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One of the first things that a beginner Spanish language learner might be confused about is the presence in many words of what looks to be an “N” or “n” with a peculiar squiggly line over it.
This strange-looking N is actually another letter that is part of the Spanish alphabet.
The letter Ñ is the 15th letter in the Spanish alphabet and there are about 15,700 Spanish words that use this letter. It was a letter that was invented by Spanish speakers as it isn’t part of the Latin alphabet.
Ñ represents what is called a voiced palatal nasal, which is a type of consonant used in certain spoken languages. When you want to refer to Ñ, it is pronounced “eh-nyeh”, when you are using Ñ in a word, you pronounce it “ny”.
You may encounter many words that have Ñ in them, including a few words that start with Ñ. To help you learn about this particular Spanish letter, we’ve compiled a list of Spanish words that begin with Ñ for you to study.
Pronunciation guide: nyoh
This is basically the shortened version of Señor. It is placed in front of the name of an older male. You are more likely to hear this when conversion with Spanish speakers in South America.
Pronunciation guide: nyah
Similar to the word above, this is the shortened version of a common form of address. In this case, it’s used in the place of Doña. Again, this is more commonly used in South America.
Pronunciation guide: nyah-nyoh
Meaning: Close Friend, Spoiled, Homosexual, Brother, Kid
This is another of those Spanish words that start with ñ that you are more likely to hear when traveling through the South American countries, and it can mean different things depending on where you are:
Bolivia, Ecuador, and Peru – close friend
Colombia and Panama – spoiled child
Panama – homosexual
Argentina, Bolivia, Ecuador – brother (the term for family member)
Peru - child
Pronunciation guide: nyoh-nyoh
Meaning: Bland, Dull, Boring
This is one of those Spanish words that start with Ñ that is used as an adjective. You use it to refer to people, things, or situations that are uninteresting
Pronunciation guide: nyohm-bloh
This Spanish adjective is mostly used in Nicaragua. It’s the word they use to describe someone who is obese.
Pronunciation guide: nyah-to
This is a Spanish adjective used mostly in the Latin American countries to describe someone we would refer to as “pug-nosed”. Outside of Latin America, people with this feature are described as “chato”.
If you are in Uruguay, however, this word is used to mean a boxer or someone who participates in the sport of boxing.
Pronunciation guide: nyoh-ngo
If you want to talk about someone nosy or intrusive, who tends to get involved with other people’s business, you can use this Spanish word to describe them. This is most commonly used in Cuba.
Pronunciation guide: nyoh-nyeh-ria
This is a Spanish word that is used to describe someone as dull or uninteresting. It can also be used to say that someone is “spineless”.
Pronunciation guide: nyan-goh-tarseh
Meaning: Squat or crouch down
This Spanish verb is mostly used by speakers of the Caribbean Spanish dialect. It can also be used to describe someone who is discouraged or has “lost heart”.
Pronunciation guide: nyah-nyah-rah
If you are traveling in Honduras, you might encounter this Spanish word that starts with Ñ. This is what they say when they want to refer to the state of “laziness” or “pereza”.
Pronunciation guide: nyah-mer-ah
If you are traveling in Panama, you could hear this Spanish word with an Ñ. It’s used the same way an English speaker would use “madness” to describe someone who was acting crazy or off. Other Spanish speakers might use “locura” instead.
Pronunciation guide: nyahng-ge
Meaning: Way back
This Spanish word is the equivalent of the English phrase “way back”. So, when someone who is talking about a time or an incident uses this, they are describing something that happened in the “distant past”.
Pronunciation guide: nyeh-keh
Meaning: Strength or courage
This Spanish word is usually used to mean “strength” in Bolivia, Chile, Nicaragua, and Peru. It can also mean courage or bravery in Bolivia, Peru, and Nicaragua as well as for Spanish-speakers in Venezuela and Ecuador.
Pronunciation guide: nyah-fyar
This is a Spanish verb, mostly used in the Caribbean, that means to pilfer or take without permission.
Pronunciation guide: nyih-keh
If you are traveling in Central American, you might hear this word used if someone is describing a fight. It can mean a headbutt or even a punch.
Pronunciation guide: nyah-kara
Meaning: Ulcer or sore
This is a Spanish word that you’re more likely to hear in Central America. It refers to the medical condition of having an ulcer or a sore.
