By Francisco J. Vare Last updated:
It surrounds us, it amazes us… It even terrifies us sometimes.
No matter our nationality, gender, religion or anything else that might set us apart, nature unites us.
That is why anyone learning the language of Cervantes should know at least a few terms related to it.
This will allow you to stop and smell the roses, be awed and describe nature’s beauty in all its complexity using a language other than your native tongue.
The following list of Spanish nature words will bring you closer to your roots whileteaching you some very interesting facts about the world around you and the Spanish language.
Enjoy the view!
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I have divided the following list of words into four broad categories: earth, water, air and nature.
A lot of words could have gone into different categories, and the number of categories could have been twice or even five times bigger. I have opted for a broader classification just for the sake of clarity and organization, but feel free to make your own groups and subgroups and add other terms to this list as you study.
And now, without further ado, here are 70 all-natural Spanish nature words for your enjoyment.
1. el árbol (the tree)
Do not forget to add the accent mark above the a. The stress is on the penultimate syllable and the word ends with l, so the accent mark is compulsory.
2. la planta (the plant)
Here we have a wonderful cognate. Use cognates to save time in your learning process!
3. el arbusto (the bush)
4. la flor (the flower)
Flor may look like a masculine wordbut it is, in fact, feminine. It ends with a consonant, so its plural is las flores (the flowers).
5. el tallo (the stem)
6. la hoja (the leaf)
Remember thatwe do not pronounce the letter h in Spanish. We say it is una letra muda (a silent letter).
7. la raíz (the root)
A perfect example of a Spanish hiatus.
8. la espina (the thorn)
Espina comes from Latin spina (spine, thorn). From the same root, we also havela espiga (the spike).
9. el pétalo (the petal)
Yet another cognate. Aren’t they wonderful?
10. el polen (pollen)
It does not matter how good of a cognate polen is, a person who is allergic to it will never, ever like it (nunca le va a gustar).
11. el castaño (the chestnut tree)
Chestnuts (las castañas) are probably one of the most typical fall nuts. Spaniards love them asadas (roasted).
12. la haya (the beech tree)
There’s a group of Spanish words that drives everyone crazy. These words are haya, halla, aya and allá. Are you able to remember the difference between them?
13. el cedro (the cedar)
14. el roble (the oak tree)
While roble refers to a single oak tree, oak wood is called robledo in Spanish.
15. la palmera (the palm tree)
You should try a palmera de chocolate (chocolate palm). Delicious!
16. el cactus (the cactus)
A perfect match.
17. el olmo (the elm tree)
There is a very interesting expression in Spanish: pedirle peras al olmo (lit. “to ask the elm tree for pears”), which means “to ask the impossible.” Neat!
18. la rosa (the rose)
The rose is internationally considered the flower of love (la flor del amor). Do you know why?
19. el clavel (carnation)
20. la margarita (the daisy)
I bet you did not know that the word margarita comes from Latinmargarita, which means “pearl”!
21. el tulipán (the tulip)
The word tulipánloses the accent mark when it becomes plural (los tulipanes—the tulips).A lot of European languages share this cognate, which comes from Turkishtülbant(turban).
22. la amapola (the poppy)
Poppy seed is very commonly used in Eastern European cuisine. It tastes delicious, too!
23. la lila (the lilac)
Just as in English, lila can also be a color (color lila— lilac color).
24. el precipicio (the cliff)
I love the etymological origin of the word precipicio: It comes from Latin praecipitium/praecipitis, which means “headfirst.”
25. el jardín (the garden)
This is another example of a word that loses its accent mark when it is plural (los jardines —the gardens).
26. el césped (the grass, the lawn)
27. la montaña (the mountain)
Another pair of cognates for you. Remember that in Spanish you only read the letters that are written, so do not try to make the diphthong ou out of Spanish o. Read it as“oh.”
28. la sierra (the mountain range)
Sierra means both “mountain range” and “saw.” Yes, the one people use to cut off trees!
The original meaning of the word referred to a mountain range. Due to the similarity of a saw’s teeth to the peaks of a mountain range, the tool was named the same in Spanish.
29. el valle (the valley)
A cognate coming from Latin vallis (valley).
30. la mala hierba (the weed, lit. the bad grass)
I have always been amazed by the other spelling of the word hierba: yerba.The latter spelling is very common in some Latin American countries such as Argentina, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay.
Yerba mate, anyone?
31. el lago (the lake)
Lago and “lake”are cognates and they both come from Proto-Germanic *lakō.
But while *lakō entered Old English as lacu (pond), giving Middle English lake (lake, pond) and finally Modern English “lake,”it also entered Latin as lacus (lake, pond), which morphed into the Spanish lago.
