our words make worlds

A new word in Spanish

In the most recent edition (2014) of the Diccionario de la lengua española (DRAE), published by the Asociación de Academias de la Lengua Española and regarded as the official dictionary of Spanish across the Spanish-speaking world, the following new words appeared:


tuit. (Del ingl. tweet). m. Mensaje digital que se envía a través de la red social Twitter® y que no puede rebasar un número limitado de caracteres.

tuitear. intr. 1. Comunicarse por medio de tuits. tr. 2. Enviar algo por medio de un tuit.

tuiteo. m. Acción y efecto de tuitear.

tuitero , ra. adj. 1. Perteneciente o relativo al tuit o al tuiteo. m. y f. 2. Persona que tuitea.


As the DRAE notes, tuit is a straightforward borrowing of the English word tweet, with its spelling adapted to suit Spanish.  Spanish needed a word for the notion of ‘tweet’ because of the universal use of Twitter as a social medium, and in itself such a borrowing is not particularly remarkable. But it raises some interesting questions.

Q. How many other Spanish words can you think of that end in -t?

A. Spanish has long resisted having a final -t, -p, or -c in its words, although the possibility has always been there in words taken from other languages (e.g. déficit, a words borrowed from Latin; Josep, a Catalan name; and Túpac, a name very familiar in the history of Latin America as that of an 18th-century revolutionary leader who inspired many subsequent revolutionary movements).

Q. Why does tuit belong to the masculine gender?

A. Most new words do, unless there is any reason to make them feminine (an example is élite, borrowed from French, and also feminine in French).

Q. What is the plural of tuit?

A. The word is too new to appear in the standard dictionaries and grammars: neither the Nueva gramática de la lengua española nor the Diccionario panhispánico de dudas  tell us. But #RAEConsultas declared (appropriately, via Twitter) that the plural is tuits, and indeed that is what is generally used across the internet. However, this goes against the normal Spanish way of making plurals, where a word ending in a consonant adds -es rather than -s (pared/paredes, papel/papeles).

Q. Not only has tuit been borrowed, but tuitear, tuiteo and tuitero. What are the equivalents of these in English?

A. Tuitear = to tweet (notice how many verbs in Spanish which are based on English nouns are formed by adding -ear: other examples are formatear, escanear); tuiteo = tweeting; tuitero = tweeter. But this last word is described as an adjective, and indeed it can be qualified just like an adjective, as you can see in the headline below:

Un país muy tuitero

How would you translate this into English? As an adjective, tuitero actually means ‘prone to tweeting, keen on tweeting’, rather like niñero means ‘fond of children’ or cafetero means ‘fond of coffee’. ‘Spain, a country which tweets a lot’? What this shows us is that the simple borrowing from English has become fully embedded in the structure of Spanish and has an independent life of its own in the language.