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In Mexico I often see street addresses in the form "Calle Guadaloupe, 76bis" instead of "Calle Guadaloupe, 76" or something. I think I have also seen this in various other Latin American countries. Another common form I remember is "Calle Insurgentes 43 bis esquina 12c". I vaguely remember the doors being close to street corners too.

I've googled and asked people but not managed to get anywhere.

What does "bis" mean in this context?

  • Bis is commonly used this way in France. In French, it literally means 'two times/twice', 'a second time', or 'again'. I assume the the Spanish adopted the French word. – Strawberry Jan 9 at 11:19
  • "bis" in Spanish addresses is the same as "b" in British addresses – Aaron F Jan 9 at 12:08
  • @AaronF Except where there's also a 'c' – Strawberry Jan 9 at 12:34
  • @Strawberry indeed! :-) I'm not sure what happens in Spain if there's a third or fourth subdivision. The prefix "bis" is also used when describing relations, in the same way "great" is used in English. "Great-great-grandmother" would be "bisbisabuela" in Spanish. But that doesn't apply to houses/flats, I've not seen "42 bis bis", for example :-) – Aaron F Jan 9 at 12:38
  • @AaronF Oh, right - I didn't know the Spanish used the word in other contexts. Still, I think the comparison with 'b' is a little confusing. – Strawberry Jan 9 at 12:40
6

Where street addresses are concerned there are many different systems even within the same country. In some places houses are numbered consecutively; if some building is then divided into two or more houses (or if different entrances are to have different numbers), one will find that, for example, the house between numbers 5 and 7 receives the number "5 bis".

In Argentina and other Latin American countries there is instead a system whereby blocks form a more-or-less regular grid and street numbers are assigned from fixed ranges. For example, in my street, the numbers from one block to the other run from 1500 to 1598 on the northern sidewalk and from 1501 to 1599 in the southern one. In this system, when a house needs a number, you can actually measure the distance from the corner and that, plus the corresponding offset, is its number. In this case you won't ever need something like a "bis". But sometimes a street is extended beyond its number zero in the "negative" direction. In some cities they just change the name of the street from that point on. In others they number the houses with "bis", with numbers growing in the opposite direction as the other part of the street (much like negative numbers).

  • One question/note about "the house between numbers 5 and 6". I know I might be nitpicking your great answer, but I think this would be "the house between numbers 5 and 7" since one side of the street would have even numbers and the other would have odd numbers? You are right that every country has their own system, but I believe that might be a standard case and help to clarify and improve your answer. For the record, I actually have seen a street where I live where numbers are actually consecutive. The tricky part is that there is a playground (not houses) on the other side of the street – Diego Jan 8 at 17:15
  • Thanks for your answer but it seems to contradict the other one. Can anyone confirm that both systems are in use in the Spanish-speaking world (and if there's any way to tell which one without visiting the address)? – Turkeyphant Jan 8 at 19:48
  • 2
    As I said, there are different systems. If you can get several addresses on the same block you can guess which system is being used. If the whole block is numbered consecutively with all numbers having a "bis", then it's the one I described. If "bis" numbers are mixed among plain numbers, then it's the other one. – pablodf76 Jan 8 at 22:39
13

bis

Del lat. bis 'dos veces'.
...
4. adj. U. pospuesto a un número de una serie para indicar que este sigue inmediatamente a ese mismo número ya empleado. Puerta 5 bis.

So, in this context it means there are two addresses with the same Street/Number, and this is referring to the second one. Similar to how A, B etc are used for apartments at the same address.

Note: this is general Spanish usage, not limited to Latin America.

  • What was strange about this is that the address had an A and a B as well as a "bis". And I'm still not sure what the "esquina 12c" bit means (can you also clarify regarding my comment to the other answer). – Turkeyphant Jan 8 at 19:46
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    It's not even limited to Spanish; we're using it in The Netherlands too (mixed with other forms of house number additions). – Glorfindel Jan 8 at 21:41
  • I've seen house number 372½ in the US. – chrylis -on strike- Jan 9 at 2:49
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    @chrylis And let's not even get started on train platforms... – Lightness Races with Monica Jan 9 at 12:52

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