Vi un cartel fuera de una tienda que decía: "Computadoras y ordenadores" en un cuadro "cubano" fuera de New York City,

En un principio, creo que ambas palabras significan "computer". Pero, ¿hay alguna sutil diferencia entre las dos, por ejemplo, que una se refiera a mainframes y la otra a PC, u otras diferencias entre tipos de computadoras?


I saw a sign outside a shop that said, "Computadoras y Ordenadores" in a "Cuban" area outside of New York City.

At one level, I believe that both words mean "computer." But are there subtle distinctions between the two, e.g. that one word refers to "mainframes," and the other to "PCs," or some other differences between types of computers?

  • Ordenador is not a proper word for a computer because it only implies something that sorts (orders). Some software sorts information, but a computer is capable of doing many other things it is programmed to do.
    – Joe R.
    Commented Jul 15, 2012 at 17:37
  • I am a retired computer programmer, now sometimes referred to as a 'software engineer'. But when I was working we were known as 'programmers'. I have been told by my Spanish teachers (in Mexico) that the correct word for this profession is 'computadora'. Is 'computadora' the correct term for this profession?
    – user8480
    Commented Feb 11, 2015 at 5:19
  • 1
    You might question its ethymological accuracy, but ordenador IS a proper word since it's in common use by a lot of people
    – spiral
    Commented Feb 11, 2015 at 8:22
  • @GleeHubbard it really depends on the culture. However, programmers can be referred to by many names in nearly any Spanish speaking culture: programadores, desarrolladores, ingenieros de software, and more I am sure. While living in Mexico I did hear the word "computación" thrown around a lot in reference to any IT job.
    – Mateo
    Commented Feb 11, 2015 at 16:40
  • Sort of related question: why is one masculine and the other feminine? I thought the masculine was the default, so why should "computadora" be feminine?
    – Aprendedor
    Commented Sep 13, 2015 at 1:58

9 Answers 9


Albertus is right. It will be of great help if you can tell us where did you read it. In Argentina (DF) there's a vulgar-common difference, but in general this difference is used by people who don't know anything about hardware, and can't differ a notebook from a netbook.

They are the same, but "computadora" (for these people) is a PC (desktop), and "ordenador" is the abbreviation of "ordenador portatil", like a notebook or netbook.

  • 1
    Added location in the question.
    – Tom Au
    Commented Jun 3, 2012 at 16:49
  • 3
    In the old times, 70's, an "ordenador" it was a server-dedicated for storing data, records, etc. And a "computadora" it was for a "calculate" anything. Like "calculadora". But I don't think the ad means that :D "ordenador" means "who sorts" and "computadora" means "who computes" Commented Jun 3, 2012 at 17:08
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    Second paragraph. That's the answer I was looking for. Accepted.
    – Tom Au
    Commented Jun 15, 2012 at 13:02
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    @TomAu in Spain they use "ordenador" for all references to computers (servers, desktops, laptops, etc).
    – Mateo
    Commented Feb 11, 2015 at 16:50
  • In some places "portátil" is the abbreviation for a laptop.
    – aris
    Commented Mar 24, 2019 at 20:02

Computadores o computadoras (used in most Spanish speaking countries) and ordenadores (used in Spain) are exactly the same.

The singular is computador or computadora (and ordenador).

The words they come from (computer in English and ordinateur in French) also mean the same.

I have never seen the feminine "ordenadora".

The sign you saw is a mystery to me.

  • +1 for the origins. In Spanish Wikipedia you can read where the French "ordinateur" comes from.
    – JoulSauron
    Commented Jun 2, 2012 at 18:48
  • 1
    maybe you want to add that the singular is "ordenador".
    – JoulSauron
    Commented Jun 2, 2012 at 18:51
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    I think the added "Ordenador" because Spanish-speaking Europeans better equate that word to a computer, although "Computadora" is more popularly understood and accepted.
    – Joe R.
    Commented Jun 22, 2012 at 2:36
  • Se me hace que "ordinateur" viene de la capabilitad de la máquina de llevar a cabo ordenes. De ser cierto esto, sería más conectado con programabilidad que "computer". Este último término se refiere más a la aritmética que la máquina realiza. Commented Jan 18, 2013 at 3:00

In Spain everybody says ordenador. If you say computadora people will understand you but they will probably laugh or smile as it sounds weird.

