Everything You Need to Know About Ñ in Spanish | FluentU Spanish Blog (2024)

Everything You Need to Know About Ñ in Spanish | FluentU Spanish Blog (1)

By Everything You Need to Know About Ñ in Spanish | FluentU Spanish Blog (2)Blair Mastbaum Last updated:

The Ñ is a completely separate letter that is independent of theene (letter N) in the Spanish dictionary, according to the Real Academia Española (Royal Spanish Academy), the language authority in Spain.

This post will show you how to pronounce the letter, how to type it on your non-Spanish keyboard, tell you where it came from and also we’ll give you a list of common words that contain the Spanish Ñ.

Contents

  • How Do You Pronounce Ñ?
  • How to Type Ñ on Your Keyboard
  • What Is Ñ and Where Did It Come From?
  • Words that Contain Ñ
  • How to Practice Pronouncing the Spanish Ñ
  • The Ñ Quiz: Test Yourself!
  • And One More Thing…

Download: This blog post is available as a convenient and portable PDF that you can take anywhere. Click here to get a copy. (Download)

How Do You Pronounce Ñ?

This unique letter is similar to the /ny/ sound in the English word “canyon.”

Two of the most common Spanish words that contain the letter are señor (sir) and señora (madam).

Say these words out loud slowly and you’ll notice that you have to make an N sound first, followed quickly by a Y sound.

To make the “ñ” sound, follow these three simple steps:

1. Place your tongue on the roof of your mouth, right behind your upper, front teeth.

2. Now say the letter “n.”

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3. Bring your tongue down and say “yay.”

Here’s a great pronunciation guide:

How to Type Ñ on Your Keyboard

In Spanish-speaking countries, computers come with anÑkey just to the right of the L, but if you have an English keyboard (or some other system), you’ll have to know the trick to typing the letter.

Mac:

  • Hold down Option key + N
  • Type N again for lowercase ñ or Shift + N for uppercase Ñ.

Windows:

  • Toggle NumLock on.
  • Hold down Alt key and type 164 (lowercase ñ) or 165 (uppercase Ñ).

iPhone and Android Phones:

  • Hold down the N or n
  • Select Ñorñfrom the options that appear above the letter.

What Is Ñ and Where Did It Come From?

The Ñ has its origins in the evolution of the Spanish language from Latin. In medieval Spanish manuscripts, scribes used to write the letter N with a tilde (~) above it to indicate that it was a palatalized (meaning that your tongue touches the roof of your mouth when saying it) version of the regular N sound.

Over time, this modified N became a distinct letter in its own right, known as ene con tilde, and it was officially recognized as such. The Royal Spanish Academy incorporated the Ñ into the Spanish alphabet in the 18th century.

The inclusion of the Ñ in the alphabet distinguishes Spanish from many other Romance languages and contributes to the distinct phonological characteristics of the Spanish language.

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Words that Contain Ñ

Try saying this Spanish sentence: Mi niña pequeña baña a su pequeño pato en la fuente mientras sueña con un montón de piñatas en la montaña. (My little girl bathes her little duck in the fountain while dreaming of a bunch of piñatas on the mountain.)

Here are some key words that need this letter:

Spanish Word (with Audio)English Word
España Spain
mañana tomorrow, morning
señor Mr., sir
señora Mrs., madam
señorita Miss
baño bathroom
compañía company
señal sign
niño boy, child
niña girl
señalar to signal
cañón canyon
extrañar to miss
montaña mountain
niñez childhood
añadir to add
añejo aged
ñoño silly
año year
señuelo bait, decoy
piñata piñata
piñón pine nut
jalapeño jalapeño
bañera bathtub
doña lady
tamaño size
compañero partner, companion
araña spider
arañar to scratch
castañas chestnuts
moño bow
sueño dream, sleepiness
pañuelo handkerchief, paper tissue
leña firewood
piña pineapple
uña (finger)nail
riñón kidney
dañar to damage

