Quinceanera Vocabulary & Terms in Spanish

Instructor: Yolanda Reinoso Barzallo

Yolanda holds a CELTA Cambridge, a Juris Doctorate, and a Master of Public Administration. She is a published author of fiction in Spanish.

Have you ever attended a 'sweet sixteen' party? This special event has its equivalent in the Spanish-speaking world. This lesson tells you all about it and includes some useful vocabulary you can use if you get invited to a 'quinceanera.'

What's a Quinceañera?

Imagine you get invited to a fiesta de quinceañera. You feel a bit nervous because you don't want to seem unaware of what the event means. Here is a pop quiz for you:

'What number do you recognize within the word quinceañera?'

If you noticed the number quince (KEEN-seh), which is 'fifteen,' is in the word, you are a great linguist!

By the way, the second part of the word: añera comes from año, which means 'year.'

A quinceañera refers to the fifteen-year-old girl celebrating her birthday. However, people often also call the party a quinceañera. The birthday girls often refer to the party as mis quince (mees KEEN-seh), which means 'my fifteen.'

Let's begin by learning to pronounce the words fiesta de quinceañera (fee-EHS-tah deh keen-seh-ah-NYEH-rah), which means 'fifteenth birthday party.' It is similar to the 'sweet sixteen,' but the fiesta de quinceañera is a huge celebration more like a wedding as far as preparations go. Many Latin American couples (except in Chile) celebrate with a fiesta de quinceañera when their daughter turns fifteen years of age. It is a special way to introduce a girl into society and celebrate the transition from 'girl' to 'woman.' The country that celebrates in the most special way is Mexico. Keep reading to find out why.

Princess for a Day

Mexico is famous for the way parents and the party girl prepare for the fiesta de quinceañera. On the big day, the girl wears a very noticeable dress that makes her look like a princess and some even wear a tiara. Let's begin with the special clothes first.

Quinceañera Attire Vocabulary

The birthday girl wears the following:

  • el vestido de quinceañera (ehl behs-TEE-doh deh keen-seh-ah-NYEH-rah) means 'the fifteenth birthday party dress.'
  • las zapatillas (lahs sah-pah-TEE-yahs) means 'the flat shoes'... You think this does not fit a princess-like dress? Well, the girl enters the reception hall wearing las zapatillas, but these get changed once she is ready for a special dance with her dad.
  • los zapatos de taco alto (lohs sah-PAH-tohs deh TAH-koh AHL-toh) means 'the high heeled shoes.'
  • la tiara (lah tee-AH-rah) means 'the tiara.'
  • las joyas (lahs HOH-yahs) means 'the jewelry.'

Translation: The fifteen birthday girl wears a beautiful dress.

Here is how you can look good at a party by complimenting the dress. You can say:

  • Hermoso vestido! (ehr-MOH-soh behs-TEE-doh) means 'Beautiful dress!'

Make sure to use hermosa for the nouns that are feminine, such as tiara. Also, use hermosas for plural nouns that are feminine, such as joyas and hermosos for plural nouns that are masculine such as zapatos.

People Who Accompany the Quinceañera

The birthday girl does not walk into the reception hall all by herself. She has a corte de honor (KOHR-teh deh oh-NOHR), which translates as 'honoring group.' This is a group of male and female friends:

  • las damas de honor (lahs DAH-mahs deh oh-NOHR) means 'birthday girl maids.'
  • los caballeros de las damas (lohs kah-bah-YEH-rohs deh lahs DAH-mahs) means 'the maids' gentlemen.'

Then there is that special guy who accompanies and dances with the quinceañera. He is also a caballero but in Mexico, people call him by a special term that has its roots in French history. In France, when kings existed, a nobleman who accompanied the king would be called the French term 'chambellan,' which can be translated as 'escort.'

  • el chambelán (ehl chahm-beh-LAHN) means 'the escort.'

The Peak Moments of the Party

Here are some important moments during the fiesta de quinceañera:

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