What does “tonto” mean in Spanish?

Tonto in Spanish means fool or silly.

But keep in mind that in Spanish you can use this word in other ways other than its direct usage.

Let’s look at some examples that show the simplest usage of this word:

  • Mira que eres tonto, deberías aprender más de tus padres – Look how silly you look; you should learn more from your parents.
  • Pues claro que puedes, Maria, no seas tonta – Of course you can, Maria. Don’t be silly.
  • Cuando los niños hacen algo tonto, sus padres intentan explicarles que eso no se haceWhen kids do something foolish, their parent try to explain to them that they shouldn’t do that.

  • A mí me parece que no hay cosa peor que un marido tontoSeems to me that there isn’t anything worse than a foolish husband.

Now let’s look at some more complex idiomatic usages of the word tonto, such as “hacer el tonto”. It means fooling around, playing around, messing around, playing the fool, etc.

  • Dejemos de hacer el tonto y salgamos juntos – Let’s stop fooling around and let’s go out.

  • Una cosa es hacer el tonto durante una relación, pero esto es diferente – It’s one thing to fool around during a relationship, but this is different.

  • Deja de hacer el tonto – Stop playing the fool.

  • Te pones a hacer el tonto y alguien acabará muerto – You start messing around and someone will end up dead.

Another usage of this word is “a lo tonto”, which is often used twice in a row. There’s no good direct translation for this, it’s a Spanish thing.

  • A lo tonto, nos hemos perdido grandes oportunidades – We missed a lot of great opportunities while messing around.

  • A lo tonto a lo tonto, he perdido toda mi ropa interior – I lost all my underwear while messing around.

It’s not a very difficult Spanish word to grasp.

It is, however, important to understand that the word is not as aggressive as fool is in English. It’s a fairly light word, and in casual conversation it will always be perceived as silly.

Tonterías means nonsense.

Atontar means stupefy.