It’s possible to get by in a language without any grammar (even if you sound like Tarzan!) but not without any vocabulary, which is probably why phrasebooks are a more common item to take on holiday than a grammar book!
When you first started learning Spanish, you probably followed a textbook or a course, learning the essential vocabulary of the language, step-by-step.
This is perfectly fine at the beginner and intermediate stage, but as an advanced learner, you need more vocabulary. In particular, you need to learn the less common, less frequently used words that aren’t necessary to become conversational in Spanish, but are very important if you want to become truly fluent.
You can obtain this advanced Spanish vocabulary by learning words and phrases which are very specific, uncommon or which aren’t used very often.
Not an easy task by any means, but a necessary one if you are going to claw your way from strong intermediate all the way to fluency.
Once you’ve learnt a handful of advanced Spanish phrases (like the ones below), your range of expression in Spanish will be much greater, and your comprehension will improve too. This will help you watch and enjoy Spanish movies and TV, read Spanish books or talk about any topic, without having to rely on looking up words all the time.
How Many Words Do I Need To Know?
Naturally, there are thousands upon thousands of words that you could choose to learn as an advanced Spanish learner and I can only mention a tiny fraction of them here.
Interestingly, according to research, you need to know around 3,000 words to understand 94% of spoken Spanish, but only 1,000 words to understand 88%, which is not much less, for far less effort!
Considering that most Spanish dictionaries have approximately 100,000 words, you might think that that’s getting off lightly, but you still need to put in the effort to get those words to stick in your brain – and 1,000 words is still quite a few.
Pushing yourself through the most basic vocabulary to get to those thousands of words you need to unlock Spanish means learning words which are not that common in everyday language.
It’s impossible to mention every word you might need here. Nonetheless, here are are some useful Spanish advanced words and phrases to give you a start. We'll start with some new words and then move on to phrases later on in the post.
The following word categories may be familiar to you but many of the words in them probably won’t be.
To make it as easy as possible for you to practice these advanced Spanish phrases in your conversations, I’ve created a special PDF version of this article with all the phrases that you can print off or save on your phone to use read it anywhere, anytime, when you encounter Spanish speakers.
89 Advanced Spanish Phrases To Expand Your Vocabulary
You might think that animals are quite a basic topic to learn in a new language and you’d be right, to a certain extent.
By now you’re probably familiar with perro and gato, but improving your vocabulary can mean learning about some of the more obscure animals you might encounter and how to describe them.
- #1 el burro – donkey
- (el bu-rro)
- #2 el venado – deer
- (el ve-NA-do)
- #3 el chivo – goat
- (el chEE-vo)
- #4 el cerdo – hog
- (el SER-do)
- #5 la ardilla – squirrel
- (la ar-dEE-ya)
- #6 la abeja – bee
- (la ab-AY-kha)
- #7 la libélula – dragonfly
- (la lib-AY-lu-la)
- #8 el saltamontes – grasshopper
- (el sal-ta-MON-tays)
- #9 el alacrán – scorpion
- (el al-a-krAn)
- #10 colmillos – fangs
- #11 garra – claw
- #12 bigotes – whiskers
- #13 piel – fur
- #14 plumas – feathers
- #15 pico – beak
- #16 alas – wings
- #17 escamas – scales
- #18 cuernos – horns
- #19 una trompa – trunk
- (oo-na trOm-pa)
You may know how to describe a person’s appearance but would you be able to describe a person from the inside in Spanish? Not so easy! This kind of vocabulary may seem obscure but if you’re ever sick or need to attend a hospital in a Spanish speaking country it could become very important!
- #20 el cerebro – brain
- (el ser-Eb-ro)
- #21 el pulmón – lung
- (el pul-mOn)
- #22 el corazón – heart
- (el co-ra-zOn)
- #23 el hígado – liver
- (el EE-ga-do)
- #24 el estómago – stomach
- (el es-tO-ma-go)
- #25 el riñón – kidney
- (el rin-yOn-)
- #26 la vejiga – bladder
- (la ve-khEE-kha)
- #27 la arteria – artery
- (la ar-ter-EE-a)
- #28 la vena – vein
- (la vAY-na)
What about when something goes wrong with your body – can you explain to a doctor how you’re feeling? No? Have a look at these words and phrases and you’ll soon be able to complain with the best of them.
- #29 alta presión sanguínea – high blood pressure
- (al-ta pre-sEE-on san-gwEE-nee-a)
- #30 dolor de cabeza – headache
- (do-lawr de ka-bAY-sa)
- #31 dolor de estómago – stomachache
- (do-lawr de es-TO-ma-go)
- #32 dolor de garganta – sore throat
- (do-lawr de gar-GAN-ta)
- #33 un ojo morado – a black eye
- (oon O-kho mo-rA-do)
- #34 un corte – a cut
- #35 un golpe – a bruise
- (oon gOl-pay)
- #36 una quemadura – a burn
- (oo-na kay-ma-dU-ra)
Speaking of bodies, people-watching is an activity I think most of us end up doing every now and again. While you’re sitting in that café, sipping on your cortado, why not try to describe the people who are passing you by.
