages of Cuba Category:Languages of the Dominican Republic Category:Languages of Ecuador Category:Languages of El Salvador Category:Languages of Equatorial Guinea Category:Languages of Guatemala Category:Languages of Honduras Category:Languages of Mexico Category:Languages of Nicaragua Category:Languages of Panama Category:Languages of Paraguay Category:Languages of Peru Category:Languages of Puerto Rico Category:Languages of Spain Category:Languages of the United States Category:Languages of Uruguay Category:Languages of Venezuela Category:Languages of Gibraltar Category:Subject–verb–object languages