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Primero mi pregunta en español:

¿Cómo se dice "pea" en español?

Details in English:

Until very, very recently, the only word I’ve ever known for the word “pea” is the word “guisante.” That all changed when I stumbled upon the word “arveja,” which opened up a whole new can of peas for me and left me with more questions. In addition to “guisante” and “arveja,” these are the words for "pea" that I came upon:

chícharo, chaucha, judía, poroto, pésol

in the following threads:

"guisantes" and "arvejas" translate to "peas". Can either be used?

¿Guisante o arveja?

The first left me wanting more and the second kind of blew my mind because not only did it include a bunch of words, it also included ones that I thought meant something else.

So, do all of these words mean “pea” and do any regional differences exist for this word?

Detalles en español:

Hasta hace muy, muy poco, la única palabra que he conocido por la palabra "pea" es la palabra «guisante». Todo eso cambió cuando topé la palabra «arveja», que abrió una nueva lata completa de guisantes para mí y me dejó con aún más preguntas. En adición a «guisante» y «arveja» lo que sigue es lo que encontré:

chícharo, chaucha, judía, poroto, pésol

en los hilos siguientes:

[Véase en la sección inglesa.]

El primero me dejó queriendo más y el segundo me voló la cabeza un poquito porque no sólo incluía un montón de palabras, sino que también incluía unas que pensé significaba algo diferente.

Entonces, ¿todas estas palabras significan “pea”? Y, ¿existen diferencias regionales para esta palabra?

  • Related: spanish.stackexchange.com/questions/7075/… – walen Jan 23 '18 at 15:50
  • Also (a bit) related: spanish.stackexchange.com/questions/13030/… – walen Jan 23 '18 at 17:34
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    A couple more related questions and we might need a judías tag! – walen Jan 23 '18 at 17:34
  • @walen Thank you for the links to the related threads! I look forward to reading them both!! – Lisa Beck Jan 25 '18 at 4:47
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    I hope you do this more often for other common words. Tables and google images for different species I've found helpful when descriptions don't make discriminate. Types of cooking containers would be a good one to do. (Very confusing to me). – user5389726598465 Jan 29 '18 at 4:16
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+150

First of all I found all sorts of variations of “pea” in English, so I needed to clarify some things in my own language before I could attempt to answer this. Rather than recreate the wheel, I’m just going to paste what I found in an article over at The Spruce:

When most of us think of peas, we picture the small, round, green balls that are so hard to grab with your fork. These are traditionally known as English peas. They also go by shelling peas, common peas, standard peas, and garden peas.

—From “Which Pea Variety is Right for Your Garden?”by Marie Iannotti

How is this type of pea translated into Spanish? Well, it sometimes depends on which country you live in, so I’ve included regional notes throughout this answer.

The first peas in the pod

arveja

Should be universally recognized as the word for “pea” in both Latin America and Spain. The phrase “aveja común” means “common pea” and should also be recognized as a reference to the common pea in Spanish-speaking countries around the world.

guisante

I saw evidence (via online commentary) that this word is recognized as the word for “pea” in Spain and Mexico. I can’t vouch for anything beyond that yet, but if you continue reading, you'll see that I did what I could to look into it. By the way, variations on this include: guisante forrajero (field pea), guisante cultivado (cultivated pea), and guisante verde (green pea).

chícharo

Another word for “pea,” but this (according to one definition I saw) can also mean “strong throw.” Where, exactly? I don’t know. Again, I should add the qualifier “yet” because I did a little pseudo-scientific research on this word, too. Still, if you're from a country that uses this word to mean “strong throw” or anything other than “pea,” please add that information to a comment or an answer.

chaucha

This word can mean “pod,” but as far as I know, it does not mean “pea,” specifically. In fact, one source I used mentioned that this is a vulgar word making reference to a certain part of a male’s anatomy. For some reason, I was a bit skeptical, so I decided to do a Google image search. Granted, I probably have some good “safety” filters in place, but I found no evidence of this word being used to refer to male anatomy. Instead, I saw photo after photo of a green vegetable in a pod. However, that green vegetable in a pod was not a pea. It was a green bean. For this, and the aforementioned reason, I wouldn’t use this for the word “pea.”

judía

Not a pea. This is usually found in its plural form in front of the word “verdes.” It means “green beans.” Again, not a pea.

poroto

Another word, but not for “pea,” well, not exactly. It means “bean” or “pea” (but not the green garden kind). It is often found in its plural form as “porotos de manteca" (butter beans) or “porotos alubias” (black-eyed peas).

pésol

Just listed as a “pea.” Initially I thought this would be a well-known word for “pea” in Spain, but when compared to the numbers for “guisante” it is rather negligible. Where it appears to be most widely used is in the Rioplatense region of South America (Uruguay, Argentina). It might be known by some in Colombia as well. The word “pésol” also happens to be the word for “pea” in Catalán. In fact, The Princess and the Pea, was translated into that language as La Princesa i el pésol. In Spanish, it is La Princesa y el guisante.


snow peas/Chinese pea pods

Snow peas and Chinese pea pods are the same thing. If you want to specify this type of pea in Spanish, you would use “arveja china.” This is not to be confused with the "frijol chino" or "frijol mungo," which, as you may have already guessed, is the name for "mung bean."

sweet peas/sugar snap peas

Sweet peas and sugar snap peas are not the same thing. In fact, the seed of the sweet pea is actually poisonous. Its name in Spanish is “guisante de olor” or “arvejilla.” If you want to specify “sugar snap pea,” use “arveja dulce” or “guisante dulce.”


