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What should be the correct word in Spanish to translate "table" (as in an arrangement of text or data in rows and columns)?

Somewhere I've read that "cuadro" should be preferred to "tabla", but which one would native speakers would actually use?

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At least in Spain -as opposed to Latin American Spanish- cuadro is not used at all for describing a table. – vemv Nov 15 '11 at 21:10
Just to note, at least in Mexico, cuadro is also almost never used to describe a table. – Juan A. Navarro Nov 16 '11 at 14:58
@vemv and Juan, since table has several different senses in English I don't know how to interpret your advice in these comments )-: – hippietrail Nov 22 '11 at 10:58
We don't use cuadro to describe either data grids or desks. – vemv Nov 22 '11 at 11:20
up vote 18 down vote accepted

According to Real Academia Española, the relevant definitions of these words for this matter are:

  • Cuadro: Conjunto de nombres, cifras u otros datos presentados gráficamente, de manera que se advierta la relación existente entre ellos.
  • Tabla:
    • Cuadro o catálogo de números de especie determinada, dispuestos en forma adecuada para facilitar los cálculos.
    • Lista o catálogo de cosas puestas por orden sucesivo o relacionadas entre sí.

That is to say, when you have numbers arranged so as to ease their presentation, or ease the calculations you have to do among them, tabla should be the better choice.

When you are working with documents the translation to table is usually cuadro, because then its use is more general, not specifically related to numbers.

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Yes, this is pretty much what I've always read. The funny thing is that, although apparently “cuadro” should be the preferred word in most contexts (as it is moe general), it seems that it isn't really used by people in this way. – Juan A. Navarro Nov 16 '11 at 15:01
Yes, besides the formal documents, it's almost always preferred the word tabla. – Nicolás Nov 23 '11 at 21:45
En cuba cuando he escuchado cuadro lo mas cercano a este contexto es referido a una lista de dirigentes=> cuadros del partido comunista. por ejemplo – Emilio Gort Mar 25 '14 at 6:27

It's definitely


at least when showing data that's the most widely usage in Mexico, examples:

Tabla de información // informative table

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We also use Tabla in Spain – J. Calleja Nov 15 '11 at 21:39

I know the difference between "cuadro" (any kind of data) and table (only numbers), and when I was in elementary school, I used more "cuadro" (for school work, for example). During the university and now at work, we used more "tabla" even in the data is not only numeric. Why? My hypothesis is this is a case of cultural influence, since you read "table" in scientific stuff (written in english) and it feels more natural. Now, I only use "cuadro" to refer a painting. In the spanish translation of LaTeX (a word processor system mainly for scientific text, but not only) the default translation is "cuadro" (it's written automatically and you can't easily change the names by default), but the author include the possibility to change it to "tabla" because it's very common, despite he considers is not the correct translation of "table". Also, for me "matriz" only applied when all columns contain the same kind of numeric data.

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Since in the Database world, the word "Table" is universally known to represent a group of "Rows" which contain one or more "Columns", the best translation, which would be easily understood within the context it is being used, the word "Tabla" is the best choice, no matter what Spanish-speaking country you're in. If you were to use any other word, it would confuse someone!

In Database jargon:

Table = Tabla, Fichero, Archivo, Registro (but never heard "Cuadro" being used).
Row   = Record, Fila, 
Column = Campo, Encasillado, Celula. 
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Another word is "planilla." Planilla refers to physical spreadsheets (columns and rows) accountants used to utilize for logging numbers and letters as well.

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Especially for numerical and mathematical data in technical applications, you sometimes see la matriz -- matrix -- used to describe tabular data. I use it whenever I'm talking about math -- which is often. Just as in English, this is a more specific usage aimed at educated people but it can be very useful.

Matriz also means "womb" and "principal" in different contexts. Don't mix them up.

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This is especially natural usage for any Spanish speaker with a doctorate in Algebra, Statistics, or Physics. (Note: Algebra comes to English from Arabic by way of Spanish.) – Brian Nov 19 '11 at 6:51

Back in the 80s when I used to teach relational database design in Mexico and Puerto Rico, I always used "tabla" for table, "fila" for "row", and "columna" for "column".

Wikipedia en español tiene una entrada para SQL. En esa entrada, hablan de tablas.

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Una escuadra de columnas would translate to "a square of columns" which is descriptive enough in a conversation in the workplace without having to be too specific.

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Nunca he escuchado escuadra de columnas – Emilio Gort Dec 29 '13 at 20:15

When the information (numbers, words, sentences, ideas, formulas, small figures…) is organized more or less in columns and rows it is a tabla. But if it is organized in others forms, more generals, possible including lists, diagrams, etc. it will be a (re)cuadro.

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