Spanish/The Wrong Way To Learn Spanish/Dictionary

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This is a mnemonic dictionary. Every word has its pronunciation, meaning, and a little sentence to help you remember the word and its meaning.

A mnemonic phrase is worthless without the right connections for your memory, the BEST way to remember what an orange is in Spanish is to get an orange, feel it's peel, smell the skin, listen to the sound when you cut through the peel, feel the resistance give way as the knife penetrates, take in that bright, vibrant, orange color of the flesh, taste the sweet tangy juices, smell the juices, feel rippled, slippery skin all the while connecting the essence of an orange to how Spanish expresses it: naranja

The WORST way is to memorize a rhyme connecting a pun on the color orange to the fruit orange. Three unrelated steps: reading a rhyme (something processed in a totally different part of the brain,) the color orange, and then an actual orange. It might work to get an "A" on a test, but you will have a stutter when you are in Mexico.

Used correctly a Mnemonic phrase is somewhere in between the two extremes of true understanding and rote memorization. With enough practice, especially in an immersion environment, the brain will make the direct connection to naranja circumventing the Mnemonic phrase, but never like our "first" language.

The "correct" way, or more awkwardly the most correct way, to use Mnemonics is to incorporate as much of the essence of the thing being memorized into as many senses in the most ridiculous way possible.

If you flipped to the back of a Mnemonic phrasebook for a passage on the name "Zach" you might find the following:

Zach (z-ack)

  • Zach Attack.

Simple, stupid, a little funny. It will work, but not as well as vividly imagining Zach's face with a wild look rushing you with with butcher knife dripping in blood- or even better a few chunks of brain still stuck on. Just try and forget that. And if Zach's voice is a notable feature, have him screaming in a high pitch or nasal tone or just mumbling as his big frame stumbles toward you. You have to really SEE zach, feel his presence closing in on yours...

Below is a long list of cute phrases, it's up to you to envision something that reflects the essence of what is too be remembered best.


abajo (ahbaho) - down, downstairs, below [something]

  • Imagine looking down into a hole.
  • Imagine throwing down in disgust a bad cup of joe,
  • Related to bajo/baja, which can be remembered by thinking of Baja California - below California

abierto (ah-bee-air-toe) - open

  • Imagine a bi hier to the throne, openly open in his love for all the people.

Abril (ah-breel) - April

  • During spring cleaning's April beatings, April becomes Abril when by its tail the P is hung.

abrir (ah-breer) - to open

  • Manners abject do permission grant to open the rir and stain the pant.

abuela (ah-bway-lah) - grandmother

  • Imagine a bonny uela (well a') love, eyes a' twinkle, with baby beloved.

acción (ahk-see-one) - action feminine noun

  • Certain acción resulted in the T becoming bent and spent, i.e., a C, resting with cigarette (acute accent).

aceptar (ah-sep-tar) - to accept transitive verb

  • For the Spanish, accept C rot and tarnish.

acostarse (a-co-star-say) - to put oneself to bed.

(Irregular verb, when conjugated the first "o" is replaced with an "ue.")

  • Think of an actor/actress you think is sexually attractive and in your mnemonic have them be in character of a role they played as a costar. Now imagine that a co star say in a breathy voice into your ear for you to get your arse in his/her bed. But this is an irregular actor/actress, because they are cross eyed the entire time. In fact the left eye is moving in an "u" pattern.

afectar (ah-fec-tar) - To affect transitive verb

  • The aceptar pattern: drop first consonant and affect an ar.

afeitarse (a-fay-tar-say) - to shave oneself.

  • Imagine a fei[n]t smell while shaving your arse

aire (eye-ray) - air masculine noun

ajedrez (ahe-dreh) - chess

  • You are playing ajedrez in a park, after thinking over a move for a long time you finally reach for your queen ajedrez piece, only to find she is not there. Shocked, you glance around the ajedrez board to find a hair dresser set up next to the ajedrez. Your queen ajedrez piece is getting her hair washed in a one-inch high chair and sink by a hair dresser.

alcoba (al-co-ba) - f. bedroom

  • Imagine walking to your alcoba (keep a picture and feeling of your actual alcoba) after a looong hard day. The entire time thinking about how nice it will be to be in your room, finally. You're so tired you are dizzy, and you have to literally drag yourself up the stairs (envision your actual stairs or hallway) to your alcoba door. With a great deal of relief you feel `the warmth and comfort of your alcoba- a refuge from your work and crazy life. When you finally open the door, a big cobra lunges toward you. You scream "A Coba!", get bitten, and fall down the stairs away from your room.

