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Spanish Word of the Day: ‘Incendio’

You’re probably familiar with this word but do you know how it’s different from ‘fuego’ (the Spanish word for fire)?

spanish word of the day incendio
To refer to a forest fire or wildfire in Spanish, you should say 'un incendio forestal'. Photo: THIBAUD MORITZ / AFP

The word fuego is probably one of the first words that Spanish language learners learn. 

It’s the most general word to refer to fire, as in the product of combustion.

It can be used when asking someone for a lighter (¿tienes fuego?), or the fire that burns on a bonfire or a campfire (el fuego de la hoguera), the flames of a fire (las llamas del fuego) and even in the sense of gunshots when someone shouts ‘hold your fire! (¡Alto el fuego!).

And it’s also the first word people will exclaim if a fire breaks out – ¡Fuego! (Fire!).

But when a fire is out of control, Spanish speakers rarely use the word fuego to describe this conflagration (yes, that’s a formal way of referring to an extensive fire in English). 

Instead they will call it un incendio (a fire) or el incendio (the fire). If it’s a wildfire or forest fire, they call it un incendio forestal.

That’s not to say you can’t use el fuego to refer to the fire in the general sense, but technically speaking if it’s a fire that’s broken out in a building or a forest fire that’s raging you should use the word incendio.  

There’s also the verb incendiar, to burn down or set fire to, in the active sense of someone choosing to burn something which sees the flames spread. You can also say prender fuego.

Or in the passive sense, as in a forest catching fire, incendiarse.

An example of the word ‘incendio’ in the Spanish press, with the headline reading “Spain’s fires leave two dead and more than 30,000 hectares destroyed”.


Un incendio forestal en Barcelona ha arrasado miles de hectáreas de bosque.

A wildfire in Barcelona has destroyed thousands of hectares of forest. 

Los bomberos intentaron apagar el fuego en un edificio de la Gran Vía pero al final el incendio se cobró tres vidas.

The firefighters tried to extinguish a fire in a building on Gran Vía but in the end the blaze claimed three lives. 

Es un pirómano, ha incendiado un hermoso bosque porque le gusta ver cómo las cosas arden. 

He’s a pyromaniac, he set fire to a beautiful forest because he likes to see things burn.

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Spanish Expression of the Day: Llueve sobre mojado

Rain may often be welcome in Spain, but this commonly used Spanish expression isn’t quite so optimistic. 

Spanish Expression of the Day: Llueve sobre mojado

Llover is the verb ‘to rain’ in Spanish, and lluvia is the noun ‘rain’.

Even though rain may not be as common as in other European countries, there’s certainly a whole host of expressions to do with precipitation. 

READ MORE: Ten phrases to talk about cold and wet weather like a true Spaniard

But one expression which is used in Spain often and which we haven’t covered yet is llueve sobre mojado

Its literal meaning is ‘it rains on what’s already wet’, in the sense of it’s raining where it’s already been raining. 

You’ll often hear Spanish meteorologists say it when talking about ongoing bad or rainy weather. 

However, it has another more common metaphorical use. 

This is to imply that when one bad thing happens, others tend to follow it. 

In that sense it’s a bit like saying ‘when it rains it pours’ in English.

However, it can also be used to say that a bad situation hasn’t changed, it continues to be difficult, it’s more of the same, it’s one thing after another. 

Popular Spanish singer-songwriter Joaquín Sabina has a famous song called Llueve sobre mojado, which goes:

Hay una lágrima en el fondo del río (There’s a teardrop at the bottom of the river)

De los desperados (of the desperate ones)

Adán y Eva no se adaptan al frío (Adam and Eve don’t get used to the cold)

Llueve sobre mojado (It’s one thing after another)

Interestingly, Spanish has other expressions to do with water which are used to describe tough situations.

For example, there’s la gota que colmó el vaso, which is like ‘the straw that broke the camel’s back’ but translates literally as ‘the drop which filled the glass to the brim’.

There’s also estar con el agua al cuello (to be in dire straits or literally ‘with water up to your neck).


¿Han mejorado las cosas? – Have things improved?

¡Qué va! Llueve sobre mojado – Not at all! More of the same. 

Paco no levanta cabeza. Llueve sobre mojado. 

Paco can’t catch a break. It one thing after another. 

READ ALSO: Ten very useful Spanish expressions with the word ‘water’