Pronunciation guide: nyahng-gado
This is a Spanish word that is mostly used in the Caribbean region to refer to someone who is bow-legged.
Pronunciation guide: nyah-ngo
This is a Mexican slang word used to describe someone, usually a man or boy, as weak in body and also weak-willed.
It is also used in some Latin American countries to describe someone as being awkward or clumsy.
Pronunciation guide: nyahke
This is a Spanish word that can be used to describe something that is worthless or has been discarded as no longer useful.
Pronunciation guide: nyih-qwi-nyah-keh
This is used as another word for trash or junk, however, it can also be used as an insult to say that someone is a “worthless individual”.
Pronunciation guide: nyah-pah
This word that starts with a Ñ is mostly used in Latin America. It’s basically the equivalent of a “freebie” or something you got extra for no extra price.
Pronunciation guide: nyahn-gadah
This is a word that is mostly used in the Central American countries that means to take a nip or a small bit.
Pronunciation guide: nyah-meh
This is the Spanish word for the root crop known in English as the yam.
Pronunciation guide: nyaw
In Latin American countries, the cat says this instead of “meow”.
Pronunciation guide: nyaw-ar
Meaning: To meow
If you want to talk about the act of “meowing”, this is the Spanish verb for it.
Pronunciation guide: nyahn-doo
This is a big flightless bird similar to an ostrich or an emu. You can find these in Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Paraguay, Patagonia, and Uruguay.
Pronunciation guide: nyoo
Meaning: Wildebeest, Gnu
This is the Spanish word for a species of antelope found in Eastern and Southern Africa.
Pronunciation guide: nyohr-ba
This is the Andean Spanish word for the flowering plant known as the passionflower.
Pronunciation guide: nyahn-du-tih
Meaning: Paraguayan lace
This is a handicraft from Paraguay which is created by using threads of cotton or silk to draw a pattern on a piece of fabric. The word is actually Guarani, which is an indigenous language in Paraguay that refers to a “spider web”.
Pronunciation guide: nyah-pang-oh
Meaning: Mixed race
In Columbia, this is the Spanish word for “mulatto” or “mestizo” which are the terms used to refer to someone of mixed ancestry.
Pronunciation guide: nyah-kah
Meaning: Ha or So, there
This word is used as an exclamation, to put some emphasis or feeling on a statement of triumph. It’s like saying “ha” or “so, there” in English after you were proven right or correct.
Pronunciation guide: nyah-koh
This is what Mexican Spanish speakers call “popcorn”.
Pronunciation guide: nyahm
In Spanish, this is an informal exclamation that you can use to say that something is tasty. Similar to English, it’s usually repeated so “ñam ñam” or “yum yum”.
Pronunciation guide: nyuh-tireh
Meaning: To grunt
In the Andean Spanish dialect, this is the verb that denotes the action of grunting.
Pronunciation guide: nyahn-gara
This is another of those Spanish words that start with Ñ that is more commonly used by speakers of Caribbean Spanish. It refers to “guerrilla fighters” who engage in guerrilla warfare.
Pronunciation guide: nyoh-ko
Meaning: Lacking a finger
This is a Spanish adjective you might hear when traveling through Latin America. It is used to describe someone who has lost a finger.
Pronunciation guide: nyah-ta
In the Andean Spanish dialect, this is the word for death.
As you can see from the words we listed above, many of them are region or dialect-specific. This means that you might only hear them if you are traveling to a region where a particular Spanish dialect is spoken.
These regional differences are why it’s important to make sure that, you book a few lessons with a native-speaking online tutor in the particular Spanish dialect that you want to learn.
Sure, most Spanish dialects are largely the same, you can probably make yourself understood quite well in Peru or Valenzuela even if you speak Peninsular Spanish. But, if you really want to communicate well, it’s something of an advantage to be familiar with the particular dialect of the region. That way, you can ensure that you can better follow along with daily conversations and not end up confused when running into one of these Spanish words that start with ñ.
Ño, Ña, Ñaño, Ñoño, Ñomblo, Ñato, Ñongo, Ñoñería, Ñangotarse, Ñáñara
It's called an eñe and is pronounced enye.
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