I have come across fichero and archivo although the latter seems more ubiquitous. Is there any difference in usage? Or is it just a matter of personal preference? Also, if archivo is file, what's the Spanish for the actual archive folder as found in many email accounts?

  • @aparente teníamos ya la etiqueta cartas, lo mismo valía con esa sin utilizar email y simplemente complementar con informática.
    – fedorqui
    Jul 26, 2019 at 6:14
  • @fedorqui - OP está haciendo dos preguntas, y la segunda es how can I refer to an email archive folder? Nota también que ELU tiene 251 preguntas con la etiqueta email, y French Language tiene 9. Nuestro sitio no tiene que adoptar la misma estructura de etiquetas que usan esos sitios; lo menciono para mostrar que sería dentro de lo razonable introducir una etiqueta email. ¿Para qué tener etiquetas? Para ayudar a la gente a encontrar preguntas sobre un tema determinado. Jul 26, 2019 at 17:20

4 Answers 4


Fichero is more common in Europe (Spain) while Archivo is common in Latin America.

I would suggest you use Archivo, based on these definitions:

Archivo: A group of well-organized documents managed by a person or enterprise.

Fichero: Is a furniture to keep organized documents.

But in IT, both have the same meaning which is a collection of information stored somewhere (devices, memory, etc).

I think Spaniards use fichero because in the past they stored their documents in cabinets but for Latin Americans it was not limited to cabinets. It's is also related to the way you organize your documents in a cabinet, binder or folder.

In case of archive folder in emails it's a little bit different because for Latin America it is used as an adjective Archivado (singular) o Archivados (plural). This means to keep your files, documents or emails away from your current ones for a later search. The same intention as in English.

  • I lately realised answers telling that you can name archive folder as simply Archivos, but I disagree. Archivos is most understood as Files. Archive in that context is more a state. That's why Archivados it fits better as translation. Better way too know, it's changing gmail or any other mail provider from English to Spanish or look up for YouTube videos about Correos Archivados. Aug 2, 2019 at 4:01

As with many computing terms, fichero and archivo competed against each other for dominance, and at this point it's pretty clear that archivo will be the victor.

In computing contexts, you should use archivo for file.

For archives in the long term, out-of-the-way sense, archivo (with its verb archivar) are also used. There's not much confusion generated by the overlap of terms especially when you can use the verb form.

For other files (like police/academic/medical), in my experience, the most common term is expediente. As aprendedor notes, you can also hear dossier (with double S per the DRAE), though that can also be used for a report.

  • You wrote, "In computing contexts, you should use archivo for file." I'm not sure if this would apply for all meanings of file in computing contexts. I thought that if it's a docx file, perhaps I should call it un documento? Jul 26, 2019 at 3:48
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    @aparente001 a file can contain a document, sure. If I know it's a jpg I could use imagen" or *foto but at the hard drive level they're all archivos Jul 26, 2019 at 6:22
  • Thanks. Getting back to MS Word, typically would one call it documento or archivo? I don't like ambiguity. Could I simplify things and use archivo for folder, and documento, imagen, etc., for file? Also, what about spreadsheets? Thank you. I left Mexico before laptops became ubiquitous. Jul 26, 2019 at 16:46
  • @aparente001 A folder is a carpeta or directorio (same difference as in English between folder and directory — no real difference just some people/systems prefer one or the other, or will even freely interchange them). All files are archivos, but any given archivo could be a documento, imagen, sonido, etc. It's like animals vs dog/cat/bird, etc. If in English I'd say "file" — "Upload your file here", I'd use "archivo", if I'd say "document" — "Please submit your CV as a Word document", I'd go with "documento". Jul 26, 2019 at 17:18
  • Got it! Thank you. Jul 26, 2019 at 17:21

I work in the IT world and some people use "archivo" and some use "fichero". We understand both terms are used for files

The folder to archive mails is called "archivo", and the real life term used in Spain is "archivo" as well, "fichero" is almost never used besides computer related stuff. As Maximus Decimus says, "fichero" is a furniture, while "archivo" is a concept. I can't really talk about the other spanish speaking countries

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    I use both interchangeably. Also, coming from the old school, I use "carpeta" or "directorio" for folder.
    – roetnig
    Jul 26, 2019 at 9:19

Yes, fichero and archivo are the most commonly used words for file. Sometimes el dossier or el dosier is used (obviously from the same French word from which "dossier" in English came).

The "archive" folder would just be called, as far as I know, el archivo (de correo electrónico).

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