32. el río (the river)
Another great example of a Spanish hiatus. Three letters and two syllables. Not bad at all!
33. el mar (the sea)
Mar is an example of an ambiguous gender noun. There are over a dozen of them in Spanish and they can normally be both masculine and feminine depending on the context or meaning.
34. el océano (the ocean)
This one is yet another example of a cognate. Pay special attention to the Spanish pronunciation, though. We add the stress (and an accent mark!) on -cé- instead of o-.
35. la cascada (the cascade, the waterfall)
36. la ola (the wave)
An ola is a wave and hola means “hello.” They are two examples of Spanish homophones, which are words with the same sound but different meanings.
37. la marea (the tide)
Both marea (tide) and marearse (to get sick) come from the word mar (sea), which entered Spanish from Latin mare (a mass of water).
38. la orilla (the shore, the bank)
39. la playa (the beach)
I bet you did not know the words playa (beach) and plagio (plagiarism) have the same origin! Languages are indeed awesome.
40. la lluvia (the rain)
This is the perfect moment to learn every child’s favorite song,“Que llueva, que llueva”(“Let It Rain, Let It Rain”).
41. la nieve (the snow)
42. el granizo (the hail)
The word granizo is formed by the word grano (grain) and the suffix -izo. Grano entered Spanish via Latin granum (grain, seed).
43. el tsunami (the tsunami)
This is an example of a perfect cognate, both in the singular (tsunami) and plural (tsunamis).
The word comes from two Japanese words: tsu (harbor) and nami (waves).
44. el viento (the wind)
Remember that a lot of weather expressions are formed with the verb hacer (to do, to make) in Spanish.
In this case, when you want to say it is windy, you will say Hace viento (lit. “It makes wind”).
45. la tormenta (the storm)
This is one of those words that could have been included in almost any other category. I have included it here because the strong winds that blow during a storm (los fuertes vientos que suplan durante una tormenta) have always amazed me.
If you want to say there is a storm going on, say hay tormenta in Spanish.
46. el huracán (the hurricane)
The word huracán includes two characteristics that have already appeared in this post in other words: the h is silent and the word loses its accent mark when in its plural form(huracanes).
47. la brisa (breeze)
Let us take a breather here with a softer wind between our more violent windy phenomena. The word “breeze” comes from the Old Spanish briza, which meant “cold northeast wind.”
48. la tempestad (the tempest)
This word is also the name of one of Shakespeare’s plays. There are lots of bilingual (English and Spanish) Shakespearean plays. Do you have what it takes to read at least one of them?
49. el ciclón (the cyclone)
Here is another pair of cognates. They both come from Greek kyklon, which means “moving in a circle, whirling around.”
50. el tornado (the twister, the tornado)
The history of this word is very interesting.
Spanish has the word tronar (to thunder), which has the past participletronado (thundered). English took the word tronado and changed it slightly to “tornado” and used it to refer to a twister. Finally, Spanish borrowed back the word in its new form,tornado,and with its new meaning as well.
51. los insectos (the insects)
Yet another pair of almost perfect cognates.
52. las aves (the birds)
It is interesting to mention that even though the word ave is feminine, it uses the masculine article el when it is singular (el ave/las aves). Other words like ave are agua, hacha and águila, just to name a few.
53. las nubes (the clouds)
¿A qué huelen las nubes?(What do clouds smell like?)
This question might be difficult to answer, especially because smell is very subjective (el olfato es muy subjetivo).
Let’s just say they have no smell (no tienen olor). Do you agree?
54. el aire libre (the fresh air)
I find this Spanish expression very interesting.
Aire libre literallymeans “free air.” When you change el for al (in the expression al aire libre), it does not mean exactly fresh air but “outdoors,” as in outdoor activities (actividades al aire libre),and “open-air,” as in an open-air concert (concierto al aire libre).
55. el amanecer (the dawn, the sunrise)
El amanecer is a great example of an infinitive (amanecer — to dawn, to awake) transformed into a noun just by adding a definite article. This is probably the most common way of transforming verbs and adjectives into nouns.
56. el atardecer (the sunset, the dusk)
The same happens with this word, atardecer (to darken, to get dark). Just by adding the definite article we get a new Spanish noun.
57. el tiempo (the weather)
Tiempo is an interesting word with a few different meanings, among which we can highlight “weather”and“time.”
If you ever travel to Spain and there is a TV program called “El Tiempo,”you are set to watch the weather forecast.
Some expressions with tiempo worth mentioning are:
¿Qué tiempo hace hoy? (What is the weather like today?)
