Test your Spanish vocabulary

How many Spanish words do you know? There’s a new online test from the Basque Center on Cognition, Brain and Language (BCBL) that apparently went viral over the weekend, and the test lets you get a good idea of what percentage of the Spanish language you know. I just took it and got 63%. I didn’t know it when I took it, but apparently there are several made-up words and you’re penalized if you say you know any of these fake words. Fortunately, I didn’t claim to know any. Whew! 63% sounds kind of low to perfectionist me, but according to the test makers it’s an acceptable percentage for a native speaker.

Actually, when I read the fine print I learned that a native speaker with a fairly large vocabulary supposedly knows about 40,000 words, or 67% of the words in the Spanish language. Older people tend to know more words than younger folks. With non-native speakers, they said that those who have an intermediate knowledge of Spanish know about 6,000 words, or 10%, and those with a strong knowledge know around 20,000 words, or 33%. Wow, now I feel great about my 63%. (As well as a bit suspicious.) I took the English test immediately afterward and got 69%. Only a 6% difference between Spanish and my mother tongue? Nada mal, nada mal. Of course, English has way more words than Spanish. And while I know my Spanish vocabulary’s pretty extensive, I still have a long, long way to go. More than just words, I need to work on phrases and knowing exactly when and how to use each of those words.

Aplicación 'online' mide el conocimiento del español

Take the test, and let me know how you do! I think they constantly shuffle the words for the tests, so no two are alike. Still, I’ve put below the fold the words I knew from the test as well as the ones I didn’t (and still don’t) know. If you know any of the ones I don’t know, please share how you learned it! (I’m intellectually envious, naturally, as well as impressed.) Of course, it’s so much more interesting to have a funny or strange story to attach to a word than it is to just look it up in a dictionary. It’s also much more likely to stick that way. For some reason, I wasn’t able to take the test by clicking on yes or no; I had to touch the options (fortunately, my laptop has a touchscreen).

Click here to take the test, and don’t forget to come back and let us know how it went for you. I’m especially curious to know how native speakers fare with it.

Words I know: chantillí, descender, epicentro, filológico, occiso, estalagmita, siriaco, iniciador, sarampión, susto, raspar, nombramiento, declamador, exfoliación, respiración, brizna, vinculable, sonetista, laico, cimbreante, intercesor, anotación, desembocar, embovedar, contender, chapurrear, ganga, perdonable, huelguista, deslustrar, piojoso, discursear, radiotécnica, prior, telonero, demonio, ampolla, energética, eficazmente, dentífrica, isómero, depredadora, gentilicio, aportar

Words I don’t know: rebencazo, manfla, cacumen, lacedemonio, prestancia, insoldable, fondear, pescozudo, panoso, frisado, templario, rano, carámbano, blasonar, alisma, pajarería, penibético, fresnillo, nobiliario, botonadura, cocote, agónico, sainetesco, linajuda, falce, parador

(I realized afterward that I do know carámbano– icicle- and even thought it meant that during the test, but I wasn’t certain. Same with fondear.)

41 responses to “Test your Spanish vocabulary

  1. michaeljmorton

    Cool tests! Wow 63% in Spanish is outstanding! I got 40% in Spanish and 81% in English on first go (missed all the fake words, must have got a very lucky sample in English!).

    Can’t wait to get to Bogotá to boost that Spanish number! See you in a month.


    • 40% is great! And 81%?! I hate you :p

      Just kidding- I’m pretty confident in my English. If you add our percentages up, they’re almost the same. I declare us both ridiculously fluent individuals :)

      When I double-checked the words I knew (or thought I knew), I realized I didn’t know declamador after all. But we’ll say that my half-knowing carámbano and fondear can make up for that one.

      Nos vemos!!!


  2. Fun! I got 53% on the Spanish test. Plenty of room for improvement. ;) I showed my husband (native Spanish speaker) the words I missed, and he had not heard of most of them.


    • Thanks for sharing! Since it said that 33% is strong knowledge, I have the feeling that anything above 40 is great, and 50+ must be stellar. Then you must start getting into literary and formal territory and more obscure words. Getting from 63 to 64 will probably be much more difficult for me than 0-63! But I need to do it… yes, lots and lots and lots of room for improvement. Though, like I said, I need to beef up on phrases and collocations. Also, there’s knowing a word and then having it in your active vocabulary. Thanks for sharing your husband’s perspective- not surprising!


