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First the context. There are two similar words that cannot be confused:

  1. Millar  →  Conjunto de mil unidades.  →  Set of one thousand elements.
  2. Millón  →  Mil millares.  →  One million.

I've seen a couple of times the word millar used when millón should be used, I think because the former is less used since there are other ways to express its meaning, e.g.:

Millares de personas salieron a las calles
Miles de personas salieron a las calles

both meaning:

Thousands of people marched on the streets.

My question is the following:

Is it advisable to use miles instead of millares to avoid confusion, or is their difference actually understood among Spanish speaking people?

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I changed the question to adjust the formatting. If you want to further change it, you can obviously. But I suggest not to use too much formatting with big titles, bold, emphasis everywhere... – Alenanno Dec 7 '11 at 21:45
    
No problem at all with your edits. I think my question is now clearer :) – Nicolás Dec 7 '11 at 21:53
    
I think for most native speakers "millares" and "miles" both mean approximately the same ... and I don't understand your question. – Dr. belisarius Dec 7 '11 at 22:37
up vote 5 down vote accepted

Native spanish speakers know the difference between a "millar" and a "millón"; it's a common word, so you shouldn't use one or another for fear of confusion (except perhaps if the chance of mishearing is high: in a factory with loud noise or when speaking through a mobile phone with poor reception). No problem at all in a written medium.

About what you should use, theoretically both could be used interchangeably. I would say, and please notice that this is a subjective opinion, that "millares" is a more learned, even a bit snobbish word; I wouldn't use it in everyday language, except if I wanted to give emphasis to the idea of a big number.

I'd say "millares" is more common in written media, but again, you could use both mostly interchangeably.

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«Miles» es el plural de «mil», del mismo modo que «millares» es el plural de un «millar». En plural ambos términos son sustantivos perfectamente sinónimos pero en singular «mil» es un número cardinal especial, que puede usarse como adjetivo o como sustantivo, mientras que «millar» solo es un sustantivo, de modo que en singular no siempre son intercambiables.

Ningún hispanohablante usa «miles» o «millares» por «millones». Si acaso algún charlatán con tendencia a exagerar puede hacer lo contrario: emplear «millones» en lugar de «millares» o «miles», pero no porque desconozca su significado:

He jugado a la lotería millones de veces

Donde sí existe cierta confusión es entre «millardo» (109) y «billón» (1012) por la influencia del inglés americano (billion=109) . Como «millardos» es de reciente adopción y uso muy poco común (lo normal actualmente es hablar en «miles de millones» no en «millardos»), supongo que en el futuro podrá existir confusiones entre «millardos» y «millares» (pero no con «millones»), si el término se populariza.

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I think both mean the same: several thousands.

I think miles is more used because it is shorter and it cannot be confused with millones.

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