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All three seem to mean fog or mist. Is there any regional difference in usage? Or do they actually stand for slightly different things?

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I think that their difference is mainly visibility. If you can see something (fairly well) it might be neblina. If you can't see much is niebla. I don't know if this "threshold" for visibility is subjective or not, but I'm positive that the niebla is "thicker" than the neblina, allowing you to see less. Most famous example I can think of is "La niebla de Londres" (is there a difference in English between mist and fog?)

Then, the bruma is when those water drops that form the mist are over or near the sea.

I don't know if there are any regional difference in usage, but they might depend on wether that place is close or not to the sea or ocean (using bruma more often than the other, or instead of them).

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  • 1
    DRAE says about bruma "Niebla, y especialmente la que se forma sobre el mar." – Lucas Oct 2 '14 at 7:25
  • This agrees completely with RAE. Niebla is a very low cloud that affects visibility and it becomes neblina when it is low density since neblina is the diminutive of niebla. – DGaleano Dec 20 '16 at 20:26
  • In English fog is thicker than mist. – mdewey Dec 20 '16 at 22:08
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According to the Wikipedia entry for neblina the difference is in the visibility and the size of droplets. Niebla has visibility less than 1 km, nieblina 1 to 10 km. The relative humidity is between 90 to 100 and 80 to 90 respectively. The English equivalents are fog and mist. Calima and Bruma involve solid particles with visibility > 2km and < 2 km respectively. I think the English equivalent is haze although severe cases are called smog.

Edited in response to @Gorpik's comment below

There is an international definition of fog and mist available from the World Meteorological Organization web-site here which is what the Wikipedia entry is using.

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  • Great discovery! I did not know such vocabulary was regulated that much. – fedorqui 'SO stop harming' Dec 21 '16 at 9:55
  • Nice find, but that Wikipedia table is not referenced and offers some dubious data (according to it, visibility with llovizna is less than with lluvia, and the article on bruma itself claims that it involves water, not solid particles as calima). – Gorpik Dec 21 '16 at 11:16
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    @Gorpik it seems that fog versus mist is an international definition as the English entry for fog has a reference to a book which in turn cites the World Meteorological Office. – mdewey Dec 21 '16 at 12:03
  • Yep, it looks like that one is generally accepted. – Gorpik Dec 21 '16 at 18:15
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I'm not sure if it is the same in all Mexico but here we just say "niebla" or "neblina", no difference at all, and no one says "bruma".

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  • Which part of Mexico would that be if you don't mind telling? – TheLearner Oct 2 '14 at 5:21
  • 1
    South of Veracruz. – Jaime Oct 2 '14 at 18:56

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