      • I too would like to work on phrases and collocations. Unfortunately the only way I know how to do that is little by little, listening a lot and then imitating. And reading your blog. :)


  3. I got 17%, and as they said this: “Este es el nivel de una persona no nativa con un nivel medio.”, I think that’s pretty good for me! Seeing as I can’t even string a proper sentence together without looking up one of the words. :s I guess knowing French helps though, since many words are pretty similar. I admit that I guessed most of the words that I got correct… I wouldn’t have been able to confidently explain them, but I thought they MUST mean that! I’m also happy that I didn’t get tricked by any of the fake words :)


    • Nice! Yes, I’m sure French does help. And your guessing strategy sounds pretty good. Many of the words above are obvious if you know English (and maybe French?)- chantillí, descender, epicentro, estalagmita, iniciador, exfoliación, anotación, etc. Others are easy to figure out if you know the root word- telonero (telón), huelguista (huelga), piojoso (piojo).

      And, don’t tell me, I’m sure you got a 100% on the English test, right? :)


  4. I got a 66% and thought it was way high! I was only tricked by one fake word, but let a lot go by. I’m honestly very surprised my vocab score was not lower, since I never have to do vocab intensive things like translate or read for pleasure. Also I felt the words were rebuscadas, I would have been stumped on “doorknob” and other every day words. No, I still do not know the word for doorknob!


    • Wow! Take a bow! That’s great. Yes, many of the words were rebuscadas- I think it was the point. And obviously they have to use standard Spanish and can’t quiz us on our vast knowledge of Mexicanisms and Colombianisms :)

      Here’s another interesting test that Fluent in 3 Months shared today on Facebook: it tries to determine your English dialect based on grammar (not vocab!). http://www.gameswithwords.org/WhichEnglish/
      Here are my results:

      Our top three guesses for your English dialect:

      1. American (Standard)
      2. Canadian
      3. Singaporean
      Our top three guesses for your native (first) language:

      1. English
      2. Russian
      3. Dutch

      As for doorknob: http://vocabat.com/2012/10/04/the-door-knob-test/ – c’mon, learn it already! :)


      • You know, I really do think that 66% is a fluke. My Spanish is NOT that good! And also I was half asleep at 1:45 am after a night of karaoke. As for that English dialect test, I got American English, Singaporean, Canadian. It guessed I was an English speaker, and then after that Spanish and Dutch.


  5. I got a 59% …but I admit I said yes to plenty words I wasn’t 100% sure of, but it made sense that it would be a word (celebrador, andador, ufanamente, polícromo, melanina, y otras…) Actually this score is less a proof of my vocab knowledge and more a demonstration that my handle on the language is at least good enough to guess what’s a spanish word and what’s a fake :P


  6. That was fun, thanks for sharing. Ended up w/:

    36% Espanol – “no nativa con un nivel alto”
    79% English – “High level native speaker”

    Seems pretty accurate. Studied Spanish in undergrad, but haven’t been good at finding time to improve since. Maybe this will spark some motivation, you never know!


  7. 72%-Spanish and 76%-English. I was raised bilingual (spoke only English at school and Spanish at home) but I feel more comfortable in Spanish…. Many of the Spanish words include in my test are in disuse so your score is pretty awesome. Saludos!


    • Excellent scores! I saw in your profile that you’re from Puerto Rico- I wonder if being raised bilingually has anything to do with having such a wide vocabulary/language knowledge? Yes, I could tell that many of the words are best to be avoided in casual settings unless I want to sound ridiculous or not be understood, but I still want to know them all anyway- I’m greedy :)


  8. So, I just retook the test and got 56%. I guess it all depends on the words you get! Then I read the instructions closely (I hadn’t read them before):

    En esta prueba se te presentarán 100 cadenas de letras, algunas de las cuales son palabras reales del español, y otras son palabras inventadas (no palabras). Tu tarea consiste en indicar si cada cadena de letras es, o no, una palabra del español. Indica para cada secuencia de letras si es una palabra que conoces o no la conoces pulsando las teclas SÍ o NO.

    Now I’m confused. Are we supposed to indicate which ones we believe are words? Or just the ones we know? The instructions seem contradictory. And there were plenty of words that I was pretty sure were words, but I don’t know their meanings. I retook it again and said yes every time I thought it was a word, regardless of whether or not I knew what it meant. I only thought one false word was real, and my final score was 67%. In any case, for us Spanish learners, I think it’s most useful and interesting as a gauge of how many words we know.


  9. Where is the English test? is it at the end of the Spanish test?


  10. ok, took it again, 64%, and fell for 0% fake words. it says ‘este nivel es aceptable para una persona nativa.


