Tapas: meaning in Spanish

A poster with a picture of a tapa and 2 different meanings in Spanish for this word: small potion of food or a lid

Tapas: meaning and grammar aspects in Spanish

Anyone knows the meaning of “tapas” in Spanish: small portions of food you can find in the popular tapas bars in Spain.

However, tapas not only means food. It has other meanings too. You can check the dictionary and you will find 14 different meanings for this word! But, as we talk about language and food, the other meaning I want you to learn is this one: lid or cover. Yes, the lid of a saucepan or a box is a tapa.

Grammar aspects: gender and number

First of all, let´s be specific. The word “tapa” is in singular and the plural es “tapas”. When we say “Vamos a tomar unas tapas” (Let´s have some tapas) we mean we are going to have several tapas. If you want just one, you order just “una tapa”.

The word is feminine:

  • “La tapa” if it´s singular → “La tapa de la perola está rota” (The lid of the pan is broken.)
  • “Las tapas” if it´s plural → “Las tapas azules son mejores” (The blue lids are better.)

Don´t forget that the word needs to agree in gender and number with the other parts of the sentence.

“La tapa de champiñones es la más rica” (The mushroom tapa is the most delicious.)

“Las tapas de estas perolas son bonitas y fuertes” (The lids of these pans are beautiful and strong.)


Having tapas is so popular in Spain that we have created verbs to express the act of going out to have “tapas”: TAPEAR and IR DE TAPEO.

“He quedado a tapear con Juan y Andrea” → “I´m meeting up with Juan and Andrea to have tapas”.

Does it have the same meaning in South America?

Not really. And you have to pay attention as the meaning can be so different that maybe you can be in trouble. You know… language mistakes that lead to an awkward situation.

  • In Costa Rica, “tapa” means “the best” or, something completely different, “butt”.

“¡El equipo de fútbol de Costa Rica es la tapa!” → “The Costa Rica Football Team is the best!”

  • In Guatemala, it means a swear word.

“El niño le dijo una tapa a su mamá” → “The child said a swear word to his mum.”

  • In Honduras, “tapear” means to insult someone.

Other meanings

As we said, there are other meanings for “tapa”, for example:

  • the cover of a book
  • heel plate
  • flank steak
  • sluice gate

Some tips to order tapas like a Spaniard

Here you have some links to other posts I wrote about how to order tapas in Spain and a food glossary about the food terms we use when we go to “tapear”. And check my blog for more “Bites to learn Spanish” to learn vocabulary and grammar.

Practice your Spanish with my Online Cooking Classes in Spanish, a fun and relaxing way to learn while cooking authentic Spanish recipes.


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