The pod count

In addition to the names for “pea” already encountered, I ran into a slew more. At this point, I decided to do a bit of pseudo-scientific research by running these through a Google search, filtered by country and language (Spanish). What I found is in the chart below:

Keep in mind that trying to find language patterns through the tea leaves of Google pages is not an exact science, but it’s the best method I know of right now for studying regional differences in a language that spans so many countries. With regard to my searches, I only added numbers for each word if I got a strong sense that the word was closely associated with what we refer to as a “garden pea” or “common pea” or any similarly named pea. When it appeared to refer to something else, I simply added what the word appeared to be referring to (and these notes were later deleted so that you would have a cleaner chart to view). Anything of significance about them will be added later in this answer. Also be aware that if a word has more than one meaning, I have no good way of extrapolating counts for which pages apply to which. Like I said, this is not an exact science.

Notes on the various words for “pea”

One word for pea in this study has two spelling variations — alberja and alverja. The preferred spelling was always “alverja” in those countries where this word appeared to be a word for “pea.” Some countries (such as Guatemala and Colombia) gave me the impression that “alverja” may be a generic term for pea and can be used to refer to both the common pea as well as the snow pea (or Chinese pea pod). This may be true of other countries as well, but if so, it wasn’t evident in the way that it appeared to be for Guatemala and Colombia.

The word “bisalto” only appeared to be a word for “pea” — the common type — in Ecuador, but instances of it were so few that I am skeptical. In those countries where it did seem to refer to some sort of a “pea” but not a common pea (Spain, Guatemala, Peru, Chile, and possibly Costa Rica, Colombia, Bolivia, and Argentina), images of it appeared to be that of the “snow pea” or “Chinese pea pod” variety. Later, I ran this word through WordReference. “Snow pea” is the only translation listed.

I don’t know why Tureng (now Term Bank) listed “bizco” as a word for “pea.” Usually it appeared to be referring to those afflicted with strabismus and this ranged from people to cats. As I went through my list, I kept asking myself, Is this the country where this word refers to a pea? but, alas, it never came to be. Paraguay came close. It showed a couple of images that appeared to be some type of food, but there were certainly no clear patterns in this mix (at least as far as food was concerned). Regardless of my inability to find any connection between “bizco” and “pea,” if you come from a country where “bizco” is the word for it (or any kind of pea … or food), please mention it in a comment or in an answer.

The Diccionario Real Academia Española (DRAE) mentions that “ervilla” is an alternate name for “arveja,” but I saw no evidence of that via Google searches or through the Google Ngram. Then again, a visit to WordReference will inform you that “arveja” when paired with the word “partida” means “split pea.” That said, the only country where “ervilla” showed up in strong numbers with images to prove it was in Argentina. Spain also had significant numbers with this word (ervilla), but if it also had correlating images of the split pea (or any other kind of pea), it wasn’t hitting me in the face with them.

The word “chícharo” was somewhat interesting. Most of the time, it gave me a good feeling that it referred to the word “pea,” but a couple of times it also appeared to be showing a strong correlation with some professional ball player, whose nickname, if I remember correctly, is “Chicharito.” I mentioned earlier that “chícharo” can mean “strong throw.” This would make sense. Well, it would if Chicharito played baseball instead of Mexican professional football. The last time I checked, that sport doesn’t involve any throwing. Perhaps it can mean “strong kick” as well, and with a name like “Chicharito,” perhaps he has one.

The word “petpuá” was listed as a word for “pea” at Term Bank, but not only did I not find strong correlations of this word and “pea,” many times it didn’t appear to be on any web page in many of the countries I looked at — half did not return any results for this word at all.

The word “vainica” was also listed as a word for “pea,” but it rarely appeared to be associated with any food substance at all and when it did, it appeared to be a word for “green bean.” Where? Guatemala, Bolivia, Costa Rica.

Finally, the last thing I’ll do in this section is end it with what might be good news for you, but is definitely good news for me. First of all, if “guisante” is the only word you learned for “pea,” you’re in luck. No other word appears to be more closely associated with that word than “guisante.” This is followed closely by “arveja,” and these two words are known as “pea” in every Spanish-speaking country on the planet. Secondly, among the many words for “pea” that I have recently been introduced to, it appears that only four* actually refer to “pea” — the green, garden, common type — across the Spanish-speaking countries. (The only exception being Equatorial Guinea which seems to only recognize “arveja” and “guisante” from among the words included in this answer, but it may have other words for “pea” that I have not yet heard of.)

*Technically five if you count “alverja’s” alternative spelling — alberja — but possibly only three if you suspect that both “alberja” and “alverja” might be alternative spellings of “arveja.”


