Spanish words that start with “K”

By Jasmine on December 1, 2023

How is the Letter K Referred to in Spanish and its Pronunciation?

book with spanish words
list of spanish words that start with k
spanish words that start with k
words that start with k in spanish

Historical Context

Historically, the Spanish alphabet didn’t naturally accommodate the letter K. Its presence today is primarily due to:

  • Loanwords from other languages.
  • Scientific terms.
  • Proper nouns, particularly names from other countries.


In Spanish, the letter K sounds almost identical to the English “K”. That is, it’s a hard sound made at the back of the mouth. However, there are some nuances to consider:

  • The Spanish K is slightly less aspirated than the English counterpart.
  • It’s consistent in sound; it doesn’t have the variability that the English “C” has.


  • Kilogramo (Kilogram)
  • Kiosco (Kiosk)

Comparison to Other Letters

In the Spanish alphabet, there are letters with similar sounds to the letter K:

  • C: Before the vowels ‘a’, ‘o’, and ‘u’, the letter C in Spanish sounds like the English K, e.g., casa (house) and coco (coconut).
  • Qu: This combination is used before the vowels ‘e’ and ‘i’ to produce a sound similar to the English K, e.g., queso (cheese) and quitar (to remove).

How It’s Referred To

When spelling a word out loud in Spanish, one would refer to the letter K as “ka”.




Origin in Spanish

Primarily from loanwords, scientific terms, and names


Similar to English “K”

Comparable Spanish Sound

C (before a, o, u) and Qu (before e, i)

Spelling Reference


Understanding the origins, pronunciation, and usage of the letter K in Spanish can assist learners and enthusiasts in grasping the nuances of the language and aid in more effective communication.

Which Letter Pair Often Substitutes for K in Spanish?

The Spanish language has evolved over time, adapting to various influences and incorporating foreign elements. One such adaptation is the use of the letter ‘K’. While it is present in the Spanish alphabet, it’s relatively rare. Often, Spanish words that have a hard “k” sound use other letters or letter combinations to represent this sound. The most common substitute for the ‘K’ sound in Spanish is the letter pair “Qu.”

Historical Background

Spanish has Latin roots, and in classical Latin, the ‘K’ sound was represented by the letter ‘C.’ As Latin evolved into the various Romance languages, including Spanish, the representation of this sound diversified

  • In Spanish, before the letters ‘e’ and ‘i,’ the “Qu” combination emerged to maintain the hard “k” sound.

Historical Background

The “Qu” combination in Spanish is used specifically before the vowels ‘e’ and ‘i.’


  • Querido (Dear)
  • Químico (Chemical)

When a word requires the “k” sound before ‘a,’ ‘o,’ or ‘u,’ the letter ‘C’ suffices:


  • Casa (House)
  • Cubo (Cube)

Words with “K” vs. “Qu”

Occasionally, you might come across words in Spanish that exist in both “K” and “Qu” forms. The version with “K” is often due to foreign influence or newer adaptations.


  • Kiosco/Kiosko and Quiosco both mean (Kiosk)

Summary Table

Sound Representation

Used Before Vowels



e, i (rarely)



e, i



a, o, u


In conclusion, while the letter ‘K’ is present in the Spanish alphabet, its usage is limited. The “Qu” combination frequently represents the “k” sound, especially before the vowels ‘e’ and ‘i.’ Understanding this subtle distinction can be invaluable for learners aiming for fluency and correct pronunciation.

A Selection of Spanish Nouns Starting with K and their meanings

The Spanish language, influenced by various cultures and languages, has incorporated a number of words starting with the letter ‘K’, even though it’s not a native letter to the language.

Many of these words have origins in foreign languages or are borrowed terms, often from languages like Quechua, Arabic, or even English.

Starting with K and their meanings

Origin of K-Words in Spanish

While the Spanish language has native words that contain the sound equivalent to the English “K,” most words that actually start with the letter ‘K’ in Spanish are borrowed or adopted from other languages.

  • Foreign Influence: Words from English, German, and other languages can retain their original spelling when adopted into Spanish.
  • Indigenous Languages: Languages like Quechua have contributed words to Spanish that begin with ‘K’.

