I don't really speak Spanish, but I do know a few words and phrases here and there, and enjoy furthering what little knowledge I have. So, today I saw, in a Swedish newspaper, a reference to plantains (we call them "cooking bananas" over here), as being called plátanos in Spanish.

This seemed wrong to me, as from what little experience I have, plátano is the banana (the sweet kind), and banana refers to the plantain. That's what I found when visiting Spain a few years ago, and that is what my girlfriend, who learned Spanish from Chileans, told me.

So, am I right in guessing that this is all a big jumble, and that there is no right or wrong, in the global sense?

  • 1
    In Spain, the word "plátano" is used only to refer to "el plátano de Canarias", for any other origins the noun "banana" is used. In Hispanoamerica the use is different, as Envite explains in his answer.
    – Nico
    Commented May 7, 2014 at 11:52
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    en Cuba es muy dificil escuchar banana, se usa platano acompañado del tipo, por ejemplo platano fruta, platano macho, platano manzano, etc. en Colombia le dicen platano al que se usa para freir o cocinar, y al que se come como fruta le dicen banano o banana Commented May 7, 2014 at 17:32
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    @edivimo: Related anecdote: While traveling with my wife through the U.S. years ago, we stopped for lunch at a Mexican restaurant. Being from Costa Rica, we chatted up the waiter, who was a Mexican immigrant. Near the end of the meal, my wife, "suffering" from several weeks away from home, asked the waiter if he could convince the cook to prepare a plátano frito to satisfy a craving. He gave us the funniest look, then disappeared into the kitchen. A few minutes later, he emerged carrying a tray with a banana fried in oil. We all had a great laugh together after sorting out the confusion.
    – user2969
    Commented May 11, 2014 at 19:45
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    In Colombia, plátano is a plantain, the non-sweet kind, and banana the other. It's just different in different places I reckon.
    – khaverim
    Commented May 12, 2014 at 7:41
  • 1
    In Guatemala we call platano to the one you have to fry and banano to the one you eat raw.
    – user11741
    Commented Jan 19, 2016 at 9:56

6 Answers 6


Usage of the words "plátano" and "banana" depends slightly on the zones.

We can think that the most used usage is as follows:

"Plátano" is the name for a fruit coming from Musa genre plants, that can be eaten raw. Known as a source of potassium, uses to be sweet.

"Banana" is the name for a fruit coming also from Musa genre plants, that must be fried in order to be edible.

"Banano" and "Cambur" are regional synonyms for "Plátano".

E.g. Canary Islands banana (raw edible) is exported as "Plátano de Canarias".

However, in some places the names are inverted! Which means Platano has to be fried and Banano can be eaten raw. cf. http://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Musa_%C3%97_paradisiaca and the comment from @Joze below.

  • 4
    At least in Spain, plátanos and bananas are both raw edible, but plátanos are smaller but sweeter. Bananas are often considered as a cheaper alternative to plátanos.
    – rafabayona
    Commented May 8, 2014 at 9:54
  • @rafabayona That usage of 'bananas' in mainland spain comes from the name used in banana-exporting countries, and in order to separate them from Canary Islands 'plátanos'. But there is a different fruit, not usually seen in Spain, which is not raw edible.
    – Envite
    Commented May 8, 2014 at 10:24
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    I think I know what you mean. That kind of plátanos are called «plátanos macho»
    – rafabayona
    Commented May 8, 2014 at 10:30
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    In my experience, the usage in Spain is exactly as @rafabayona says in his comments.
    – Gorpik
    Commented May 8, 2014 at 13:52
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    Remember to add to your answer that it is inverted for the most part of central and south america. As the answer of edivimo says. Plátano has to be fried in order to be eaten and Banano can be eaten raw. This is true for Panama, Costa Rica, Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador, Peru, Honduras... These are not small territories or populations.
    – Jose Luis
    Commented May 13, 2014 at 10:35

enter image description here

Form left to right as we call them in Colombia:

  1. Plátano maduro: Can be eaten raw but is usually cooked to make tajadas. The tajadas are usually cut long and after fried they look dark red/orange and are sweet.
  2. Plátano verde: It is the same as the previous but not ripe. It has to be cooked/fried. It is usually cross cut, fried and then flattened to make patacones that are usually the fish side dish. This also can be made very big fro the whole plátano and used as a base for other things like guacamole and all kinds of stuff and they are called patacones con... (todo)
  3. Banano: This is one of the main exports of the country. It is always used when ripe and is eaten raw. Good source of potassium.
  4. Guineo: It is used ripe but mostly green. It has to be cooked but is mainly used on boiled meals like soups or beans. It is used diced.
  5. Plátano colicero: same as the Guineo
  6. _Murrapo or "banano bocadillo": It is a very small (10 cm) kind of banana. It is very sweet and it is eaten raw.

