I have translated both "shovel" and "spade" into Spanish and I got the same result: "pala". Is my translation wrong? How do Spanish people differentiate between them (one word for two different things)?

An image with the differences:

Shovel and spade

And an article explaining the differences: http://gardeningproductsreview.com/shovel-vs-spade-whats-difference/

Wikipedia articles: spade and shovel.

  • Searching in Google Images, both "shovel" and "spade" give the same results, or at least very similar. Could you tell us the difference in English so that we can better help you?
    – Charlie
    Commented Oct 25, 2016 at 14:47
  • Please don't link to external images, as they can change at any time. Insert them in the questions instead. You should also include the most interesting parts of the linked articles in case they are modified or removed.
    – Charlie
    Commented Oct 25, 2016 at 15:27
  • 3
    A "shovel" is used for removing things that are already on a surface, while a "spade" is used for digging into the ground. Also a "spade" has a handle at the end, a "shovel" doesn't have it. sowanddipity.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/…
    – cornejo
    Commented Oct 25, 2016 at 15:28
  • Thank you again. In fact, I think this is a very interesting question, that's why I tried to polish it to make it better. You got my +1.
    – Charlie
    Commented Oct 25, 2016 at 15:31
  • See also this question and answers
    – user14029
    Commented Oct 30, 2016 at 21:19

2 Answers 2


Short answer: We usually don't differentiate them, and when we do, we are likely to say something like "the pointy shovel" instead of calling a spade a spade.

Long answer and justification: According to the wikipedia article for Shovel, a spade is a type of shovel:

A general category of shovels tailored to digging hard ground that must be broken with substantial force before it can be moved. Most spades have sharp or nearly sharp edges, often shaped as triangular points. (The typographical spade symbol, ♠, is a stylized icon derived from this idea.) Some spades lack triangular points but are fairly narrow. They are tailored to lawn cutting and to transplanting of bushes and small trees. In fact, their modern mechanized equivalent is also called a tree spade.

Some usage prescriptions prescribe that the words "spade" and "shovel" should be held in contradistinction (piercing and digging [spade] versus scooping and moving [shovel]). Natural language does not widely follow these prescriptions; it more often treats "spade" and "scoop" as contradistinguished subsets under "shovel".

Notice how the article has a link to the Spanish version (check the "languages" section on the left sidebar to access versions of the same article in different languages), which is called "Pala", but the article for Spade does not have a Spanish version.

By the way, in playing cards, we call the ♠ suit the "pica" suit, which means "pick" (the pointy tool used for mining).


Pala cuadrada o pala ancha y pala de punta

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Google search link

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Pala cuadrada o pala ancha

Utilizadas para trasvasar o recoger materiales, escombros, cemento, tierra, etc.

Pala de punta

Utilizada para trabajos en los que haya que excavar, ya que la estructura redondeada terminando en punta hace que sea más fácil hincarla en la tierra.

Actually, my grandfather used to say to me, –pásame la pala– and this meant "the spade" and give me the "pala de punta" for the shovel.

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