aparecer (ah-par-ace-air) - to appear intransitive verb

  • a-par------ec--------er
  • A pair of aces to air appear slyly and win.

armario (arm-ah-rio) - m. closet

  • See yourself in a friends house, and a riot has broken out. People are looting, your car is parked outside, on fire, and a gang is almost done pillaging and raping the neighbors. Your friend and you rush to his/her room and open an armario. Your friend parts her clothes, including work clothes, t-shirts, an old wedding dress, and a duck suit, to reveal a second armario, with an ornate, carved sign with gold lettering, inscribed "Armario." Inside it you find racks of bazookas, rifles, a cannon, and some hand grenades. Your friend says, "Yeah, I had a Mexican make that sign, damn idiots can swim across the Rio but they can't spell Armory."

azul (ah-zool) - blue

  • Imagine a blue bear in a zoo.
  • Related to the word azure.


bailar (bay-lar) - to dance

  • Imagine people dancing around a bale of hay.
  • And if you've heard the song La Bamba, it starts off, "Para bailar la bamba"...

baile (bī-lay) - m. dance

  • Imagine a popular dance -- the ballet.

banco (bon-co) - m. bank

  • For a thrill, bank on Autobahn speed swirled with pure white coke.

básico (bas-ee-co) - basic

  • --------------------------bá---sic------o
  • The basics of the bar: seek mojo satisfaction, find slo-mo stupefaction.

base (bah-say) - f. basis

  • -------ba-------------se
  • Any boss would say that comparing contrast and stasis between base and basis is, at best, blasé.

beso (bay-soe) - m. kiss

  • To kiss like a Latin Lover(tm), first you must show your most sexy, best "o".


caballero (cah-bah-yer-oh) - gentleman*

  • Imagine a well dressed gentleman in a yellow cab.
  • Depending on the country, this may mean "cowboy" instead of "gentleman". Some words change translation in Spanish depending on the country, region, city or dialect spoken in.

caber (cah-bear) - to make room for, to fit it

  • Imagine in a cab bearing down on a person in your way to make room so that you can fit it in.

cepillarse (cep-ill-arse) - to brush oneself [cepillarse los dientes - to brush one's teeth.]

  • Imagine brushing your teeth with a caterpillar.

Cierto (See-air-t-oh) - True

  • Picture a fellow spanish student or a spanish speaking friend with huge pupils- hallucinating on acid. He looks around wide eyed as he agrees with another friend, "Si si, you were right maaaan this is greeeeat aaacid, I caan see air t-oh, is that a unicorn?"

correr (core-air) - to run, or go fast

  • Imagine that you are running and you are out of breath. You sit down to try and deal with the pain of your core not getting enough air.

creer (cr-ear) - to think, to believe

  • Picture an 18th century monk on a wooden platform in a busy street. A microphone stand is in front of him and huge speakers on both sides. He is yelling into the mike "Lend me your *cr-krrr*" static breaks his speech "...ear! For if you think you do not have to believe in the lord you are doomed!"
  • credible is credibly from the same root as creer

cuaderno (Kwan-dare-no) - m. notebook

  • Picture a Tai Kwan Do class where they dare (no!) kick ass and in their notebook take names.


daiquirí - m. daiquiri, a cocktail of rum, lemon, and sugar.

dama (dah-mah) - lady

  • Imagine your mother (dah ma).
  • Imagine cursing your mother after getting in trouble in a thick hick accent (dam-ma).

daño (dah-nyo) - damage, harm

  • Imagine Danish Vikings

despertarse (des-per-tar-say) - to wake up

(irregular verb, when conjugated the first "e" is replaced with an "ie")

  • Visualize watching a movie and seeing pirates sneak into your room to kill you. You are then Desperate to wake up so you can save your arse. This takes place in an irregular universe, where you can be sleeping and watching a your own death live for other peoples entertainment.

descansar (dees-cahn-sar) - v. to rest

  • Rest away the disconsolations of the day  like rust  dissolving  in the soothing salve of sleep


echar (eh-char) - to throw, to pour

  • Imagine throwing charcoal

edad (eh-daad) - age

  • Imagine saying: "Ehhhhh, daddio!" (Like Fonzie).