- #37 tonto – stupid
- #38 alegre – cheerful
- #39 aburrido – boring
- #40 cobarde – cowardly
- #41 arrogante – arrogant
- #42 gracioso – witty
- #43 perezoso – lazy
- #44 cariñoso – loving
- #45 insoportable – intolerable
- #46 avaro – greedy
One great way to learn more advanced vocabulary is to make Spanish a fundamental part of your daily life even when you’re at home. You probably now the words for the most common household items in Spanish. But what about the things you only use now and again?
There are probably a few of the more uncommon household items which you are not so familiar with, and you never know when you may need to ask for a tirabuzón.
- #47 el sacacorchos – corkscrew
- (el sa-ca-COR-chos)
- #48 el abrelatas – can opener
- (el ab-ray-lAh-tahs)
- #49 el botiquín – medicine cabinet
- (el bo-ti-kEEn)
- #50 el cortinero – curtain rod
- (el kor-tin-AY-ro)
- #51 el desagüe – drain
- (el de-SA-gway)
- #52 el techo – ceiling
- (el tE-cho)
- #53 el escurridor – dish drainer
- (el es-curr-i-dOr)
- #54 la vaporera – steamer
- (la va-po-RAY-ra)
- #55 alfombra – carpet
- (la al-fOm-bra)
- #56 secadora – tumble drier
- #57 aspirador – vacuum cleaner
- #58 cenicero – ashtray
- #59 bombilla – lightbulb
Let’s face it, when you think about a holiday in a Spanish-speaking country, there’s no way you cannot think about the food!
Even though you probably know a few good phrases from your Beginner or Intermediate Spanish lessons (una cerveza, anyone?), you can take your vocabulary up a level by focusing on cooking processes that are used to create all those amazing dishes.
- #60 agregar – add
- #61 batir – beat
- #62 mezclar – mix
- #63 cortar – cut up
- #64 quemar – burn
- #65 pelar – peel
- #66 rellenar – stuff
- #67 hervir – boil
- #68 hornear – bake
- #69 freir – fry
- #70 helar – freeze
- #71 untar – spread
- #72 tostar – roast
- #73 picar – chop
- #74 sazonar – season
One surefire way to up your Spanish level to Advanced is to brush up your idiomatic language. Idioms are chunks of language which are used all the time by native speakers and if you learn to use them correctly, they can go a long way towards making you sound more fluent and natural in Spanish.
Here are some common Spanish idioms to drop into conversation when you want to sound more fluent. I’ve given you the English equivalents to help you use them appropriately so they are not the exact translations but the semantic equivalents.
- #75 Abrir la caja de los truenos – to open a can of worms
- (ab-rIr la ka-kha de los tru-AY-nos)
- #76 Irse de la lengua – to let the cat out of the bag
- (IR-se de la LEN-gua)
- #77 En un abrir y cerrar de ojos – in the blink of an eye
- (en oon ab-rIr ee serr-Ar de o-khos)
- #78 No hay que buscarle cinco patas al gato – don’t split hairs
- (no ay kay bus-kAr-lay sin-ko pa-tas al ga-to)
- #79 Parecerse como un huevo a otro – to be like two peas in a pod
- (pa-ra-ser-say ko-mo oon ooay-vo a o-tro)
- #80 Jugársela a cara o cruz – to flip a coin
- (ju-GAR-se-la a cara o cruz)
- #81 Más vale pájaro en mano que ciento volando – a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush
- (mas va-lay pA-kha-ro en ma-no kay SIEN-to vol-An-do)
- #82 Tomar el pelo – to pull someone’s leg
- (to-mAr el pE-lo)
- #83 En pocas palabras – in a nutshell
- (en po-kas pa-lA-bras)
- #84 Mas vale tarde que nunca – better late than never
- (mas va-lay tAr-day kay nun-ka)
- #85 Es cosa sabida – it goes without saying
- (es ko-sa sa-bEE-da)
- #86 No se ganó Zamora en una hora – Rome wasn’t built in a day
- (no say ga-nO za-mo-ra en oo-na aw-ra)
- #87 Con las manos en la masa – to be caught red-handed
- (con las ma-nos en la ma-sa)
- #88 Andar en las nubes – to be on cloud nine
- (an-dAr en las nOO-bays)
- #89 Ojos que no ven, corazón que no siente – out of sight, out of mind
- (o-khos kay no ven, ko-ra-sOn kay no see-En-tay)
So, there you have it – 89 new words and phrases that you can start using to expand your Spanish vocabulary. As an advanced learner, there’s so much additional vocabulary for you to learn it can sometimes be quite overwhelmingly.
Many of these words are not used frequently, so it can be difficult to remember them or find the opportunity to practice them in conversation. But don’t worry – just stick with it and your vocabulary will grow. When the opportunity to use them does come up, you’ll be glad you know them!
What you need at the advanced level is lots and lots of exposure to the language to help you achieve fluency. I’ve created something to help you with that called the Fluent Spanish Academy. The Academy has everything you need to go from Intermediate or Advanced Spanish to Fluency…and Beyond! Enrolment is not open right now, but if you’re interested, you can still try out some free samples.
I’ve created a special PDF version of these phrases which you can download and refer to any time you need it! And if you download the PDF, I’ll send you even more tips to help you as you continue learning Spanish.