The Ultimate Vocabulary Guide to Day of the Dead in Spanish (2023)

The Ultimate Vocabulary Guide to Day of the Dead in Spanish (1)

October 16, 2021 by Nicole Canún Spanish Vocabulary 0 comments

Get up close to Mexican culture by learning this Day of the Dead vocabulary.

Day of the Dead is a Mexican celebration where the living welcome their beloved departed once a year. The dead crosses the threshold of their world to ours to eat, drink, dance, and sing with us.

To learn more details about the specific rituals, decorations, dishes, and even how to make your own ofrenda (altar), read this post on How to Celebrate Day of the Dead Like a True Mexican.

This pre-Hispanic and Catholic tradition is a magical realm where past and present collide in otherworldly festivities.

Read on to learn Day of the Dead vocabulary in Spanish, discover traditions and rituals surrounding this beautiful holiday, and explore the many ways Mexicans have of saying that someone died.

Day of the Dead in Spanish

How do you say “Day of the Dead” in Spanish? The Spanish translation for this holiday is Día de los Muertos. Mexicans celebrate it on November 1, when they welcome the souls of children, and November 2 when they welcome the souls of adults.

Families gather to spend quality time together, decorating, eating, and sharing anecdotes of those who’ve passed away. This isn’t a sad day; it’s nostalgic yet full of peace and gratitude.

afterworldel más allá
Day of the DeadDía de los muertos
deathla muerte
familyla familia
gatheringla reunión
Mexican culturela cultura mexicana
quality timeel tiempo de calidad
rootslas raíces
welcomela bienvenida

Day of the Dead Vocabulary – Ofrenda

La ofrenda (the offering) is what we place inside our homes to offer the departed after their long trip. They will be thirsty, hungry, and in need of their belongings. If they are kids, they will want to play with toys and eat candy. The ofrendas normally have 7 levels, including items that represent the four elements.


The pictures of the dead or muertitos (little dead) are essential; without them, they can’t come back to the living. Learn this Day of the Dead vocabulary in Spanish to get to know some of the items we place on the altars.

altarel altar
belongingslas pertenencias
beverageslas bebidas
candlela vela, la veladora
candieslos dulces
crossla cruz
cut-out tissue paperel papel picado
flowerslas flores
foodla comida
limela cal
mirrorel espejo
pictureslas fotografías
saltla sal
sawdustel aserrín
toyslos juguetes

Day of the Dead Vocabulary – Comida

The Ultimate Vocabulary Guide to Day of the Dead in Spanish (2)

Food is key to Day of the Dead celebrations. Mexican families gather to prepare and share the delicious dishes of their abuelas (grandmothers).

We eat these dishes and place them on the altar for our muertitos to eat. They vary according to your and your muertitos’ taste, but the one thing you can’t miss is the pan de muerto (bread of the dead).

anise seedslas semillas de anís
bread of the deadel pan de muerto
cinnamonla canela
chocolate skullslas calaveras de chocolate
dishel platillo
fruitslas frutas
grainslos granos
orange zestla cáscara de naranja
seedslas semillas
sugarel azúcar
sweet breadel pan dulce (Mexican comfort food)
sugar skullslas calaveras de azúcar

Day of the Dead Vocabulary – Ritual

This Day of the Dead vocabulary in Spanish lists wouldn’t be complete without the essential part of the Día de Muertos: the rituals. That is all the prayers we say and how we purify with salt and incense—we use copal incense for this—before decorating.

All decorations are symbols and have a purpose. More than arranging your house for a party, you’re respectfully putting everything in place to honor the departed.

beliefla creencia
cemeteryel cementerio
graveslas tumbas
incenseel incienso
journeyel viaje, el trayecto
prayerel rezo
religionla religión
rest in peacedescanse en paz
ritualel ritual
soulslas almas
spiritslos espíritus
symbolslos símbolos
traditionla tradición
tripel viaje
underworldel inframundo
worldel mundo
worshipla adoración

Day of the Dead Vocabulary – Fiesta

The afterparty is a family reunion where everyone sings, dances, and tells jokes and anecdotes. Normally this takes place at home, in the town square, or at the cemetery.

celebrationla celebración
costumeel disfraz
decorationslas decoraciones
holidaylas vacaciones, el día festivo
musicla música
partyla fiesta
songslas canciones
to dancebailar
to singcantar
town squarela plaza

Ways To Say That Someone Died

Mexicans have a unique way of coexisting with death. It’s beautiful, ugly, and funny at the same time. We’d rather remember all the fun we had with our muertitos than cry over their ending.

Mexicans have many phrases to express that someone has died. Each has a humorous connotation to lighten up the situation. However, keep in mind that using these phrases right after someone actually dies would be inconsiderate.

1. Estirar la pata

Literal meaning: To stretch the paw

When you die all your limbs stretch out and get stiff, so if you know someone who estiró la pata, they died.

The Ultimate Vocabulary Guide to Day of the Dead in Spanish (3)

2. Colgar los tenis

Literal meaning: To hang up the sneakers

People in different countries throw their shoes on the electric cables that cross streets to signal something. In Mexico, it means that someone has died, and the intention was to announce it to the community.

(Video) What is Day of the Dead? | is Dia de Muertos Spanish Halloween? | HOLA SPANISH

The Ultimate Vocabulary Guide to Day of the Dead in Spanish (4)

3. Petatearse

A petate is a woven carpet humble people use to sleep on in small towns and villages. In prehispanic times, some civilizations used them to represent the circle of life, as people gave birth, slept, prayed, got married, and died on them.

