In English there are several ways to refer to people who speak Spanish or are from a Spanish-speaking country: Hispanic, Latin, Latino, Chicano, Spanish-speaking, etc.

What equivalent terms exist in Spanish? What does each mean, and which most accurately describes people from a Spanish-speaking country?

  • 1
    Those English words have different (but often overlapping) meanings. Hispanic often means someone descended from a Spanish-speaking country, not necessarily that the person actually speaks Spanish. Latin(o/a) can be much broader than Spanish-speaking, and usually includes Brazil (which speaks primarily Portuguese) for instance...
    – Flimzy
    Commented Jan 12, 2012 at 4:29

4 Answers 4


Official term in Spanish would be hispanoamericano.

According to Diccionario panhispánico de dudas:

Hispanoamérica. Nombre que recibe el conjunto de países americanos de lengua española: «Se convirtió [Viriato] en un símbolo, que habría de repetirse múltiples veces a lo largo de la historia de España e Hispanoamérica» (Fuentes Espejo [Méx. 1992]). Quedan, pues, excluidos de esta denominación los países de América en los que la lengua oficial no es el español. Su gentilicio, hispanoamericano, se refiere estrictamente a lo perteneciente o relativo a la América española y no incluye, por tanto, lo perteneciente o relativo a España: «Un completo catálogo onomástico de autores españoles e hispanoamericanos» (Abc [Esp.] 9.5.97).

Note, that Latino refers to Latin America, which includes not only Spanish speaking countries, but also Portuguese and French speaking ones.

Primary meaning of word hispano on other hand is not hispanic in American sense of the word.

Chicano means Mexican-American (i.e. US national of Mexican origin).

  • 4
    But "hispanoamericano" excludes people from Spain. This does not seem to comply with the question: "people who speak Spanish or are from a Spanish-speaking country"
    – leonbloy
    Commented Dec 10, 2013 at 15:39
  • You can use hispanophone for every spanish-speaking person
    – motilio
    Commented Sep 6, 2017 at 18:48

A way to refer to a Spanish speaker person is "hispanohablante."

There was a German saying that "Whoever speaks German is German."

The term "hispanohablante" gets around the tricky issues of "descent" or "location."


Let me break these into groups, because the English adjectives you list are not synonyms. Hopefully you'll get a sense from this that there isn't so much of a broad term for people and cultures that may share a culture and language, but ultimately are every bit as distinct as the USA, Australia, and South Africa are.

"Chicano" specifically refers to Mexican Americans, and has strong political associations.

Hispanic, Latin, Latino

These all ultimately refer to the Roman Empire, which expanded into the Iberian peninsula fairly early in its history. The Romans referred to the province as Hispania. Note that relating back to that peninsula can have political meaning, and does not necessarily imply a difference between Spain and Portugal as the historical colonial power that colonized an area. If someone wanted to be more explicit about an ethnic tie back to Europe, they may use "criollo" (same root as the English "creole").

"Spanish-speaking" is probably most directly translated as "hispanohablante," but that again doesn't necessarily mean "que habla Español." Note also that in Spain, what you might think of as the Spanish language is generally referred to as "castellano" (Castilian Spanish), as there are many Spanish dialects—and again, these dialects are often tied to deep political and ethnic beliefs.

  • 1
    Well hispanohablante or hispanoparlante must mean someone who speaks Spanish. If it does not in certain context I would say those certain context are the ones that have perverted the meaning. Commented Dec 10, 2013 at 20:10
  • "Hispano-" again references the entire Iberian peninsula in the Roman era, and thus would include non-Castilian languages spoken natively on that peninsula (e.g., Portuguese, Catalan).
    – wordsmythe
    Commented Dec 12, 2013 at 3:48

The concept is a little vague, and so are words. "hispánico" can be used to point that things of Spanish origin, but it's vague. "Iberoamérica" or Hispanoamérica is a word to refer to the set of Spanish-speaking countries, but it's a little artificial - and it's not clear if it includes Spain.

"Países/gentes de habla hispana" would be the most precise -but convoluted- expression. Latino is not very apt, is just for use inside USA... it would include Brasil, and makes little sense outside american continent (french and Italians are "latin" people).


Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.