When would one use significado and when significación?

What are the nuances of meaning of these two?

3 Answers 3


That is quite an advanced concept. In linguistics, significado is the word's meaning and significación is the graphical representation of a concept, in other words, the word itself.

Significación can also refer to something's value: Un lugar de gran significación histórica.

  • You are right, but personally, I never use significación, I can't remember last time I did :o. I think you explanation maybe is a bit hard for a non native speaker, with the example is clear for me, but maybe is not for non-native speaker.
    – Jose Palma
    Apr 16, 2015 at 6:44
  • 1
    Significacion in the sense of value is sometimes used in books, documentaries and so on. Significacion as the graphical representation of a concept is a term we use in philology
    – Daniel
    Apr 16, 2015 at 6:48
  • para ser honesto es la primera vez q leo eso de "significación".... en tu ejemplo por ejemplo yo diría... Un lugar de gran significado histórico.... en fin... gracias por el ejemplo
    – yhoyo
    Apr 17, 2015 at 1:42

Significado is the "meaning", "sense", "concept" or "notion" that acquires a symbol or any object that can be interpreted. Is the mental concept that is "transported" in a word, a gesture, an action, etc.

In Chile significación means "importance", "value", "magnitude", probably influenced by the adjective "significativo". I don't know if used in other countries with that sense. Ex:

El acercamiento de la oposición es un gesto de enorme significación para el gobierno.

Otherwise, in lingüistics, "significación" is the mental process of generation/understanding of signs by pairing a signifier with a meaning. Therefore the next sentence is correct, although its use is highly technical:

La significación es el proceso de generar signos asignando un significado a un significante.


As a native speaker, I have to say I barely use significación. I always favor significado to convey "the meaning" of something.

"Significación" sounds to me like "creating the sign or representation of something", although it seems that it can be also used as a synonym of "significado". I googled "significación" up and I found this site, which has an interesting description:

Un signo lingüístico es la unidad mínima de la oración que está formada por un significado y un significante. Ambos se encuentran unidos en forma inseparable a través de la significación. Puede decirse que el significado es un concepto, mientras que el significante es una imagen acústica: la significación es la entidad de dos caras interdependientes que crean este concepto con su imagen acústica.

So this means that when you hear or read "dog" (a word is the minimum linguistic sign in a sentence) you associate that written word or sound to an animal. Significado would be what the word means. Significación would be giving a representation as a word or sign to the "dog entity".

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