To find more words that start with Ñ, check out this helpful post:

Spanish Words That Start with Ñ | FluentU Spanish Blog

Spanish words that start with ñ are fairly rare, but there are still over 350 of them! We’re covering 23+ of the most common words that start with ñ in Spanish, from…

How to Practice Pronouncing the Spanish Ñ

Practicing the pronunciation of the Spanish Ñ can be fun. Here are some tips and exercises:

  • Listen and ImitateListen to native speakers pronouncing words with the ñ. You can find videos, podcasts or songs where this sound is prevalent. Repeat the words and phrases after the native speakers, trying to mimic their pronunciation closely.

    Try starting with this children’s video.

  • Isolate the SoundFocus specifically on the ñ sound. Try saying the sound on its own, without any surrounding vowels or consonants. This helps you concentrate on the unique sound of ñ.
  • Start with Common WordsPractice with common Spanish words that contain the ñ, such as mañana, señor or niño. Repeat these words until you feel comfortable with the pronunciation.
  • Pay Attention to Tongue PlacementPay attention to the position of your tongue. The ñ sound is a nasalized sound, produced by placing the back of your tongue against the soft palate (the roof of your mouth). Practice the sound while being mindful of your tongue’s position.
  • Work with Minimal PairsWork with minimal pairs, which are pairs of words that only differ in one sound. For example, practice distinguishing between niño and nino. This helps you focus on the specific sound you’re trying to master. Here’s a thorough list of Spanish minimal pairs.
  • Do Tongue TwistersChallenge yourself with Spanish tongue twisters that contain the ñ sound. This helps improve your fluency and accuracy. For example, El niño con el niño quiere jugar al niño(The child with the child wants to play with the child).
  • Record YourselfUse a recording device like your phone to record yourself practicing the sound. Listen to the recordings and compare them to native speakers. This can help you identify areas for improvement.
  • Use Online Pronunciation ToolsTake advantage of online resources and pronunciation tools designed for language learners. Many websites and apps provide audio examples and exercises for Spanish pronunciation. Easy Pronunciation works well.

The Ñ Quiz: Test Yourself!

0%

What does "señal" mean in English?

Correct!Wrong!

What does "niño" mean in English?

Correct!Wrong!

In English, what does "baño" mean?

Correct!Wrong!

How to you say "Mr." in Spanish?

Correct!Wrong!

What's the meaning of the verb "añadir"?

Correct!Wrong!

What is a "bañera"?

Correct!Wrong!

What are "castañas"?

Correct!Wrong!

What is the adjective "ñoño" in English?

Correct!Wrong!

What's the English word for "sueño"?

Correct!Wrong!

What is a "compañía"?

Correct!Wrong!

And One More Thing…

If you've made it this far that means you probably enjoy learning Spanish with engaging material and will then love FluentU.

Other sites use scripted content. FluentU uses a natural approach that helps you ease into the Spanish language and culture over time. You’ll learn Spanish as it’s actually spoken by real people.

FluentU has a wide variety of videos, as you can see here:

FluentU brings native videos within reach with interactive transcripts. You can tap on any word to look it up instantly. Every definition has examples that have been written to help you understand how the word is used. If you see an interesting word you don’t know, you can add it to a vocab list.

Review a complete interactive transcript under the Dialogue tab, and find words and phrases listed under Vocab.

Learn all the vocabulary in any video with FluentU’s robust learning engine. Swipe left or right to see more examples of the word you’re on.

The best part is that FluentU keeps track of the vocabulary that you’re learning, and gives you extra practice with difficult words. It'll even remind you when it’s time to review what you’ve learned. Every learner has a truly personalized experience, even if they’re learning with the same video.

Start using the FluentU website on your computer or tablet or, better yet, download the FluentU app from the iTunes or Google Play store. Click here to take advantage of our current sale! (Expires at the end of this month.)

