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Spanish Words that Defined 2019 Posted by on Feb 20, 2020 in Spanish Vocabulary

As I was looking around the website of the Real Academia Española or RAE, I came across a very interesting news item about the Spanish words that defined 2019. In this post, I will explore some of the words and include information as to why these were picked.

Photo taken by Francisco Colín Varela found on with license CC BY 2.0

La selección

The words that defined 2019 were picked based on eventos politicos, económicos y sociales (the political, economical and social events) of the year. These words, however, must not be neologismos but rather words that are in the Spanish language and part of the RAE’s dictionary. The selection of words was based on the following:

La selección, que incluye no solo palabras, sino también formas compuestas, ha tenido en cuenta las consultas más frecuentes al Diccionario de la lengua española, las consultas que reciben los servicios de la RAE y las voces que, según los corpus de la Academia, presentan un uso abundante. También las tendencias de preguntas y comentarios de los seguidores de la Academia en las principales redes sociales.

In other words, the selection is based on word searches, inquiries that the RAE services received, and comments and trends seen in social media. The RAE, being the language expert that it is, created the list with the acontecimiento or event related to that word, as well as the dictionary definition that best fits this situation. Below I will explore just a few of the words for 2019.


Progreso (avances científicos, estudios médicos esperanzadores sobre el cáncer o el alzhéimer, descubrimientos astronómicos, implantación de energías renovables, reducción del agujero de la capa de ozono, más tecnología, llegada del 5G).

progreso. (Del lat. progressus). m. 1. Acción de ir hacia delante. ‖ 2. Avance, adelanto, perfeccionamiento.

The list starts with progreso or progress; progress related to health care, renewable energies, 5G, and technology. One of the most popular renewable energy sources where I live are wind turbines or turbinas. In Spanish, these are also known as aerogeneradores. The video below explains how these aerogeneradores work in turning wind into electricity.



Feminizar (movimiento social del feminismo y el impulso por la igualdad, mejoras para las mujeres en países árabes, la Comisión Europea elige a su primera presidenta, protestas a nivel mundial para acabar con la violencia contra las mujeres, sororidad).

feminizar. tr. 1. Dar presencia o carácter femeninos a algo o a alguien. Decidieron feminizar de manera equitativa el consejo. ○ prnl. 2. Adquirir caracteres femeninos.

Another important word for 2019 was feminizar or to give female charactersitics to something or someone. There are several noteworthy items related to this including the progress done for women’s rights in several countries, the president of the European Comission, worldwide protests around the world including the #metoo movement, among others. The video below explains how the women movements in Chile led to the song that headed women’s marches all around the world: El violador eres tú. The performance that Las Tesis created a way to remove the stigma of being a victim of sexual violence with very strong lyrics that point out it isn’t a woman’s fault, nor where she was or how she was dressed: Y la culpa no era mía, ni dónde estaba ni cómo vestía. El violador eres tú.


Acogida (la inmigración y los refugiados siguen siendo noticia de primera plana por las desigualdades económicas entre países y los conflictos internacionales).

acogida. (De acoger). f. 1. Recibimiento u hospitalidad que ofrece una persona o un lugar. ‖ 2. Protección o amparo. ‖ 3. Aceptación o aprobación. ‖ …

This particular word caught me by surprise, not because of its inclusion, but because of the situation it frames. Acoger means to receive someone with hospitality, to offer protection and acceptance. This word was chosen in regards to the migrant and refugee movements that have been heavily spoken of throughout the world. Europe continues to deal with the refugee crisis not only in the numbers of people coming in, but also in dealing with the people already in and how to help those countries that receive them because of geography. In the U.S., the separation of families has been a big item, not only in the news, but with the upcoming elections.

For South America, the éxodo of Venezuelans leaving the country has brought tensions to the nearby countries. Ecuador, however, has offered Venezuelans a home and protección pending that they meet certain requirements. The video below tells more.


Clima (por la relevancia de la ecología, la celebración en Madrid de la Cumbre del Clima, los incendios del Amazonas, el desastre del mar Menor, la declaración de emergencia climática por parte de la UE, etc.).

clima. (Del lat. tardío clima ‘latitud, región’, y este del gr. κλίμα klíma). m. 1. Conjunto de condiciones atmosféricas que caracterizan una región. ‖ …

The world’s climate was certainly talked about throughout 2019, and it will continue to be an important topic in the years to come. Thanks to the work of several activists including Greta Thunberg, people throughout the world are more aware of the dangers of el calentamiento global and are demanding that governments act now. On September 27, 2019, people all over the world took to the streets. The video below tells more about the huelga mundial por el clima.


To see the full list by RAE, please visit this news item. What other words would you add to this list?

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About the Author: Karoly Molina

Since I was a little girl, I was fascinated with languages and writing. I speak English, Spanish, Italian, Dutch and a little bit of French. I am a writer, reader, language teacher, traveler, and a food lover! I now live in The Netherlands with my husband Riccardo, our cat Mona, and our dog Lisa, and the experience has been phenomenal. The Dutch culture is an exciting sometimes topsy-turvy world that I am happily exploring!