Castilian Spanish

In English, Castilian Spanish sometimes refers to the variety of Peninsular Spanish spoken in northern and central Spain or as the language standard for radio and TV speakers. In Spanish, the term castellano usually refers to the Spanish language as a whole, or to the medieval Old Spanish language, a predecessor to modern Spanish.


The term Castilian Spanish can be used in English for the specific varieties of Spanish spoken in north and central Spain. Sometimes it is more loosely used to denote the Spanish spoken in all of Spain as compared to Spanish spoken in Latin America. There are several different varieties of Spanish, which should not be confused with the other official and unofficial languages in Spain, of which Spanish is only the most prominent because it is the only one that is official throughout the whole national territory.
The term in Spanish for varieties spoken in Northern and Central Spanish would be castellano septentrional. Español castellano, the literal translation of Castilian Spanish, while not being a common expression, would be understood literally and would refer only to varieties found in Castile itself. The varieties found, for instance, in Aragon and Navarra would be excluded even though they belong to castellano septentrional.

Regional variations in Spain

Inside Spain, there are many regional variations of Spanish, which can be divided roughly into four major dialectal areas:
The Spanish language is a pluricentric language. Because it is spoken in numerous countries around the world, each with differing standards, there is no single authority that can speak for the global community of Spanish speakers. However, regional authorities do exist. The Real Academia Española defines the linguistic standards for Spanish in Spain, and its authority is often accepted in the Americas too.
The variants of Spanish spoken in Spain and its former colonies can vary significantly in grammar and pronunciation, as well as in the use of idioms. In general, courses of Spanish as a second language tend to prefer Mexican Spanish in the United States and Canada, whereas European Spanish prevails in Europe.
The most striking difference between dialects in central and northern Spain and Latin American Spanish is distinción, that is, the pronunciation of the letter z before all vowels, and of c only before e and i, as a voiceless dental fricative, English th in thing. Thus, in most variations of Spanish from Spain, cinco is pronounced as opposed to in Latin American Spanish, and similarly for zapato, cerdo, zorro, Zurbarán. Distinción also occurs in the area around Cusco, Peru, where survives in a few words like the numbers doce, trece and, with some people, in the verb decir.
Additionally, all Latin-American dialects drop the familiar vosotros verb form for the second person plural, using ustedes in all contexts. In most of Spain, ustedes is used only in a formal context. Some other minor differences are:
The meaning of certain words may differ greatly between both dialects of the language: carro refers to car in some Latin American dialects but to cart in Spain and some Latin American dialects. Sometimes there also appear gender differences: el PC in Castilian Spanish and some Latin American Spanish, la PC in some Latin American Spanish, due to the widespread use of the gallicism ordenador for computer in Castilian Spanish, which is masculine, instead of the Latin-American-preferred computadora, which is feminine, from the English word computer.
Also, speakers of the second dialect tend to use words and polite-set expressions that, even if recognized by the Real Academia Española, are not widely used nowadays by speakers of Castilian Spanish. For example, enojarse and enfadarse are verbs with the same meaning, enojarse being used much more in the Americas than in Spain, and enfadarse more in Spain than in the Americas.
valebien, listo, dale, ya okay
gafasanteojos/lentes, gafas eyeglasses/spectacles
patatapapa potato
judía, alubia, etc.chícharo/frijol/habichuela/porotobean
jersey/chalecochaleco/suéter/saco, pulóver jumper/sweater
conducirmanejar, conducirto drive
aparcar/estacionarestacionar/parquearto park
cabezalcabeza, cabezalhead

1Many of the vocabulary examples are used throughout Spain and not necessarily specific to just Castilian Spanish.
2Latin American Spanish consists of several varieties spoken throughout the Americas so the examples may not represent all dialects. They are meant to show contrast and comparing all variants of Latin America as a whole to one variant of Spain would be impossible as the majority of the vocabulary will be reflected in other variant.