Everything You Need to Know About Ñ in Spanish | FluentU Spanish Blog (2024)

FAQs

Everything You Need to Know About Ñ in Spanish | FluentU Spanish Blog? ›

How Do You Pronounce Ñ? This unique letter is similar to the /ny/ sound in the English word “canyon.” You've probably heard it in the Spanish word piña (pineapple) and señor (sir). Say these words out loud slowly and you'll notice that you have to make an N sound first, followed quickly by a Y sound.

What words use Ñ? ›

Words in Spanish with “ñ”: Nouns
Spanish wordEnglish translation
mañanamorning/tomorrow
meñiquelittle finger
montañamountain
muñecadoll
27 more rows
Feb 26, 2024

When to use Ñ? ›

And while the ñ isn't part of the English alphabet, it frequently is used by careful writers when using adopted words such as jalapeño, piña colada, or piñata and in the spelling of personal and place names. The ñ is also used with several other more obscure languages are transliterated into the Roman alphabet.

What is a Spanish word that starts with the letter Ñ? ›

ñoñería: inanity, nonsense. ñoño: dull, squeamish. ñoqui: gnocchi (a type of food) ñora: a type of red pepper.

What's the difference between ñ and ñ in Spanish? ›

The sound of the letter “ñ” is represented phonetically thus: /ɲ/. Like the “n,” it is a voiced nasal sound but, unlike the “n,” it is palatal, which means that the body of the tongue must touch the palate for its production.

What is the squiggle over the ñ in Spanish called? ›

What is the squiggly line above the Spanish letter ñ? The squiggly line that you can see above the ñ is called a tilde or, in Spanish, a virgulilla.

How did Spanish get the ñ? ›

Historically, ⟨ñ⟩ arose as a ligature of ⟨nn⟩; the tilde was shorthand for the second ⟨n⟩, written over the first; compare umlaut, of analogous origin. It is a letter in the Spanish alphabet that is used for many words—for example, the Spanish word año "year" (⟨anno⟩ in Old Spanish) derived from Latin: annus.

What does ñ do? ›

The letter ñ represents a sound that did not exist in Latin, but is found in most Romance languages (including Italian, Portuguese, French and Spanish). This sound is defined as nasal (with air coming out of the nose), palatal (the tongue rests against the hard palate) and sonorous (the vocal cords vibrate).

What is a cognate for ñ? ›

An English cognate for Ñ is found in the Italian loan word, "lasagna", with the "gn" letters making the same sound. Lasagna is spelled, "lasaña", in Spanish with the same pronunciation as in English. Give it a try using that second syllable in lasa/gna. That should help you with your Español!

Do they use ñ in Spain? ›

Intro to the Ñ

It's not the only language that uses it though. Galician and Euskera, languages originating from the North of Spain, as well as other dialects also use this letter. There are some indigenous languages such as Quechua, Zapoteco, Mapuche or Guaraní that have the letter Ñ in their alphabet too.

Is the ñ still a part of the Spanish alphabet? ›

The ñ or Ñ is the fifteenth letter in the Spanish alphabet. And there used to be even more Spanish letters! For example, there used to be a double L and a CH, too. But in 1994, the Spanish Royal Academy eliminated the LL and CH from the Spanish language alphabet.

How do I make the Spanish Ñ on my keyboard? ›

To make the “ñ” character, press both “Ctrl” and “~” keys then type lowercase “n“. This will generate the “ñ” symbol automatically. You can also use the Alt code. Press and hold “Alt” key while entering a code (ALT+0241) and you can get the “ñ” character.

How to put a Ñ in a laptop? ›

The lowercase ⟨ñ⟩ can be made in the Microsoft Windows operating system by typing Alt + 164 or Alt + 0241 on the numeric keypad (with Num Lock turned on); the uppercase ⟨Ñ⟩ can be made with Alt + 165 or Alt + 0209 .

What is the Alt code for the Spanish ñ? ›

Spanish
CharacterALT Code
ú0250
Ñ0209
ñ0241
¡0161
10 more rows

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