Politics, Places and Concepts Involving the Word “Country”
One of the more common uses of the word country, and perhaps the one that first comes to mind for English speakers when they think of country, is in the geo-political sense. The most generic Spanish word for this concept is país. The word nación tends to be used when the notion of country takes on a connotation of political organization.
España es un país muy montañoso (Spain is a very mountainous country).
¿De cuál país vino Ud.? (What country are you from?)
Ésta es una nación de leyes (This is a country of laws).
When one is speaking of one’s country in a patriotic sense, the word to use is patria. It is found in such expressions as fiestas patrias, which means national holidays, because such holidays (generally known as días festivos) create a sense of cultural unity via the myths they perpetuate and culturally defining events they recall. The word patria has the same feel in Spanish as homeland or fatherland has in English. Unfortunately, fatherland was tainted by Nazi propaganda and so the English word isn’t used as much anymore.
Muchos han muerto por su patria (Many have died for their country).
When speaking of country as the opposite of city, then campo is used. By the way, it is also a common surname in the Spanish-speaking world.
Nos mudamos al campo para evitar los ruidos y el crimen de la ciudad (We moved to the country to avoid the noise and crime of the city).
¿Has visto al Sr. Campo? (Have you seen Mr. Campo?)
In passing, the Mexican equivalent of country-western music is called música ranchera. A rancho is a farm, of course.
When one is speaking of the earth, dirt, soil – or even the name of the planet we live on, then tierra is used. When it refers to the name of the planet, it is capitalized, as are the names of the other planets. It can also be used figuratively or poetically to speak of one’s roots or place of origin.
Es malo para la tierra usar muchos químicos (It’s bad for the earth/soil/dirt to use a lot of chemicals).
Después de la Tierra, Marte parece ser un planeta que pueda sostener la vida (After the Earth, Mars seems to be a planet that might sustain life).
Esta tierra es donde nací y donde he de morir (This land is where I was born and where I will die).
When speaking of a parcel of land, the terrain or its contours, the word terreno is used.
As a verb, as in to land an airplane, the word to use is aterrizar.
- Author’s more than 20 years experience teaching and translating Spanish.
This post is part of the series: Spanish Usage
The articles in this series deal with various questions about the right choice of word or phrase when English may have one or two structures but Spanish has more. They often deal with prepositional issues.
- Spanish Usage Questions: “Above”
- Using “Actual” and “Actually” in Spanish
- A Problem Preposition: The Ways “About” is Expressed in Spanish
- The Many Spanish Faces of the English Verb “to Agree”
- Spanish Usage Questions: Ways to say “Again”
- Expressing the Many Meanings of After
- Spanish Usage Questions: How to Say “Ahead”
- Spanish Usage Questions: “Anyone” and “Anybody”
- Using “Anyway…” in Spanish
- Let’s Learn About How to Talk About Appointments & Dating
- What Do You Use for “Around” in Spanish
- The Spanish Verbs Meaning “to Ask” are Many!
- Beware of False Cognates! How to Express “Attend,” “Assist,” and “Help”
- Are You “Cool” or “Cold”? Explore the Nuances in Spanish
- The Difference Between “Why” and “Because” in Spanish
- The Temporal and Spacial Meanings of “Before”: How to Get it Right in Spanish
- Don’t Be Left in the Dust! Learn to Express the Meanings of “Behind” in Spanish
- Get the Low Down on the Preposition “Below” and Say it Right in Spanish!
- Understand Saying “Help” in Spanish
- Translating “Beside” & “Besides” into Spanish: Interesting Solutions!
- Not all Meanings of “But” Are Equal!
- Expressing the Various Meanings of the Preposition “By” in Spanish
- What Can the English Word “Can” Mean and How to Get it Right in Spanish
- Spanish Usage Questions: “Corner”
- The Word “Country” in Spanish
- The Various Meanings of “Outweigh” in English and How to Express Them in Spanish
- Expressing the Idea of “Ownership” in Spanish
- How to Express “Time & Distance” in Spanish
- Treat, Try, Attempt, Deal with… In Spanish, You Probably Need “Tratar”
- Spanish Usage Questions: “Having Fun”
- Even a Word Like “Even” Has Many Counterparts in Spanish
- Don’t Go Wrong When You Look for Ways to Express “to fail”
- Do You Mean “Fair” Weather, a “Fair” Game or a “Fair” Complexion? Learn How to Say Them in Spanish!
- Love, Desire and Wanting – Spanish Style!
- Discover the Right Spanish Verbs for Taking, Holding, Grabbing… and More
- You Have Nothing to Fear Except Not Knowing How to Say “Fear” in Spanish!
- Spanish Equivalents of the Common English Word “Find”
- Discover the Various Meanings of “Middle” and How to Say Them in Spanish
- Not All Spanish Words Meaning “Worker” Are Created Equal