I have translated "salary" into Spanish. I have found two translations. What is the difference between "salario" or "sueldo"?

In Italian there are also two translations of salary, one means the actual amount of money and the second one is used without the amount, and is usually accompanied by an adjective. See the definitions in the RAE's Diccionario de la lengua española:

Example sentences:

My salary is about 1'200 EUR.

What is the minimum salary in this country?

  • 2
    You even have a third option: paga. 3rd meaning: Sueldo de un empleado.
    – Charlie
    Oct 13, 2016 at 15:07

6 Answers 6


Though there may be some practical differences, let's stick to what the DRAE says:


Del lat. tardío solĭdus 'sólido, moneda de oro romana'.

  1. m. Remuneración regular asignada por el desempeño de un cargo o servicio profesional.


Del lat. salarium, de sal 'sal'.

  1. m. Paga o remuneración regular.
  2. m. Cantidad de dinero con que se retribuye a los trabajadores por cuenta ajena.

If you look closely, the first meaning in salario does not say that the amount of money needs to be paid for a professional work, but it does in the definition of sueldo. For instance, a kid receives a salario or paga from his parents. But in your examples, you can go for any of the two options (or the three if you count paga, though it sounds a bit childish to me), as long as you are talking about an amount of money you earn regularly for a professional work.

But I must insist this is in theory. In practice there may be differences varying along the Spanish-speaking regions.

  • 3
    Another difference involves certain expressions: you would hire an asesino a sueldo but not an *asesino a salario, and brecha salarial (wage gap) is more idiomatic than brecha de sueldo. I wouldn't use any of them for a kid's allowance, but, as you said, paga. I think I've also heard mesada in the Latin dubbings of some cartoons with the same meaning. Would you use salario for a kid's allowance?
    – Yay
    Oct 15, 2016 at 10:13
  • @Yay you're right, I wouldn't use salario but paga. In fact, I remember telling my father ¿me das el sueldo? when I was a kid. That's why I said we needed to stick to what the DRAE said. There are a lot of idiomatic uses varying with the region.
    – Charlie
    Oct 15, 2016 at 11:32

According to the 'Diccionario de la Lengua Española', there are several other words with the same meaning:

soldada: Sueldo, salario o estipendio.

estipendio: Paga o remuneración que se da a alguien por algún servicio.

jornal: Estipendio que gana el trabajador por cada día de trabajo.

paga: f. Sueldo de un empleado.


They are synonymous, can be used interchangeably for the same purpose.

See the synonyms for sueldo: http://www.wordreference.com/sinonimos/sueldo


For what it's worth, English Wikipedia has a page for "salary" which has been translated into Spanish as "salario." Wikipedia also has a page for "wage," which has not yet been translated into Spanish. The page for "salario" contains all the synonyms user14029 mentioned plus this one: remuneración.

Although the topic of fixed expressions/collocations (such as asesino a sueldo) has been touched on to some degree already, I'll add a bit more here with some examples. What you see below are what appear to be more likely pairings. I'm not suggesting that you can't swap these words out with any of the other synonyms. That's probably just something you'll have to learn as you go and, as has already been mentioned, may depend on the region.

Before I get to the examples, I want to pose a question to anyone reading this, especially native English speakers. What's the difference between "salary" and "wage" in English? If you're not entirely sure, these two StackExchange threads might help:

Wages and Salaries

Wage vs. salary

I realize this is a StackExchange for those who want to learn about Spanish, but sometimes the differences between two words that exist in English are the same ones that exist in Spanish. This thread here is another example.

With that out of the way, let's get to the examples. As you will soon see, it appears that "salario" is the word of choice in many common phrases that can use both "salary" and "wage" in English:

high salary/wage = salario alto

annual salary/wage - salario anual

decent salary/livable wage - salario digno

to negotiate a salary = negociar un salario

hourly wage = salario por hora

This observation that "salario" seems to be more commonly used than "sueldo" is reflective in this Google Ngram chart.

The following show you examples of common phrases that can use both "salario" and "sueldo" even if they might refer to something slightly different:

on a salary = con un salario/sueldo

minimum salary = salario mínimo
minimum wage = sueldo mínimo

And then sometimes you've got to use something slightly different altogether:

wage gap = diferencia salarial

I think this is sometimes translated as "brecha de salario," but in practice, I don't really see much evidence that it is used nearly as often as "diferencia salarial."

And the last one I'll leave you with is this:

wage earners = asalariados


"Sueldo" and "salario" make me think of "solde" and "salaire" in French.

Solde would be used to mean "pay," but "salaire" is more for an employee's salary, for someone who receives an hourly rate. In French, "honoraire" is used for payment of professional services, something like "honorarium" in English. There is also the word "gages" in French, corresponding to "wages" in English but not used much.

Auto correct seems to be on with this site, unfortunately, so I hope my answer is clear in spite of this "technology".

  • 1
    Solde was and is still used in French to mean, from the italian sòldo,the pay given to anyone engaged in military service, thus soldats (soldiers/soldados), and by extension navy and air force members. On the other hand, civilian workers are salariés and paid a salaire (salary/salario). This distinction doesn't remain in Spanish, if it ever existed.
    – Gavatx
    Oct 13, 2016 at 18:57

These words are synonyms. The same meaning with just a subtle difference for salario is a more formal than sueldo.

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