Let’s concentrate on the steak, not the peas

Compiling numbers on peas isn’t all that worthwhile in itself, unless you do something with those numbers. So, here are some takeaways from the numbers I compiled:

If Google’s search engine of web pages is any indicator of how language is actually used, what follows (and anything I’ve written previously) applies:

  1. Spain sure has a lot of pages about peas, but it is only a little more than half of the total for South America.*

  2. Those living in Central America seem to prefer the word “arveja” for “pea,” but “chícharo” is a close second.

  3. “Chícharo” is the word to use for “pea” in the Caribbean Spanish-speaking countries.

  4. In all but two South American countries (Venezula and Chile), the most common word for “pea” is “arveja.”

  5. Everywhere else (Spain, Equatorial Guinea, Mexico), but also the exceptions to the aforementioned regions in the bullets above (Dominican Republic in the Caribbean; Venezuela and Chile in South America), use “guisante” for the word “pea.”

*Still, the number is considerable when you factor in that Spain's population is a tenth of what South America's is. Granted, the average Spaniard is more likely than the average South American to have access to the internet (internet penetration rates are approximately 30-40% higher in Spain), and many other factors could contribute to such a high number of pages containing some Spanish word for "pea" on them, but even so, I walk away from this with the impression that the "pea" must be a fairly common staple in a Spaniard's diet.


Sources: Multiple to include:

Term Bank, English-Spanish translations for “pea”

WordReference, English-Spanish translations for “pea”

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    Extremely good answer, very thorough and complete. Keep up the good work!!! – Joze Jan 23 '18 at 15:56
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    Good answer, but let me comment that I have never used/heard "arveja" (context: Southern Spain). I recall when I was a child my mother telling me to eat the "chicharitos" but "guisante" is certainly standard here. – Miguel Jan 23 '18 at 20:39
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    I agree with Miguel: I don't recall anybody using "arveja" in Spain, ever. Whoever made my smartphone's Spanish dictionary seems to think the same, since it didn't recognize "arveja" and I just had to add it while typing this comment. Also, your chart says that "guisante" wins 7 to 1, so... You should probably edit this part: "Should be universally recognized as the word for “pea” in both Latin America and Spain." (Amazing work nonetheless, I was the first to upvote!) – walen Jan 23 '18 at 21:50
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    Hi, regarding chicharo: in Sicilian "cicero" (or "ciciru", read respectively as in Spanish you would read "chichero" and "chichiru") means chickpea. Same goes for the Armenian "սիսեռ" ("siser"), or Latin "cicer". I am sure that both the Sicilian and the Armenian words mean chickpea, I don't have a Latin dictionary at hand to check "cicer". – Alberto Santini Jan 23 '18 at 22:41
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    Wow! Looks like you've covered every pea in the pod, and then some! – aparente001 Jan 24 '18 at 5:39
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I would like to comment @Lisa 's splendid answer but I don't have enough reputation. I just would like to add that in some parts in northern spain (seemingly León and Asturias) is not uncommon to say arvejo (yes, with o). Guisante is much more common, but people will definitely understand what arvejos are. I had never heard arveja before though. The DRAE seems to accept both arvejo and arveja.

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I'm from Mexico. The word for 'pea' that is most commonly used in Mexico is "chícharo". Even a famous Mexican soccer player is named after this pea.

  • ¡Arriba los chícharros! – aparente001 Jan 24 '18 at 4:29
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Cuban Spanish, and possibly other Carribean Spanish, uses the word "pitipua", derived from the French "petit poid", or little spot.

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Just one thing, I see that your chart is wrong, I'm chilean, and I don't remember anybody saying guisante talking about peas, it is truth that chileans tend to copy words from other places, and I've been living abroad for 18 years already, but I doubt very much that chilean people has gone so far as to change the word "arveja", that we always use, to "guisante".

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    I found your comment really interesting, so I took a second look at the chart. I was expecting to see numbers that were relatively close, but the chart shows 312,000 pages for "guisante" and just 17,600 for "arveja." There's almost 20 times more pages for "guisante" (when filtered for "Spanish" and "Chile") than for "arveja!!!" BTW, these numbers fluctuate. I just reran the words through that filter to verify what I had found earlier. I got 264,000 for "guisante" and 19,300 for "arveja." Regardless, your comment makes me wonder who the wizards are behind the web pages. – Lisa Beck Jan 25 '18 at 4:43
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    A possible explanation that comes to my mind has two points of support: 1. Chileans tends to get away from their normal use to make prevail an alien standard, mostly the Spanish standard. 2. For the sake of wider understanding, Chileans use the Spanish standard which it is supposed to be the general standard for Spanish language. So, on one side we have Chileans who are not confident enough of themselves, and on the other side a seek of a wider range of readers. All of these would make the publications have more guisante than arveja. – Andrés Chandía Jan 26 '18 at 11:44
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En Costa Rica usamos esos dos términos:

  • alverjas
  • petit pois (del francés)

Arvejas y guisantes se entienden pero se usan poco.

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