The cooked foods mention above look like these:

Patacones de plátano verde:
Patacones enter image description here
Tajadas de plátano maduro:
enter image description here

  • 2
    Great explanation. I loved the images. Commented Nov 20, 2017 at 15:45
  • @DGaleano an Bogotá la número 6 le decimos "banano bocadillo", en qué parte de Colombia le dicen "Murrapo"?, Excelente las imagenes, aclaran mucho
    – alvalongo
    Commented Oct 23, 2018 at 14:46
  • @alvalongo Murrapo le decimos los paisas. Gracias por el aporte. No se quien rechazó tu edición. Lo incluyo.
    – DGaleano
    Commented Oct 25, 2018 at 12:07
  • @DGaleano no me había enterado del rechazo; a la descripción del "Plátano maduro" sería bueno aclarar que la consistencia es suave y que entre más negra la cáscara es más suave y mejor para hacer "tajadas" (tal vez se podría traducir como "slices"?)
    – alvalongo
    Commented Oct 26, 2018 at 14:51

Agronomist here from Costa Rica. We call plátano to the fruit that you need to cook. The cooking is necessary because this fruit had starch, but when is mature some of that starch turns to sugar, so is still sweet, but starchy, so you still can eat it raw. We call banano the fruit you always eat raw, because all the starch is converted in sugar when matures. If you cook a banano in hot water or fried you make a caramel mess.

Ecuador, Costa Rica and Colombia are the 3 world main exporters of the sweet raw fruit, and in the three countries is called banano. Most of the production of plátano is for the local market and rarely is exported.

Also, the french called banano: banane dessert and to plátano: banane plantain, called only plantain in french speaking African countries (http://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Banane_plantain). In portuguese, the sweet is banana, and the starchy is banana-pão or banana-da-terra (http://pt.wikipedia.org/wiki/Banana).

So, the correct designation is banano the sweet, and plátano the starchy in the tropical hispanic countries. México, España, Chile and other non-tropical hispanic countries only use the word plátano for the banano because usually they don't know the starchy variety, that isn't exported.


In Panama, "guineo" is used for the fruit you eat raw and "plátano" for the one you have to cook. Interestingly, the fruit you need to cook is broken into two categories depending on whether it's ripe or not. The green plantain is sliced cross-wise, the pieces are fried, then removed and flattened and fried again. Those are called "patacones" ("tostones" in Puerto Rico).Ripe plantains are sliced length-wise and fried. Those are called "tajadas." You don't cut green ones length-wise and you don't cut ripe ones cross-wise.


The expression "cambur" is used in Venezuela for the sweat banana which you can eat raw. "Plátano" is in Venezuela for frying and cooking, but in some other countries (México and some Central American countries) the expression "Plátano macho" is for the one you cannot eat raw and simply the word "Plátano" is for the one which is sweat and you eat it raw.

In El Salvador they call the sweat banana "guineo" and plátano is the one for cooking or frying.

  • I disagree with the part about the Central American countries, here banano is the raw-sweet fruit. You can verify that with google searches of "Honduras banano" or "Guatemala banano" and in the news and in exporter companies use the word banano and in a few caribeans countries use guineo. The weirdest is from the venezuelans with cambur.
    – edivimo
    Commented May 13, 2014 at 14:06

I am from Costa Rica, and there we call it 4 things:

  • Plátano - does not taste good raw, must be cooked
  • Banano - Long thinner - Fruity eat it raw
  • Banana - little FAT ones - fruity eat them raw

All of them fall into the guineos category, thus we can call them guineos as well, and ALL of them can be fried.

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