Leçons Espagnol


Tilde, Acento and Accent Marks in Spanish

Let's start this lesson with a little question. Let's take the following sentence:

Me gusta Caravaggio, porque bueno, estudié en Italia,

I like Caravaggio, because well, I studied in Italy,

Caption 88, María Marí Su pasión por su arte - Part 1

 Play Caption


In Spanish, what do you call the little diagonal line above the final "é" in the word estudié? Do you call it acento? Or, do you call it tilde? Do you know what is the difference between tilde and acento?



Tilde in English vs. tilde in Spanish

If you are an English speaker, the first thing to know is that the word tilde in English doesn't have the same exact meaning as the word tilde in Spanish. In fact, in English the definition is quite clear:

1 : a mark ˜ placed especially over the letter n (as in Spanish señor sir) to denote the sound \nʸ\ or over vowels (as in Portuguese irmã sister) to indicate nasality (Merriam-Webster).


However, the definition of tilde in Spanish is kind of ambiguous and creates a bit of confusion. According to the Diccionario de la lengua española, tilde can be referred to the following:

1. acento (accent) as in the sentence Raúl se escribe con tilde en la u (Raúl is written with accent on the "u"). 

2. sign in the shape of a line, sometimes wavy, that is part of some letters such as the letter "ñ".


If we take that definition, we can see that the term tilde in Spanish can be used for both the tilde over the ñ as well as accent marks over vowels:

Corazón (heart)

Mañana (tomorrow)


However, it is worth to say that the symbol over the letter "ñ" is also known as virgulilla.


Acento and tilde

As we previously saw, the Diccionario de la lengua española uses the term acento (accent) as the first definition for the word tilde. However, that brings even more ambiguity since the word acento has various meanings in Spanish. In fact, it can refer to the following:


1. The stress you put on the syllable of a given word

2. The graphic sign you put on some vowels

3. The diagonal line that you place on the vowels of stressed syllables in words such as cámara (camera) or útil (useful)

4. The way of speaking of certain people


The bottom line

As you can see, the definition of tilde and acento can be confusing. However, it is best to use the word acento when you are referring to the stress or emphasis you give to a particular syllable. On the other hand, if you want to refer to the graphic accent you put on top of some vowels, it is better to use the word tilde. Let's see some examples:


Ratón (mouse): Acento (in the last syllable 'tón'), tilde (on the 'ó' of the last syllable)

Amor (love): Acento (in the last syllable 'mor'), tilde (it doesn't have a tilde)


That's it for today. We hope you enjoy this lesson. If you have any questions or comments, please don't hesitate to contact us. We would be happy to hear back from you.

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