Viernes de Vocabulario: Awkward

Here at ICO, we hope that you’ll learn just how much fun Spanish can be.  Like any language, Spanish is full of colorful slang expressions.  On Fridays, we’ll be teaching you a combination of useful everyday words and fun common colloquialisms.


Some words and phrases are just plain difficult to translate.  Sometimes, it’s because there’s no good equivalent, and sometimes it’s because some particular word has a much wider range of meanings in one language or the other.

English speakers use the world “awkward” all the time.  A situation can be awkward, a person can be awkward, and a feeling can be awkward.  Yet these are not the same word in Spanish.

An awkward situation is a situation in which you feel uncomfortable.  In Spanish, then, to describe a situation or moment as awkward, you would say it’s incómodo, or uncomfortable.  It might also be delicado, “delicate”, if what you mean is that it requires particular social finesse.

An awkward person can be a few different things.  Someone who’s awkward might be physically gawky, or they might be particularly adept at saying the wrong thing at the wrong time.  Both of these are best described as torpe, or clumsy.

An awkward turn of phrase can also be torpe, but you could describe it as poco elegante (“not at all elegant”) as well.

If you feel awkward at any given time, you might say me siento incómodo (“I’m uncomfortable”), or me siento raro (“I feel weird”).  You might also use the verb cohibirse or the adjective cohibido.  Cohibirse means something like “get awkward” or “clam up” – and cohibido means “self-conscious.”

Fue un momento muy incómodo porque soy una persona torpe, siempre digo la cosa menos indicada.  It was an awkward moment because I’m an awkward person, I always say the worst thing.  Después me cohibí, y ya no volví a abrir la boca.  Then I got self-conscious, and I didn’t open my mouth again.


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