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What’s the difference between “ático”, “desván”, and “entretecho”? As far as I have discovered, they all translate into the English word, “attic”. So, are they really just synonyms? Or are there any subtle differences?

Even if they are exactly the same thing, are there any regional preferences around their usage? What’s the preferred word in your country or region?

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Let's look at the definitions from the RAE dictionary:

ático

  1. m. Último piso de un edificio, generalmente retranqueado y del que forma parte, a veces, una azotea.

  2. m. Arq. Último piso de un edificio, más bajo de techo que los inferiores, que se construye para encubrir el arranque de las techumbres y a veces por ornato.

  3. m. Arq. Cuerpo que se coloca por ornato sobre la cornisa de un edificio.

desván

  1. m. Parte más alta de la casa, inmediatamente debajo del tejado, que suele destinarse a guardar objetos inútiles o en desuso.

entretecho

  1. m. Bol., Chile, Col. y Nic. Desván, sobrado.

zarzo.

  1. m. Col. desván.

According to these definitions the ático is the top floor and desván the place to store things under between the roof and the ceiling, while entretecho and zarzo are just synonyms to desván. For me they are mostly the same but if it is habitable I would just ático, while if it is mostly used for storage I would use zarzo or desván.

  • Thanks for the detailed answer, Carlos! So, can one use ático for just the top floor of a building too even if it’s not really an attic strictly speaking? Something like a penthouse? – TheLearner Oct 17 '13 at 5:15
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    I would not use ático for a penthouse, rather for an habitable attic. – Carlos Eugenio Thompson Pinzón Oct 17 '13 at 5:30

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