  11. Ok, for the English quiz, I got 86% and fell for 3% of non words, which was only one word “grosque.”

    and in the Spanish quiz, the invented word that I fell for was “seconds.” whoops!


  12. whatwhileweslept

    KT, take the English one again! I took it twice, and the second time I got a score that was 18 percentage points (?) higher than the first time.


    • Haha, I believe you! But I don’t need to have my English vocabulary validated. Your three-digit percentage should probably be framed above your mantel or put on your CV :)


      • whatwhileweslept

        Yeah. It’s nice knowing real words, rather than “scrabble dictionary” ones. OH that makes me want to play scrabble with you….a lot….


  13. Interesting test. Still, I’m kinda uncertain what exactly they meant by “knowing” a word: does it count if I recognize it but it wouldn’t occur to me to use it? Or if I go “hmm, sonestista has to have something to do with sonnets”? I mean there are several levels of knowing a word. Did they specify which one they meant?


    • Exactly- I had the same questions. My personal rule was if I knew the definition. By the way, do you know how to say sonetista in English? The only word that occurs to me is sonneteer- HIGHLY uncommon! Oh, looks like there’s also sonnetist.


      • “Sonnetist” was my first guess. I’ve never heard the word “soneteer”. Anyway, it’s tricky, because everyone will have their own definition of “knowing” a word.


  14. 87% on English (with no clicks on nonwords!) and 72% on Spanish, each on first try. I think I would like to make up fake words for a living. how do I get that job? Also, I might be a big word nerd. Thanks for passing it along!


    • Excellent! Ha, I know I’ve seen many made-up words in your writing over the years. I’m a word nerd, too. Now the challenge is to get nerdier- you’ve thrown down the guantlet :)


  15. I might be wishing big wishes, but I kind of thought I should do better than that in English. Also, I think Spanish is easier somehow, because the phonetics are more restrictive, cierto? Also, that is the perfect job for me, except you’re right, I already do it for free!


  16. No lo puedo creer. marqué un 60%!! Bueno, al revisar las definiciones de cada palabra, fueron unas que realmente no sabia. Como cejilla o tuba. Pero bueno, fue una muy buena sorpresa! Sin hablar que ni elegi una sola palabra inventada.


  17. I got 40% in Spanish and 88% in English. The Spanish is an overestimate, as partly I was processing based on Latin and Greek word stems (a useful habit from scientific studies), probably should be more like 30%. The English is an underestimate, as I mistyped for “curator”; the other five I missed were mostly archaisms.

    Eso fue muy interesante, muchas garcias :D.


  18. I lucked out. I got 86% in Spanish and 83% in English, accepting 0 of the made-up words in both cases. I can’t believe that I got a higher score in English than you so I conclude that there is quite a bit of luck in this. I don’t know what I would get if I did it again, and I am not going to find out. Really, a good way of estimating the true performance would be to take the test 10 times or so and then look at the pattern. I will just take my results and run with them :) BTW, I did it very fast and did not have the requirement of knowing the definition; it was enough to recognize the word (maybe that was cheating?)


    • I can’t believe it either! :p

      Though your English is stellar, of course!! Ya quisiera yo hablar español así… but let’s not talk about that, it just makes me sad.

      Ten times?! Yep, I am running right alongside you. Awaiting your aportes and corrections on the latest post! Hoping for them, that is :)


  19. So I just took this test twice, the first time with a score or 16% and 23%. I went from a nivel medio to a nivel alto, for a none native.

    The vast majority of the words I saw were unknown to me. Many of them I just flat out have never seen, with only a few I have seen but just didn’t know the meaning of. I didn’t fall for any fake words, but that’s because I apparently don’t know squat in the first place and had to answer no to so many words.

    I don’t know how common the words presented to me are in daily conversation, but if I had to guess I’d say they aren’t the high frequency words you use day in and day out. But then again, maybe I just need to read more.

    I liked the test. I’m going to use it as a tool to help expose me to more vocabulary.


    • Hey Rodney! If you read any of the comments, you’d see that my suspicions were raised as different people shared their multiple scores. Also, it was kind of unclear how one was supposed to take the test and what exactly it measures. So, not an exact science by any means, but, yes, may it be a kick in the pants for all of us to keep absorbing vocab! :)


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  23. I’m an American. I audited two Spanish courses decades ago and did six months of research in Costa Rica and in Mexico over thirty years ago and spent a week vacationing in Guatemala about 8 years ago. I got 53% on Spanish and 84% on English.


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