Locals wrapped petates around dead bodies during difficult times like the revolution when not enough coffins were available. Petatearse is the verb form of the noun petate, and it’s recognized by the Royal Spanish Academy.

The Ultimate Vocabulary Guide to Day of the Dead in Spanish (5)

4. Pasar a mejor vida

Literal meaning: Pass away to a better life

The Ultimate Vocabulary Guide to Day of the Dead in Spanish (6)

5. Entregar el equipo

Literal meaning: To return the equipment

When an athlete gives back their gear, it’s because that person is done playing. When someone entrega el equipo, it means they’re out of the game (dead).

The Ultimate Vocabulary Guide to Day of the Dead in Spanish (7)

6. Sacar con los pies por delante

Literal meaning: to take someone out the door feet first, which is how people remove the dead body from the house

The Ultimate Vocabulary Guide to Day of the Dead in Spanish (8)

7. Se enfrió

Literal meaning: S/he got cold.

The Ultimate Vocabulary Guide to Day of the Dead in Spanish (9)

8. Se lo llevó o cargó la huesuda

Literal meaning: the bony one took or carried them

(Video) Holy Rosary - Joyful Mysteries - Monday & Saturday

The Ultimate Vocabulary Guide to Day of the Dead in Spanish (10)

9. Bailó con la más fea

Literal meaning: S/he danced with the ugliest one; Mexicans refer to the figure of death as the ugliest one.

The Ultimate Vocabulary Guide to Day of the Dead in Spanish (11)

10. Se nos adelantó

Literal meaning: S/he got ahead of us.

The Ultimate Vocabulary Guide to Day of the Dead in Spanish (12)

11. Fue a ver como crecen las rosas desde abajo

Literal meaning: He went to see how the roses grow from below.

The person is dead and buried six feet under.

The Ultimate Vocabulary Guide to Day of the Dead in Spanish (13)

12. Se puso la pijama de madera

Literal meaning: S/he put on the wooden pajamas.

The deceased is in a coffin.

The Ultimate Vocabulary Guide to Day of the Dead in Spanish (14)

Learn Spanish and Embrace Mexican Culture

The best way to learn about the Day of the Dead celebration is to visit Mexico and see it first hand. Michoacán, Aguascalientes, Oaxaca, and Mexico City are the best places to witness this festivity. By learning Spanish, you not only travel easier (as you’ll be able to ask for directions and engage in conversations with locals), but also add a potent tool to your life and career.

Here at Homeschool Spanish Academy, we want to enhance your experience by teaching you Spanish before your trip. Our method helps you learn rapidly and enables you to speak like a native. Take a free trial class with one of our friendly, certified teachers from Guatemala. See our programs and prices and get a head start before your trip to Mexico for Day of the Dead!

(Video) Studying with poets long gone - A DARK ACADEMIA PLAYLIST (classical)

Ready to learn more Spanish vocabulary? Check these out!

  • 10 Original and Lovely Mexican Terms of Endearment
  • Top 15 New Year’s Resolutions in Spanish
  • 100+ Basic Spanish Words and Phrases for Travelers
  • 29 Cool and Catchy Spanish Phrases To Use With Friends [+Audio]
  • 52 Spanish Connecting Words to Sound Like a Native
  • ‘How Much Is It?’ in Spanish: A Guide to Travel and Shopping
  • Ultimate Guide to 80+ Dance Vocabulary Words in Spanish
  • Ordinal Numbers in Spanish
  • Author
  • Recent Posts

Nicole Canún

Freelance Writer at Homeschool Spanish Academy

Blogger, content creator, and marketer. Proudly Mexican. Been to 30 countries. I love learning from different cultures and trying their cuisines. Obsessed with Asia. Fluent in Spanish and English, not so much in French.

Latest posts by Nicole Canún (see all)

  • The Best Christmas Traditions in Mexico - December 16, 2022
  • 20 Classic Mexican Quotes and Proverbs in Spanish - November 11, 2022
  • These Were the Secret Nazi Colonies in South America - October 31, 2022

spanish vocabulary vocabulary

(Video) Día de los Muertos | Mexican Survival Guide


1. The Last Days of Death Row Inmate Scott Dozier
(VICE News)
2. Day Of The Dead | All Souls Day | The Dr Binocs Show | Peekaboo Kidz
(Peekaboo Kidz)
3. The Egyptian Book of the Dead: A guidebook for the underworld - Tejal Gala
4. Sean Dyche: The Truth About My Management Style
(High Performance)
5. **Award Winning** CGI 3D Animated Short Film: "Dia De Los Muertos" - by Team Whoo Kazoo | TheCGBros
6. Day 030 (Exodus 1-3)
(The Bible Recap)
Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Terrell Hackett

Last Updated: 04/26/2023

Views: 6017

Rating: 4.1 / 5 (72 voted)

Reviews: 87% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Terrell Hackett

Birthday: 1992-03-17

Address: Suite 453 459 Gibson Squares, East Adriane, AK 71925-5692

Phone: +21811810803470

Job: Chief Representative

Hobby: Board games, Rock climbing, Ghost hunting, Origami, Kabaddi, Mushroom hunting, Gaming

Introduction: My name is Terrell Hackett, I am a gleaming, brainy, courageous, helpful, healthy, cooperative, graceful person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.