I noticed that "rojo" in Spanish means "red" in all circumstances, and the "tinto" means "red" for wine and "dyed" for other uses.

My questions are:

  1. What is the origin of these two distinct words? Did Latin have a more practical reason for having two different words that represent the same meaning?

  2. Why hasn't modern Spanish reformed this redundancy, just using "vino rojo" everywhere? Most other aspects of Spanish vocabulary seem to be completely coherent.

A good example is the sentence "Para el vino tinto, las uvas se fermentan con la piel.", which could have been written as "Para el vino rojo, las uvas se fermentan con la piel.".

  • 3
    Redundancy does not mean synonyms. Redundancy occurs in writing, not single words that are synonymous. Don't you have synonyms in your language?
    – Lambie
    Commented Aug 21, 2022 at 22:29

3 Answers 3


The reason may be that the color of “vino tinto” is not red. It may have many tones of brown, red, purple… that can’t hardly be described together as “rojo”.


On the other hand, the color of “vino blanco” is not white… Nice inconsistencies of natural languages.


The word “tinto” originates from the Latin word “tinctus” which means “dyed”, “stained” or “tinted”. The answer also relates to how red wine is made; the skins of red grapes tint the white must until it turns into a red colour, therefore it is a “tinted”, dark-coloured wine rather than just a “red” wine. If you look up the word “tinto” in the Royal Spanish Academy’s Dictionary “Real Academia Española” you will see that the definition of “tinto” is: “El de color muy oscuro” – “Of a very dark color”.

Source vivalanguageservices.co.uk

There is no reference to the red wine name in Spanish regarding its color but to the ability of the uva tinta (tinta grape) to dye. In any case, if the Spanish language called the dark wine by its color, it would be black wine, as it's called in Catalan: vi negre.

On the contrary, there are many color references that come from the tinto wine color, such as wine color, borravino, or from the place of origin, bordó.

Anyway, a couple of things to consider:

It is always good to question the true origin of the word, if the original name had been red wine, which is not the case, it would be good to ask why Spanish does not use the same term.

On the other side, in reference to colors, not all languages have the same entries: an Eskimo has several terms for white and blue while a Saharawi does not, only has terms for ocher, orange, and sand colors. Latin languages, especially Italian, Spanish and Portuguese have many terms to define colors as a result of aesthetics, basically for hair dye. Azabache, rubio, ceniza, caoba, castaño, words that in some cases English only translates into a single term. As an example, the three names mentioned in reference to wine: wine color, bordó or borravino, in English are translated as burgundy.


La cuestión en sí no deja de ser un accidente, curiosidad o mera circunstancia a través de su dilatada historia vinícola.

  • Existen varias narraciones a este respecto, así para algunos la palabra "tinctus" del latín con el significado de "teñido", procede del verbo "tingere" para designar al tinte por inmersión, siendo algunos componentes de la uva, los "antocianos", los responsables de colorear el vino, así al hablar de "vino tinto" se esta hablando de "vino teñido", gracias a esos componentes.

  • Otra historia popular cuenta que en el S. XVII se utilizaba un procedimiento para colorear el vino blanco, denominado "clarete" (moda importada desde Inglaterra, que consistía en ‘colorear’ el vino blanco, ‘tiñéndolo’ con tinto), ya que el "vino rojo " era más costoso de producir, así este "vino teñido" paso a denominarse "vino tinto" por su capacidad de teñir. Después de aquella moda el "vino rojo" continuó elaborándose de forma tradicional, es decir, "sin tintar", pero en España aún permaneció con el nombre de "tinto".

En definitiva sea por una razón u otra la palabra "tinto" hace referencia de manera especial a la capacidad que tiene ese color "rojo obscuro" de teñir, así llamamos "tintorero" al que tiñe o da los tintes y "vino tinto", "vinum intense rubrum", al vino de color obscuro, casi negro, pues "vino nero y vino rosso" (negro y rojo) lo denominan en Italia.

The question itself is still an accident, curiosity or mere circumstance through its long wine history.

  • There are several narratives in this regard, so for some the word "tinctus" from Latin with the meaning of "dyed", comes from the verb "tingere" to designate the dye by immersion, being some components of the grape, the "anthocyanins", those responsible for coloring the wine, so when talking about "red wine" we are talking about "tinted wine", thanks to these components.

  • Another popular story tells that in the 17th century a procedure was used to color white wine, called "claret" (fashion imported from England, which consisted of 'coloring' white wine, 'tinting' it with red), since the "red wine" was more expensive to produce, so this "dyed wine" came to be called "vino tinto" because of its ability to dye. After that trend, "tinted wine" continued to be produced in the traditional way, that is, "without dyeing", but in Spain it still remained under the name "tinto".

In short, whether for one reason or another, the word "red" refers in a special way to the ability of that "dark red" color to dye, that is how we call " tintorero/dyer" the one who dyes or gives the dyes and "vino tinto", "vinum intense rubrum", a dark colored wine, almost black, as "vino nero and vino rosso" (black and red) call it in Italy.

Para ampliar información / For more information :

  • La razón por la que decimos vino ‘tinto’ y no ‘rojo’




  • ¿Por qué en España se llama vino ‘tinto’ mientras en otros países del mundo lo llaman ‘rojo’?


  • You should run your English version though a corrector. claret was never white wine. It was light-coloured, almost rosé.
    – Lambie
    Commented Aug 21, 2022 at 22:25
  • Gracias por el apunte, aunque pensé que estaba claro, (fashion imported from England, which consisted of coloring white wine, 'tinting' it with red).
    – Diego
    Commented Aug 22, 2022 at 7:42

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