fábrica (FAH-bree-kah) - factory

  • Imagine a factory pouring out fabric.

fácil (FAH-seel) - easy

  • Imagine that we have facilitated your learning Spanish, made it easier, by writing this guide.

feo (Fee-oh) - ugly

  • Imagine not having enough change for the bus. You try to slip in the side door without paying, but when the last customer comes through front entrance the squat ugly bus driver walks to you. Even sitting you must still look down to make eye contact with his warted ugly face. In a loud, nasley, authoritative tone he says "There is a fee to ride the bus!" You mumble, "Oh..." as you stall by digging into your pockets for any change while you try to think of what you will do.


gafas (gah-fahs) - eyeglasses

  • Imagine saying glasses" with a lisp and a cold, "Gah-fahs! I Wanf my Gahfas!"

gana (gah-nah) - desire

  • "I'm gana (gonna) miss (or desire) her while she's away."

gato (gah-toe) - cat

  • Imagine a cat with big gaps between his toes.

guapo (gua-po) - good-looking

  • Imagine holding a good-looking friends hair after a date she makes the throaty, guttural noises "G-g-guap" & blows chunks (throws up) into the toilet. Remember the acid sting of vomit in your noise, the painful "G" noises emanating from your throat and stomach when you dry heave.


hacer (ha-ser) - to do/make


Hacer Conjugation





Yo Hago (ha-go)

Haces (ha-say-s)

Vosotros Hacemos (ha-say-mos)


Ellos/Ellas/Uds. Son

Pretérito imperfecto

Yo Hice (he-say)

  • Imagine a hick made a hickie on you. Feel his slobbery lips on your mouth.

Tu Hiciste (he-sis-tay)

  • Think about a hick making a hickie on his sister. Make sure to include a brother + sister you know and enhance their "hick" appearance in your mind.

Uds. Hiciste (he-sis-tay)

  • Think about a hick making a hickie on his sister. Make sure to include a brother + sister you know and enhance their "hick" appearance in your mind.

El/Ella Hizo (he-so)

  • Think about Zorro making a "Z" in hickies.

Nosotros Hicimos (he-se-mos)

Pretérito imperfecto

- Formas no personales -

habitación (Ha-bee-tah-see-OHn) - living space

  • Habitation (house for example), pretty much the same in English but it refers to human living spaces, not animal.

hablar ('ah-blar) - to speak, to talk

  • When people talk without saying anything, you can say to them: Bla, bla. What they do? Ha-blar

hay (aye!) - there is (are)

  • Aye! There is sun. Make hay!


idioma (Ee-dee-OH-ma) - language

  • Imagine learning Ebonics, an inner city language, and being able to understand, "Man, ya'll idiots, ya' hear? That, an' yo mama's so fat..."


jabón (Ha-BOHn) - soap

  • Imagine youself in Jail taking bath with a bone


a bone

un hueso


labios (LA-bee-ohs) - lips

  • Imagine some people from Los Angeles telling you their entire life-story - their LA bios - with their lips.
  • From the labia lips a camel's toe can grow.

León (ley-own) - lion

  • Imagine a lion leaping on a log.


madera (ma-der-rah) - wood

  • Imagine going to madagascar to get some pre-Roman era wood.

Mujer (moo-hair) - woman

  • Imagine a woman in a muumuu with frizzy, red hair.


nacer (to be born) (nah-sair)

  • A renaissance is a re-birth.

mariposas Butterfly

  • Besisitos de mariposas = Butterfly kisses
  • Marie inventively poses the butterflies in her collection.


objeto (Ob-hey-toe) - object

  • If you are unable to think up your own link for objeto, we need to talk.


pagar (Pah-gar) - to pay

  • Imagine a pirate walks into a bar with a steering wheel hanging out of his fly, sits down, pays the bartender a buck for a beer, drinks the beer and walks out. On his way out, he is stopped by the bartender who asks, "Did you know you have a steering wheel hanging from your crotch?". Then imagine the pirate replying, "Garrrrrrrrrrgh! I know! It's driving me nuts!"

pequeño (peck-en-o) - small

  • A small, old, senior grandfather woodpecker is dispensing wisdom to his grandsons around a campfire. He asks, in a Spanish accent "How does a small bird defend itself? Peck 'en the eyes!" You see his flashback of a fight with a human, his beak sinking into the round O of a human eye accompanied by a sound somewhere between a pop and a squish.

