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Suppose you see a mother with a laughing little 2-year-old. In English, we might exclaim, "how cute!"

I've had trouble saying this in Spanish. The word "cute" means something like "beautiful", but it has a sense of smallness and playfulness and affection. (It can be used for an adult; I might call my wife "cute" if she's doing something silly, but in serious moments I would say something more like "beautiful".)

I've asked a couple of Spanish speakers for a Spanish equivalent for "cute", and I've looked online, but I'm not sure if any of these fit:

  • lindo or guapo - These could both describe an attractive adult, right?
  • precioso - This seems close; we might say "precious" in English about a small child.
  • ¡qué mono rico es! - This is just confusing. "What a delicious monkey"?

How would you say that a child is "cute" in Spanish?

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Related:… – jrdioko Feb 20 '12 at 5:32
In Mexico I always notice precioso for this usage where English would have cute. – hippietrail Feb 20 '12 at 13:54
"lindo or guapo - These could both describe an attractive adult, right?", not really, lindo = cute, guapo = handsome – vartec Apr 18 '12 at 11:11
Muy bonito = very beautiful Precioso = precious Chula = cute – user10905 Sep 27 '15 at 3:49
up vote 17 down vote accepted

All the words you provide might fit at different levels of "beautiful". Personally, I would translate "cute" as "mono" or "rico" (but never as "mono rico").

You can check the first definition of mono and the seventh of rico. They both mean, specially for children, beautiful and funny.

To make things clearer, I'm from Spain, and I don't know what's used in other countries.

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Neither of those are used in Mexico. – Alfredo Osorio Feb 20 '12 at 15:16
@AlfredoO: Added an edit about the regional use – MikMik Feb 20 '12 at 15:49
"Rico" sounds ugly for me haha I'm mexican, but if it's normal I learned something new. – Jaime Sep 27 '15 at 17:02
If you call a baby "mono" in certain regions, you are literally saying he looks like a monkey. So I would steer clear of it unless you know for certain it is used this way by your entire audience. – insaner May 24 at 9:43
In Chile it is common to say tierno (tender), especially when the speaker is female (it is less common for men to judge a toddler's cuteness, and it could be seen by some as not-so-manly) – Rafael May 26 at 15:14

In Mexico we use for cute:

¡Qué lindo!

¡Qué bonito!

Also we use a regionalism:

¡Qué tierno!

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Roughly the same in Argentina ("rico" is seldom used; "mono" practically never). I don't think there an exact translation of "cute", with all the current connotations of the word (as in the "cute vs cool" alternative, etc). – leonbloy Feb 22 '12 at 15:17

I have always used "precioso/a" to describe cute kids. I'm in Texas, and so mostly speak with people from Mexico. I think this word is pretty safe, since it doesn't have other meanings, like monkey. I've always been scared to use that particular expression as a non-native speaker.

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Tambien diria yo: Que chulo/a. – Paul Jul 20 '12 at 21:39

En el Paraguay dijimos "chulina", pero no sé si tiene sentido en otros lugares.

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I've heard or used the following:

-¡Que mono!

-¡Que monada!

-¡Que rico!

-¡Que ricura!

-¡Que lindo!

-¡Que simpático!

About guapo/lindo when talking about and adult, they have different meanings. Guapo means handsome, but here in spain, if you say: bueno, es linda, then she is definetely NOT handsome.

¡qué mono rico es!. That's incorrect.

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The Oxford Spanish-English dictionary offers

mono (fam), cuco (fam), rico (CS fam)

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First you should be aware that a lot of words in Spanish have different meanings from country to country, even on different regions on the same country. So if you want to be sure you should say

¡Qué lindo!

This would be a neutral and correct way to express How cute!, if you happen to know the local expression, well, that would be the best, but keep in mind that in Spanish the same expression in two different places could go from friendly to highly offensive.

Here are two examples:

In Cuba, you can say ¡Qué chulo! o ¡Qué chulo está ese niño!; and in Spain ¡Qué mono! is perfectly fine. But ¡Qué mono! in Cuba for sure is not the best, if the context is OK you will be fine but this means something different in Cuba (still not offensive though). By the contrary, in Spain ¡Qué chulo! won't be the best choice either.

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En Colombia we might use the word: CURIOSO. Lindo o bello would be extraordinarily beautiful, bonito would a softer beauty...

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No, en colombia y en américa latina no se dice curioso, y menos rico, decirle rico a un niño? Rico es cuando la persona es muy guapa, y en sentido sensual, no en sentido cariñoso, como se usa cute. – SalahAdDin Jun 6 at 3:01

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