I am reading (gradually, a page at a time here and there) a Spanish-English dictionary (Webster's).

I came across what may be the strangest pair of words in the Spanish language. First, some background:

In English, there are two words for nipples:

1) "Nipple", which both women as well as men have (English has no gender for words)

2) "Teat" (pronounced "teet") for nipples on animals

In Spanish, though, get this:

1) For women, the word is "pezón" but the word is masculine ("el pezón")

2) For men, the word is "tetilla" but the word is feminine ("la tetilla")

3) The nipple on a baby bottle is the same word as -- wait for it -- not the word for women's nipples, but the word for men's nipples!

What sort of twisted logic is that? The nipple on a baby's bottle is obviously a "metaphor" if you will, of their mother's nipple, not their father's.

To paraphrase Thomas Paine, these are the words that try men's souls.

  • 1
    In Spanish all nouns have gender, but this gender conveys absolutely no meaning whatsoever. For instance, "avión" (plane) is masculine but "aeronave" (aircraft) is feminine. Even for the man's genital organs you have both male and female nouns. Commented May 31, 2016 at 7:10

3 Answers 3


Tricky subject, but there we go:

  • According to the DRAE, teta is a synonym of either a woman's breast (also mama) or a female animal's breast. By specification it also applies to the respective nipples, however, they have their own, more proper, word, pezón. (Side comment: this is new to me. I grew up hearing that teta was animal-only, and it was rude to use in almost every context).
  • Tetilla, in turn, is a diminutive of teta, applied to the male's for obvious reasons. As the male mammary organ barely consists of anything but a nipple, it is very common to interchange the word with pezón. If you decide to follow DRAE's authority, then Webster's is wrong with this one (tetilla does not mean nipple). If you adhere to the idea that usage makes the rule, then Webster's is right, but anyway you get an explanation: both the bottle's and the man's thing are compared to the whole woman's breast and thus use diminutive.
  • Another word for the bottle's nipple is chupete, from chupar -to suck-, not rude (at least in most of the Spanish-speaking world), however not completely universal.
  • BTW, regardless of both DRAE's and Webster's omission, it is very common to hear pezón for the man's nipple.

Just to complement and simplify Rafael's answer:

  • The word for the human nipple is pezón, regardless of the sex of the nipple's owner.

  • The word for the baby bottle's nipple is tetina, not tetilla. See definition here.

  • For animal's nipples, then you can use teta or tetilla (for small animals like cats and dogs), or ubre (for big animals like cows).

Please bear in mind that all Spanish words have a gender, but it doesn't mean that they should be applied to people of the same sex as the gender of the word, as gender and sex are different concepts. Everyone has a face (cara in Spanish, a word of feminine gender), a neck (cuello, masculine), and so on.

  • you mean, tetina is the word for "baby bottle's nipple", not for teat
    – rsanchez
    Commented May 31, 2016 at 5:49
  • @rsanchez ooops! Fixed!
    – Charlie
    Commented May 31, 2016 at 6:09
  • Teta (f.) Breast (located normally on the chest).
  • Pezón (m.) Nipple (part of the breast, milk exit).
  • Ubre (f.) Udder (breast of some animals, located normally in the lower part of the body).
  • Tetilla (f.) Each of the "nipples" in udders.
  • Tetina (f.) Teat (nipple of the baby bottle).

Spanish is geographically widespread, so you will find many local variations..

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