In some languages, there are different spelling standards in different major dialects. For example:

British English American English
colour color
aluminium aluminum
Catalan Valencian
cinqué cinquè
arrencar arrancar
European Portuguese Brazilian Portuguese
anónimo anônimo
óptimo ótimo

Are there similar examples of spelling differences in different Spanish dialects? Or is it completely standardised?

  • 1
    Note that the difference between words like ótimo and óptimo reflect a real difference in pronunciation. While some words are effectively bound by geographic region, it's not a perfect correspondence and may even vary by idiolect. The AO90 basically says to write the P if you say it. The same issue occurs with aluminum/aluminium, though not with color/colour Commented Feb 16, 2019 at 17:35

3 Answers 3


Bello orthography

From 1844 to 1927, the government of Chile, (and some other South American countries influenced by this) followed and recommended an adaptation of Andrés Bello's revised Spanish orthography:

  1. Substituting ⟨j⟩ for "weak" ⟨g⟩ sounds (jeneral, jinebra)
  2. Substituting ⟨i⟩ for ⟨y⟩ used as vowels (rei, i);
  3. Writing ⟨s⟩ instead of ⟨x⟩ before consonants (testo).

However, the original spellings eventually regained popularity and Chile returned to following the RAE's orthography after this date.

Individual examples

As prm296 says there are a number of Mexican toponyms etc which use the historical "x" in place of "j"; and words which are pronounced differently in Latin America vs Spain and whose orthographies reflect this (e.g. béisbol/beisbol etc, as well as a number with orthographies not recognised by the RAE e.g. cónyuge/cónyugue).

There is also the occasional word in seseo or yeísmo regions that has taken on a homophonic alternative spelling:

Palabra Alt
membresía membrecía (Mexico, Colombia, Peru)
jericalla jericaya (Mexico)

As well as replacing hi → y, hu → gü, b/v → g, ñ → ni, ll → li:

Palabra Alt
hierra yerra (Argentina, Bolivia, Uruguay)
huero güero (Mexico)
buey güey (Paraguay)
vomitar gomitar (Costa Rica, Perú, Bolivia, México, Puerto Rico, El Salvador, Colombia, Chile (rural))
pergeño pergenio (Nicaragua, Chile, Uruguay)
buganvilla buganvilia (México, Guatemala, Honduras)
  • I don't think yerba/hierba is a good example. At least in Argentina, where there is a brand that sells "yerba con hierbas". The word "yerba" is exclusively used to mean "yerba mate", while "hierba" is literally "herb". Commented Feb 16, 2019 at 21:11
  • @martinargerami ah I've misunderstood then, I'll replace the example with hierra/yerra.
    – jacobo
    Commented Feb 16, 2019 at 23:50
  • I think you are mixing words there. "Hierra" is about iron (and horses!), is the first person singular of "herrar". "Yerro" (noun) means "mistake", but the verb is "errar". Commented Feb 17, 2019 at 0:09
  • 1
    @martinargerami yerra, not yerro :)
    – jacobo
    Commented Feb 17, 2019 at 0:17

Some may say that there are not, however there are two special cases where there are spelling differences:

  • Vídeo (Spain) | Video (Latin America). This one is due to the differences in pronunciation. Spaniards tend to stress the first syllable (VÍ-DE-O), while Latin Americans stress the second syllable (VI-DÉ-O). Both spellings are recognized by the RAE.
    • As ukemi points out, some other differences derived from different pronunciation are: buganvilla / buganvilia; béisbol/beisbol; vomitar/gomitar; hierba/yerba; jericalla/jericaya
  • Méjico (Spain and Latin America) | México (Mexico). Now, the RAE recommends the use of x in words like México, and mexicano. However, not so long ago, the use of j was pretty standard everywhere but in Mexico when spelling those words (and, as I understad, still common in some regions of Spain).
    • Similar to the last one, in Mexico there are a lot of toponyms where the use of x and j still varies from place to place. Oaxaca/Oajaca; Texas/Tejas; Jalapa/Xalapa; Xalcomulco/Jalcomulco; Xilotepec/Jilotepec.
    • Back in 1815, the RAE stated that all /j/ sounds must be written with a j instead of an x. For example: Quixote -> Quijote. However, in Mexico (back then, in the middle of the Independence War) this rule was never fully applied. This is why there's that particular spelling drift.

I know that it's not your exact question, but please consider that the dialectic drift in Spanish is heavily marked in other features of the language (like semantics, use of pronouns, verb conjugation, pronunciation, use of foreign words), and not so much in spelling.

  • 2
    I don't agree that video is a spelling difference. There is a different pronunciation that obligates a different spelling. nadás isn't just the Argentinian spelling of nadas, it's pronounced differently and this spelled differently because the orthographic rules dictate it. Commented Feb 16, 2019 at 17:39
  • 3
    @guifa I think this raises the question of what counts as a different 'word' in this context. There's something of a scale: different pronunciation, same spelling (zebra seseo vs non-seseo) > same pronunciation, different spelling (hierba, yerba) > different pronunciation, different spelling (vídeo, video) > unrelated etymologies, same concept (coche, auto)
    – jacobo
    Commented Feb 16, 2019 at 18:00
  • 1
    @guifa I would argue that "pronunciation induced differences" are indeed valid spelling differences worth pointing out and studying as such. Vídeo/video is a similar case to óptimo/ótimo in Portuguese (cited by OP). Irregular pronunciation forced a spelling difference in Brazil (ótimo).
    – prm296
    Commented Feb 16, 2019 at 18:28
  • 1
    Right, a true spelling difference is one that exists independent of word pronunciation. I don't think we'd say that Maria and Marie and Mary are "just spelling differences" in English: they are three separate names, even if they share a identical common origin. Méjico/México is a true spelling difference. Garage/garaje is too. Any word based on a difference between b/v, g/j, x/j would be as well as the different spelling induces no changes of phonemes, which does happen in the case of vídeo/video, aluminum/aluminium, óptimo/ótimo, etc. Commented Feb 16, 2019 at 18:39

Apart from a few words (see other posters) the spelling is identical, whereever you are. In general, you won't be able to determine the origin of a speaker by his spelling - but by the choice of words.

I think that Argentina is the only place, where you intentionally spell differently. There I could see plenty of billboards with a spelling that would be considered incorrect anywhere else. Apparently, in Argentina the root of a verb doesn't change in the imperative or other forms as it would elsewhere, e.g., "probalo" instead of "pruebalo".

  • 2
    In Argentina they use different verb forms, but the rules for accents are identical. The command for "buy" is "comprá" (com-PRA) instead of "compra" (COM-pra), and so the addition of an object results in compralo (com-PRA-lo) rather than cómpralo (COM-pra-lo). The accent rules are the same: no accent if penultimate stress and ends in vowel/n/s, or if final stress and ends in anything else, written accent otherwise on the stressed syllable. Commented Feb 18, 2019 at 21:10
  • Although it is not exactly a spelling variant, I think the answer is useful. The first time I saw mobile phone company billboard where they wrote llamá instead of llama I was still surprised even though I was fully aware of the verb forms used in Argentina.
    – Krauss
    Commented Dec 24, 2020 at 10:38

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.