I'm simultaneously reading "The Grapes of Wrath" in English and Spanish ("Las Uvas de la Ira").

I came acorss this translation for "film of dust":

"pelicula de polvo."

Is this accurate? I know that "film" can mean "movie" in English, but is it also true of Spanish?

  • film of dust is pretty meaningless like that on its own. Why don't you post the whole sentence, huh?
    – Lambie
    Oct 9, 2023 at 14:32

5 Answers 5


Yes it is. It means both movie and coating.

  • Vamos a ver una película - Let's watch a movie.
  • a film of dust is probably una pélicula de polvo que cubre algo...
    – Lambie
    Oct 9, 2023 at 14:33

The phrase which you are looking for, "film of dust," can use both "película" AND "capa," the latter being the better choice. It refers to a light coating of dust on something (remember that The Grapes of Wrath is set during the Dust Bowl).

Thus, one rendering in Spanish of "film of dust" would be "una capa de polvo." Todo estaba cubierto por una ligera capa de polvo.

Remember to consider the context of the word/phrase, then cross-reference your rendition in the other language to be sure.

  • That's the reason for my question - it didn't seem to make sense to me. I know exactly what the original sentence means (I know what a film of dust is; my maternal grandparents lived in the Dust Bowl area and era). My question is, is that a correct translation? Is "pelicula" really a valid translation of the word "film" in this case? Your example ("una capa de polvo") makes a lot more sense. Jun 30, 2014 at 16:21
  • 4
    Película is also a correct translation for coating read def 1 y 2 lema.rae.es/drae/?val=pelicula, in this case the most used is capa but pelicula is perfectly a valid choice. Jun 30, 2014 at 16:50
  • 1
    Thank you, Emilio. I fell for my own trap and did not cross-reference and have edited my previous posting. Yes, "capa" is the best choice in this case. Would "película" more often be used with regard to a "liquid film," such as a "film of oil on the surface"? Una película de aceite sobre la superficie. Jun 30, 2014 at 22:12
  • película también es muy usada para referirse a metales, pero ya el uso depende más de la zona o país, esto varía grandamente depende del país. Jul 1, 2014 at 2:51


In English, the word "film" may mean a thin layer covering a surface (such as "a film or dust") or movie.

Similarly, in Spanish, the word "pelicula" may mean a thin layer covering a surface (as in "una película de polvo") or movie.

  • +1 In English, the word "film" may mean a thin layer covering a surface (such as "a film or dust") or movie. I found it weird no one else mentioned it. The English language itself uses the same word to convey both meanings.
    – Ramon Melo
    Jan 26, 2017 at 13:49
  • @Ramon Melo Exactly. The reason movies are called films is because they are made by a light coat (a film) of silver emulsions on celluloid.
    – roetnig
    Jan 26, 2017 at 16:34

The Spanish word 'película' means any thin coating or thin layer.

So, as in English a celluloid film is the transparent layer used to record a movie (in its original form), in Spanish the word 'película' was used for "movie" by metonymy from "film".

But the original meaning "film" is in perfect usage, like in this 'película de polvo'. See also 'película de jabón'.


I checked three online translating sites, and it seems babylon.com could be the most useful:

http://www.translate.com/ says "movie"

bing translator gives "feminine film; movie; ..."

http://translation.babylon.com/spanish/to-english/pelicula/ says: film, thin coating, thin layer; membrane; thin flexible material coated with light sensitive emulsion (Photography); motion picture, movie

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.