Hace mucho tiempo… (A long time ago…)
Tiempo de vida (lifespan)
58. el paisaje (the landscape, the scenery)
Paisaje comes from the French pays (field) and the suffix -aje (set, group, array). It literally means “group of fields,” which actually sounds quite romantic!
59. la biología (the biology)
Biología and “biology”are clearly cognates. Both words come from Greek bio (life) and logía (branch of study), which makes total sense since biology is the branch that studies life.
Pay special attention to three small details that make the Spanish and English versions different. For starters, the stress falls on different syllables (-gí- in Spanish and -o- in English). Additionally, the stress on the vowel -í-forces it to add an accent mark. Finally, notice the difference in pronunciation between English-gyand Spanish-gía.
60. la ecología (the ecology)
Ecología is very similar to biología in the sense that it is formed by two Greek words: oikos (house, household, home) and logía (branch of study).
In case you did not know, ecology is the science that studies the homes of organisms or, in other words, their habitats.
61. la erupción (the eruption)
Another clear pair of cognates with a Latin origin.
The word erupción is feminine, even though the vast majority of learners who see it for the first time think it is masculine. But here is a little trick: all Spanish words ending in -ción/-sión are feminine!
62. el calor (the heat, the warmth)
Calor is another example of an ambiguous gender noun, so it can be both masculine and feminine. This is the word you use in Spanish to say you are hot (tengo calor) and it is hot (hacecalor).
I have heard hundreds, if not thousands, of people translate “I am hot”literally as Estoy caliente, creating all kinds of embarrassing situations for them. Remember thatEstoy caliente has a rather risquémeaning (in essence, you are saying that you are all hot and bothered!)so do your homework and remember when to use each expression.
63. el frío (the cold, the coldness)
Frío is another example of a word that uses tener andhacer in order to make expressions. You can say Hace frío (It is cold) and Tengo frío (I am cold).
By the way, the word frío comes from Latin frigidus (cold), a word that has also given us frígido (frigid), another example of a cognate.
64. el medioambiente (the environment)
A lot of people are uncertain when they have to write this word in Spanish. Some opt for the one-word version medioambientewhile others prefer the two-word medio ambiente.
The truth is that both terms are accepted and included in our dictionaries, but the Diccionario de la Real Academia de la Lengua Española (Dictionary of the Royal Academy of the Spanish Language) prefers the one-word option.
As long as you know it means“environment,” write it as you please.
65. la selva (the rainforest, the jungle)
Spanish has two words that can create a little bit of confusion from time to time: selva and jungla. Jungla and “jungle”are clearly cognates and have the same meaning (a forest covered in dense vegetation and dominated by trees).
On the other hand, a selva is a rainforest, which is very similar to ajungle, but still a little bit different.
If you want the easy version, you can say that a rainforest is where the trees are tall and little light can penetrate, while a jungle has a thick undergrowth of vegetation.
If you want the official, scientific differences between the two, you can have a look at differencebetween.net, a great website where you can find definitions and comparisons between very similar or related terms.
66. el bosque (the forest)
The Germanic root *busk- entered different languages with slightly different meanings.
On the one hand, it entered Catalan or Occitan as bosc (forest), from where Spanish got its bosque. On the other hand, it was introduced into German and English as bush. Different meanings, but still related to nature.
67. la sabana (the savannah)
Watch out for the change in consonant here. While English writes this word with a v, Spanish has opted for the version with a b.
Additionally, do not mistake la sabana with la sábana, the latter meaning “the bed sheet.” The power of the accent mark is unbelievable!
68. el desierto (the desert)
The word desierto can mean different things depending on how it is being used.
As an adjective, it means “uninhabited, deserted, desolate.” If we add the definite article el, we transform the adjective into a noun meaning “the desert.”
69. el planeta (the planet)
Another almost perfect pair of cognates. Remember the stressed syllable in Spanish is -ne-.
70. la naturaleza (the nature)
We cannot forget about our main character in a list of words related to it.
Naturaleza comes from natura, which comes from the same Latin word. Latin natura also gave English its “nature”so, at the end of the day, the origin of nature is the same for both our languages!
As you can see, a lot of nature terms are cognates in Spanish and English, and some of them are even written identically. This makes nature not only an interesting topic but also a very easy one to learn.
Learning about the origins of words and some curious facts about them makes your study time more pleasant and entertaining. I am sure you remember a lot of words by now, even after only one reading.
Now go outside and get inspired by nature. Add terms to this list and make your own categories!
Can you reach 140 terms?
Stay curious and, as always, happy learning!
Download: This blog post is available as a convenient and portable PDF that you can take anywhere. Click here to get a copy. (Download)