perro (peh-rrrow) - m. dog

  • Imagine a dog jumping over a pair of rowboats.
  • Imagine a per-rojo (thoroughly red) dog.

pez (pais) - m. fish

  • Imagine fishing for Pez in a lake full of candy.
  • Imagine a classic Latin piscis (fish) sculpture vulgarized into a Pez dispenser.

piso (piece-oh) - m. floor

  • Imagine a floor that has a huge piece taken out of it.
  • Imagine a dog peeing on the floor.

primavera (preem-a-ver-a) - f. spring

  • primera verde - first green


que (kay) - that, which, what

  • Most used to ask "What", just think of talking to a deaf old woman and her not hearing you, asking k"eh?"


rápido (rap-ee-doh) - rapid, quick

  • English: rapid.

ratón (rah-tonn) - rat

  • English: rat.


saber (sah-bear) - to know

  • Think of the (related) English word savvy, or savant as in idiot savant
  • Picture a really smart bear with a black instructor cap, robes, and pointing stick teaching a math class in Spanish.

sacar (saw-car) - to take out

  • Imagine, vividly, a magician sawing a car inside and his mother yelling at him. "When you saw a car in half, take it outside!"
  • Remember vividly (let it take you outside yourself) the last car accident you saw.

sentarse (sent-ar-say) - to seat yourself.

(Irregular verb: when conjugated the first "e" is replaced with an "ie.")

  • Imagine being sent to your room for sitting your arse down on the birthday cake. AY HEE, those candles must hurt. Enough to make someone IrrEgular.

ser (sair) - to be (permanent condition / essential character)

  • Think of your friend/girlfriend Sara being kept in the dungeon hole from the Silence of the Lambs, with you crouched on the edge, rubbing your hands and whispering in a trembling, falsetto voice "To be mine - permanently."
  • "Que Será Será (Whatever Will Be, Will Be)" is a popular song first published in 1956. Reference






Yo Soy (Soy) - I am

  • Picture a 90 year-old man, running, lifting weights, eating Soy, all at the same time, while saying, "I've always been healthy" in an old man's voice while inadvertently spitting out some soy. Out of nowhere, you club the old guy and drag him into your Silence of the Lambs dungeon hole with Sara.

Eres (Err-Ace) - You are

  • Picture yourself, master airman, snarling "You Two Air Ace *&!#(*!#@!s" are finished" as your air-to-air missile explodes and takes them out of the sky. Both ejectees drop, unconscious, back to earth, and you stuff them in your Silence of the Lambs dungeon hole with Sara.

Vosotros Sois (Soy-s)


Ellos/Ellas/Uds. Son

Pretérito imperfecto

Pretérito imperfecto

- Formas no personales -

sobrino (so-breen-o) - Nephew

  • Remember your response to your whiny nephew complaining "I can't open my jar of worms!!": "So brin' it ova here!"


talla (Tah-yah) - size

  • Imagine not being a size tall, but being a size medium.

Tío (Tee-oh) - Uncle

  • Picture your uncle drinking tee. "This is good Tea" *sip* "Oh s****! Ow, thab Tea burnd ma tung!"
  • Picture your uncle playing golf. After he hits the ball his says "That was a good Tee-" his ball hits a huge, muscular guy on the head. The big guy starts rushing him and your uncle continues, "Oh S****"


último (OO-tea-mo) - last

  • When you hear this think "ultimate", because they are from the same Latin root.
  • Once the ultimate _ is designed/invented, there will be no need for any further designs/prototypes.


vacío (bah-SEE-oh) - empty

  • Cognate for a vacuum.

vestirse (vest-ear-say) - to dress oneself. (Irregular verb, when conjugated the first "e" is replaced with an "i.")

  • Try putting on a vest that has bloody ears and what people might say... Forget what they will say, for this irregular behavior someone might stab you in the eye with a pencil.





zapato (zah-pah-toe) - shoe

  • "You'd better put on some shoes, or the man with the laser gun may decide to play zap-a-toe!"
  • You need to cover your TOES with something, isn't it? Aha!

zorro (zorro) - fox

  • Imagine a fox in a zorro mask.
  • Imagine a fox in a sword-fight.