The problem with any language is the metaphors rarely translate. I am seeking the translation for "headache" specifically used in problem solving.

In English when we say "the headache is..." we mean "la parte mas dificil del problema está ...", without needing to use all those words.

What is the Latin Spanish for "headache", "el problema grande", maybe?

@mdewey is a good response, thanks. Spanish is using the same metaphor but the emotion is different. What we mean is "it's painful or irritating", quebradero the direct translate has emotional/mood connotations, we might use the word "heartache" or "depressing" (informally). In my context it's informal business English. If this is the answer then I'll skip the metaphor in future because it will be misunderstood.

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    I think headache can also convey some emotional meaning. According to Cambridge dictionary, a headache is "something that causes you great difficulty and worry", just like quebradero de cabeza. In fact, the example given by Cambridge to illustrate the word is "Finding a babysitter for Saturday evening will be a major headache", which can be directly translated as "Encontrar una canguro un sábado por la noche va a ser un auténtico quebradero de cabeza". If your context is informal I don't think it will be misunderstood.
    – Charlie
    Commented Aug 16, 2023 at 8:28
  • @Charlie But do you think that "quebradero de cabeza" is colloquial? I have only found it in writting. Probably a translation from that headache. It's a good translation in any case.
    – RubioRic
    Commented Aug 16, 2023 at 17:41
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    @RubioRic no, in fact I don't think it's colloquial, it's found often in literature, but there are some contexts I don't think I would use it in (examples: scientific papers or user manuals, maybe).
    – Charlie
    Commented Aug 17, 2023 at 6:45
  • @Charlie I just wanted to make sure that OP is aware of that point. Thanks for answering :-)
    – RubioRic
    Commented Aug 17, 2023 at 6:58

4 Answers 4


One rather direct option would be quebradero de cabeza. See the entry for quebradero in the dictionary.

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    Another possibility is rompecabezas. This doesn't translate headache. it refers to a puzzle. If the essence of the question is that it is a puzzle, then rompecabezas might do. Commented Aug 16, 2023 at 10:17
  • @WalterMitty do you want to post that as an answer? If not then, since comments may disappear, may I have your permission to edit it into my answer (properly credited of course)?
    – mdewey
    Commented Aug 16, 2023 at 13:17

Está difícil captar el matiz. Creo que hay que introducir una distinción fundamental. ‘Problema’ y ‘algo que es malo’ no necesariamente son sinónimos. Como bien estás intuyendo en tu pregunta, se pueden identificar por lo menos dos situaciones diferentes:

  • Si, en el transcurso de un estudio, se identifica un problema como el fundamental, el cual lo hace aún más interesante entonces se puede usar ‘el quid de la cuestión’. Ejemplo: La justicia electoral proscribió la participación de un partido nazi para la próxima campaña. Pero, al hacer esto, se está obviando el auténtico quid de la cuestión: que es ella misma quien no está aplicando los principios de la democracia.

  • Si, por el contrario, ‘el problema’ hace al tópico en cuestión algo menos interesante, formalmente se dice ‘es tedioso’. Pero lo más jergoso en la Argentina es ‘es una paja’ o ‘me da paja’. Ejemplo: Me encanta el cálculo multivariable y ver todos los teoremas que se pueden obtener. Pero el tener que ponerme a resolver los ejercicios de integrales múltiples es tedioso/es una paja/me da paja.

Es todo lo que se me ocurre. Si tuviese más tiempo quizá se me ocurra alguna otra expresión que se use en algún otro contexto específico. Posdata: Los ejemplos no son un ‘invento’ mío, ¡están basados en hechos reales!

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    Solo por completitud, ¿en qué país o región se usa la expresión "me da paja"? No es una crítica, es para que añadas esa información. Yo soy de Málaga (España) y no me resulta conocida.
    – RubioRic
    Commented Aug 16, 2023 at 13:51

Taking into account what you added: "it's painful or irritating". I think that the most common way of saying that in Spain is: coñazo.

According to the DLE


  1. m. malson. Persona o cosa latosa, insoportable.

If you say

La parte más coñazo del problema es ...

it can convey that such part of the problem is the most difficult to resolve, the most tedious, ... or whatever that it's causing you the headache. The thing is that such part is causing you irritation.

As you can see it is considered vulgar ("malson.", above) maybe you should not use it in official writings but for sure you can use it among friends or family without any problem. They would not even notice it.


Speaking of emotions related to a tedious, painful, or irritating job or part of it, the most used informal word is "agobie": La parte más agobiante del problema está en..."


  • La parte más pesada del problema está en...
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    "La parte más agobiante del problema está en..." actually that might work it's a bit long but I think it conveys the sentiment. Thank you @Danielillo ...I need to check... in computer coding (codificación) "agobie" may be an insult used by experienced coders to junior coders. .. "¿Te sientes agobiar?" would be insult in coding.
    – M__
    Commented Aug 15, 2023 at 18:45
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    @M__ What? I'm a seasoned programmer and I'm not aware of that. "Agobie" is not even a noun nor an adjective. It's a verb tense. Maybe you mean "agobiante" (that can cause agobio) but that's not an insult. Can be taken as that depending on the tone and the context. And can be applied in any relation between humans. It's not a tech thing
    – RubioRic
    Commented Aug 16, 2023 at 17:31
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    For sure junior programmers can irritate you if they are continuosly asking. Te pueden agobiar. Pueden ser agobiantes. But so can do your mother, your girlfriend, whoever ... some times and depending on many factors
    – RubioRic
    Commented Aug 16, 2023 at 17:37
  • When there is a lot of code, junior programmers sometimes feel "ahogarse", I thought it was the same as "agobiar". Cuando hay mucho código, un codificador joven puede sentirse agobiante o ahogado.
    – M__
    Commented Aug 16, 2023 at 20:02

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