Computadora sounds like a literal traduction from English computer, and nowadays sounds "oldy" in Spain.

The meaning of course is the same, but if you go to Spain you will realize that the use changes.

This "phenomenom" happens for many words in Spanish; in South America they have one common word and in Spain that same word sounds "oldy" or funny (a good example is "celular" and "móvil" for mobile phone). So it is good to think that there are two Spanish languages, the Latin and the Castellano. You have to choose which one to use for each particular situation.

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    Totally agree. I know in Spain they use ordenador. In Mexico we say computadora more often, but we do understand ordenador, though it sounds a bit too proper. Commented Feb 11, 2014 at 23:53

Cuando empecé a estudiar informática (hace 30 años) nos enseñaron en la universidad (es España) que se debía decir ordenador y no computador(a). La razón que nos dieron es que se había decidido utilizar las palabras del francés y no del inglés por ser éste más cercano (lengua latina).

Desde entonces, se sigue utilizando casi exclusivamente ordenador (y no vale la pena discutir si un ordenador sólo sirve para ordenar al igual que es futil la discusión de si una computadora sólo sirve para realizar cómputos).

La cuestión del francés no aplicaba sólo al tema del ordenador sino también al "software" que por aquel entonces querían que llamásemos "logical" (¿alguien recuerda haber utilizado / visto esta palabra alguna vez?).

Como podéis apreciar no siempre tuvo éxito el tema de la proximidad de la lengua latina tanto como que no creo que nunca llegara a aparecer logical en el diccionario de la RAE (ni en ningún otro).


In Colombia both computadora and ordenador mean the same, and also the word microcomputador, usually used in its abbreviated form micro.

However, in current language we use the word computador when referring to a PC and portátil when referring to a laptop.

Words like computadora, ordenador, microcomputador and micro are used by old folks who learnt about computing in the 80's or early 90's of past century. Those words come out of early manuals and textbooks, mainly edited or translated in Spain.

The use of any of these words is a red flag to any in the IT industry. An outdated person.


Yes, they use 'ordenador' in Spain (personal experience). I assumed that it related to 'putting in order', not just 'sort', as mentioned above. It made sense to me in the sense that 'to ordenate' implies more that just sorting--it is ordering (along a continuum more or less) of something in a manner that makes sense, or follows a set of criteria. Deep down inside, that's what computers do--regardless of the purpose of a piece of software.

  • I believe it has nothing to do with 'putting in order', is rather that you 'give orders/commands' to the ordenador. Commented Feb 12, 2014 at 0:05

In Chile we only use el computador. No difference with "la computadora" or "el ordenador", because in fact these words are not used.


The fact that you saw this on a sign for a business, which is marketing basically, let's me know that they're attempting to cater to two audiences.

  • Those that are familiar with computers

  • Those that are not.

Contraption = Ordenador

This word comes to mind when I think of an English translation. As many have already suggested, the word is used geriatricly.

It's the same principle as someone pointing to a computer, and calling it a machine.

What's that contraption/machine hooked up to the TV?

¿Qué es ese ordenador atado al tele?

Alternatively, I believe that the farther away you are from the United States, the more frequently you will hear ordernador used as opposed to computador. Languages adapt to their surroundings and environments, and México is directly below an English speaking country. It's safe to say that our use of the word "computer" was adopted by the Spanish spoken nearby.

  • Argentina is probably the furthest you can get from the US (with the exception of Phillipines) and we don't use "ordenador". Many countries in South America say "computador", "computadora" and "portátil" (the first 2 terms describe a "computer", the last covers notebooks and netbooks). Ordenador is mainly used in Spain and by most europeans that speak spanish (native and non native speakers) I can't speak for african speakers since I don't know. Commented Oct 25, 2021 at 14:13

"Computadora" is the term used by most Spanish speakers. "Ordenador" is the term used in Spain. This case is similar to "flashlight" and "torch," "truck" and "lorry," etc.

  • 1
    I don't think by most Spanish speakers. As a Spanish speaker, I've seen both computadora and computador used.
    – Schwale
    Commented Jan 21, 2016 at 17:04

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