Best Practices

How to Say 'Engine' and Other Technical Terms in Spanish

The term base is not to blame. Not always. Sometimesthe culprit is the TM. Many other times, it is the lack of updates in humanhands, too busy to step in. Regardless, glossary detailed compilation andperiodical maintenance are smart choices. It is also a professional approach tocontent management in translation.
Romina C. Cinquemani
8 min
Table of Contents

The term base is not to blame. Not always. Sometimesthe culprit is the TM. Many other times, it is the lack of updates in humanhands, too busy to step in. Regardless, glossary detailed compilation andperiodical maintenance are smart choices. It is also a professional approach tocontent management in translation.    

Scuba Diving inLanguage

“Context, context, context” chanted one of myprofessors at the university. We all know that words, at least in English andin Spanish, can have several meanings. One of the main jobs of a translator isfiguring out the right one for each context.

Let us delve in to the automotive realm for a bit. Ifwe take “engine”, both in the automotive and the aeronautical field, this means“motor”. Nevertheless, in the world of trains, it might mean “locomotora” o“máquina”.

“Torque” means “par motor”, but it can also betranslated as “par de torsión” or even “torque”. In this case, thesetranslations are synonyms. This is a force that makes an object rotate aroundan axle.

Same Ending, DifferentTranslation

“Crankshaft” means “cigüeñal” but, of course, it hasnothing to do with a stork (“cigüeña”).

“Camshaft” is a really tough one to guess. You have toknow this one, because it is completely different in Spanish. It means “árbolde levas”. And it is a device that causes the valves of an engine to open orclose at the correct time.  

“Propulsion Shaft” means “eje de propulsión” but, asyou can see above, the “-shaft” ending does not always mean “eje” in the Spanish translation.

Research and LocalUsage Are Key

“Exhaust pipe” means “caño de escape”, if we localize to Argentina. Inanother LatAm countries, it is used as “tubo de escape”. Of course, “exhaust”in this context has nothing to do with “exhausted”, as in extremely tired.

“Tire” is translated as “neumático” in certainSpanish-speaking countries. In another region it could be translated as“llanta”. Of course, nothing further from “tire” in this context than the verb“cansarse” (“to tire”).

“Mileage” is translated as "kilometraje",regardless of the word root that might indicate “miles” instead of “kilometers”.  

“Horsepower” is translated as "caballos defuerza". Although “power” alone might be used as “potencia” in anothercontext. For instance, "200 horsepower engine" is "motor de 200caballos de fuerza."

“Rubber bearings” means “cojinetes de caucho” inSpanish. It could also be used as “cojinetes de goma” in certain regions. Themeaning is exactly the same.  

“Stabilizer bar” is translated as “barraestabilizadora”. But in English, it can appear differently. For instance:“anti-roll bar” or “stabilizing rod”.

“Hybrid vehicle” is translated as “vehículo híbrido”.It is rather used in this day and age, since more and more hybrid cars areproduced daily. We have to be careful with spelling, when it is so similar inboth languages. It could get tricky, and typos could be made in the heat of themoment.

“Charging” means “carga”, but not in the sense of“load”, that is translated as “carga” as well. “Charging” is applied to theaction of feeding an electric vehicle by connecting it to a “charging station”.This means "estación de carga."

“Range” is a particularly devious word, and it alwaysneeds context. It translates as “rango”, but it could also refer to “gama” or,in this case, “autonomía”. For instance, "electric car range" means"autonomía de un auto eléctrico."

As you might know by now, we need to match gender ofthe Spanish nouns with their articles and adjectives. When it comes toterminology, research never gets old. You might be an accomplished technicaltranslator. Your experience can be really vast. But you will always face newwords, confusing meanings, and linguistic challenges. Being able to tacklethose, and compiling your own term bases for each field is a master move. Weexpect nothing less.

Romina C. Cinquemani
Spanish translator, writer, language lover, and constant life apprentice.
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