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Resources : Language Help - Spanish

This page is meant as a quick reference for cooking up Spanish names for your timelines - names of countries, alliances, institutions, places.

Identifiers, as used on maps or other captions, often consist of adjectives and nouns, occasionally with article added. The following table lists the correct forms of articles and adjectives to use. The right form depends on the gender of the noun.

Adjective + Noun

Male: Adjective ending -o or a consonant. This is the base form of the adjective, what you'll find in a dictionary.


  • Imperio chin-o — Chinese Empire
  • Rey español — Spanish King
  • Idioma inglés — English language

Female: Adjective ending -a or a consonant. If the base form has an o at the end, change it to an a. If it ends in an e or consonant, there's a good chance the feminine form is the same as the base form. The exceptions (including several nationalities) add an a after the consonant or replacing the e.


  • República mexicana-a — Mexican Republic
  • Reina española — Spanish Queen
  • Lengua inglesa — English language

Plural: Take the form your word would have if singular, and follow the following rules:

  • If it ends in a vowel, add -s.
  • If it ends in a consonant, add -es, but change z and c to c and qu first. It's the same sort of respelling as in “picnicking.”

These rules work for both adjectives and nouns.


  • Embajadores rus-os — Russian ambassadors
  • Colonias italian-as — Italian colonies
  • Comerciantes frances-es — French merchants
  • Islas japones-as — Japanese islands

All adjectives keep their endings, modified by the gender of the noun.

An exception concerns adjectives that end in “e” such as the word canadiense, which means “Canadian.” This adjective stays the same in both the feminine and masculine forms, and takes the “-s” that all other adjectives take in the plural, as adjectives that end with “e” can change gender as needed.

(Definite) Article + Adjective + Noun

Male: El + adjective ending in -o or a consonant (see above).


  • El Imperio chin-o — The Chinese Empire
  • El Rey español — The Spanish King

Female: La + adjective ending in -a (see above).


  • La República mexicana-a — The Mexican Republic
  • La Reina española — The Spanish Queen

Plural: Los + adjective ending in -os or -es, Las + adjective ending in -as (see above).


  • Los Embajadores rus-os — The Russian ambassadors
  • Las Colonias italian-as — The Italian colonies
  • Los Comerciantes frances-es — The French merchants
  • Las Islas japones-as — The Japanese islands

Again, all adjectives are only changed by the gender of noun it modifies, no matter how many adjectives are modifying the noun.

Usage of the Definite Article: El, la, los, las are rarely ever dropped. Many times, they are the only indication of a noun's gender, so are almost always used.

Adjective Placement

In Spanish, most adjectives fall after the nouns they modify. Some, though, can be placed before their nouns, and have different meanings based on their locations.

  • “Grande” ordinarily means “large”. However, preceding a noun, it means “great”; in this case, if the noun being modified is singular, “grande” is shortened to “gran”: Gran Colombia. (For plural nouns, the adjective behaves regularly.)
  • “Nuevo” means “new”, but in subtly different fashions. Following a noun, it is referring to an object that is physically new. Preceding a noun (this usage is the more common in place names), it refers to a new entity fulfilling a role: Nueva York, Nuevo México. (New York and New Mexico aren't any younger than York and Mexico, but their names are.)

List of nouns with genders

Obviously, the above list is only useful if you can find out genders of Spanish nouns. Start of a semantically ordered list (to be extended):

  • La alianza — alliance
  • La unión — union
  • La (con)federación — (con)federation
  • El imperio — empire
  • El reino — kingdom
  • El estado — state, country
  • La república — republic
  • La tierra — land
  • El país — country, state
  • El campo — country (as opposed to the city)
  • La región — region
  • El pueblo — town, people (as in “a Germanic people”; “un pueblo germánico”)
  • La ciudad — city, town
  • El castillo — castle
  • El río — river
  • El mar — sea
  • El océano — ocean
  • El lago — lake
  • La bahía — bay
  • El golfo — gulf
  • La isla — island
  • La montaña — mountain
  • La cordillera — mountain range
  • La frontera — border, frontier

Gender hints

* Most suffixes have a consistent gender behavior.

  • -ión: female, see unión, (con)federación.
  • -ad: feminine, la libertad (freedom/liberty), la realidad (reality).
  • Most nouns end in vowels that make it obvious as to what their gender is. But watch out for exceptions, such as el mapa.
  • Most nouns that end in consonants are masculine. However, when they are professions, nationalities, and the like, there is also a feminine form, created by adding an -a.

Geographical names

Country, city, and other place names usually drop their articles. Exceptions may arise:

  • if they carry their form of government around. (La república irlandesa (the Irish Republic), Los estados unidos (the United States)).
  • Some oddballs also keep the article, such as La Argentina on some occasions.

All rivers are masculine in Spanish, as the name of the river is treated as an adjective modifying the word “river,” such as “Río Nilo.”

Mountain names are the same way. The general formula is to insert the name of the particular mountain after the word “Monte,” such as “Monte Everest.”

Personal names

(Based on Thande reading the Armenian Genocide; Hispanophones are welcome to make corrections)

Traditionally people from Hispanophone countries have two surnames - they inherit the first surname of their father followed by the first surname of their mother. It is by their father's surname that they are defined, however, so for example “José Antonio Calderón Iglesias” is abbreviated to “Señor Calderón” (Mr Calderón). When women marry they do not change their surnames. The two surnames are sometimes separated by “y” (“and”).

A lot of Spanish surnames end in -ez (-es in Portuguese) which denotes names descended from patronymics, like -son names in English. What comes before the -ez is usually derived from what is still a common first name. For example, Rodriguez is derived from “son of Rodrigo”.

It is also very common to have more than one first name, but this is treated as all part of a single name, not like middle names in English. Commonly people may have José or Maria (Joseph or Mary, as in Jesus' parents) as their “first” first name, but will be known by their second first name as those are very, very common.

See Also

resources/language_help_-_spanish.txt · Last modified: 2019/03/29 15:13 by

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