Is there any difference in meaning between "estante", "repisa" and "balda", when they mean "shelf" (an horizontal surface on which you put objects) ?

I had never heard "balda" before, but I have just heard it in the TV series "Vis a Vis", which takes place in Spain. Is that word used exclusively in that country?

  • It should be noted that repisa has several related meanings: dle.rae.es/repisa?m=form (estante has even more meanings but they are unrelated). I would say repisa is often used for other kind of shelf-like surfaces - like an elongated niche in some old houses that can be used as a shelf. The use of "repisa rocosa" (a geological or topographical feature) is a natural extension of the meaning of repisa that wouldn't work with estante.
    – Pere
    May 13, 2020 at 19:34

1 Answer 1


According to the DRAE:

5. m. Cada una de las tablas dispuestas horizontalmente en un mueble o en la pared para colocar objetos sobre ellas.

2. f. Estante o placa de madera, cristal u otro material, colocados horizontalmente contra la pared para servir de soporte a algo.


As you have pointed everyone of them matches the definition of shelf provided by the Oxford Dictionary

A flat length of wood or rigid material, attached to a wall or forming part of a piece of furniture, that provides a surface for the storage or display of objects.

But notice that the definition of repisa doesn't mention it as part of a piece of furniture. It usually refers to a shelf directly attached to the wall, la pared. I've never heard that word mentioned as part of a bookshelf (estantería). I tend to identify a repisa also for being made of something different from wood like plaster (escayola) or stone (piedra) but I can't not generalize such distinction to all Spanish speakers.

I'm from Spain so I can not answer the second part of your question. Balda is a common word here, there's nothing strange about it being mentioned in a TV series.

  • 2
    Balda is not used in Argentina, or at least I've never heard it. May 13, 2020 at 16:08
  • Could Mexicans and Colombians confirm that "balda" is not usual in their countries either? I suspect this word is not used in Latin America. May 14, 2020 at 4:47

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.