Notable Spanish Nouns with K

Here is a selection of Spanish nouns that begin with the letter ‘K’:

  • Kilogramo: A metric unit of mass, equivalent to 1000 grams. It’s the same as the English ‘Kilogram’.
  • Kilómetro: A metric unit of distance. In English, it’s ‘Kilometer’.
  • Kiosco/Kiosko: A small open-fronted hut or cubicle from which newspapers, refreshments, tickets, etc., are sold. Similar to the English ‘Kiosk’.
  • Karate: A sport or a method of self-defense. This word, like in English, originates from Japanese.

Rare Nouns with K

There are nouns in Spanish that are seldom used in daily language but are intriguing because they begin with ‘K’:

Here is a selection of Spanish nouns that begin with the letter ‘K’:

  • Koala: A native Australian animal. The word’s origin is from an Australian Aboriginal language.
  • Karma: A term used in several religions, denoting the sum of a person’s actions in this and previous states of existence. It’s borrowed from Sanskrit.

Summary Table

Spanish Noun

English Equivalent




















While ‘K’ is not a frequently used letter in Spanish, its presence marks the rich tapestry of linguistic influences and the adaptability of the language. Familiarity with these words can provide an enriching insight into the diversity of the Spanish lexicon.

Five Unique Adjectives in Spanish that start with K and their meanings

Adjectives in the Spanish language beginning with the letter ‘K’ are an oddity, mostly because Spanish does not natively use the letter ‘K’ frequently. However, due to globalization and the incorporation of foreign words into the language, a few adjectives starting with ‘K’ have made their way into modern Spanish.

Characteristics of K-starting Adjectives

Here are some attributes of these adjectives:

  • They’re often borrowed from other languages.
  • Their usage can be limited to specific contexts, especially in scientific or technical settings.
  • Their pronunciation remains close to the original form from which they were borrowed.

Examples of Adjectives

Let’s delve into some of these unique adjectives:

  • Kafkiano: Derived from the name of the writer Franz Kafka, this adjective refers to something that’s surreal or absurd in the manner of Kafka’s writings.
  • Keniano: Pertaining to Kenya. In English, it translates to ‘Kenyan’. It’s used to describe something or someone from Kenya.
  • Kitsch: Borrowed from German, this adjective is used to describe art, objects, or design considered to be in poor taste because of excessive garishness or sentimentality.
  • Kilométrico: While derived from the noun “Kilómetro”, it can function as an adjective to describe something very long, especially in distance.
  • Karstico: Refers to a landscape formed from the dissolution of soluble rocks including limestone, dolomite, and gypsum. It’s used in geological contexts.

Summary Table

Spanish Adjective

English Meaning

Context or Origin


Surreal or absurd (like Kafka’s writings)






In poor taste, garish

Art and Design


Very long



Pertaining to landscapes formed from soluble rocks


In the landscape of the Spanish language, ‘K’ starting adjectives are indeed rare. Yet, their existence is a testament to the malleability of languages and how they evolve to accommodate external influences.

Spotlight on a Singular Spanish Verb that starts with K

Given the infrequent use of the letter ‘K’ in the Spanish language, it’s rare to encounter verbs that begin with this letter. However, with the intermingling of languages and cultures, Spanish has seen the integration of a few verbs from other languages that retain their original ‘K’ spelling.

The Verb: “Kinesiar”

One such verb that has made its way into some niche areas of Spanish is “kinesiar.”


  • “Kinesiar” derives from the word “kinesiology,” which is the study of human movement. In Spanish, the corresponding noun is “kinesiología.”


  • The verb “kinesiar” is often used in therapeutic contexts, especially in countries like Argentina.
  • It generally means “to treat or heal through kinesiology.”


Like most regular verbs in Spanish, “kinesiar” follows standard conjugation patterns.

Present Tense:

  • Yo kinesio
  • Tú kinesias
  • Él/ella/usted kinesia
  • Nosotros/as kinesiamos
  • Vosotros/as kinesiáis
  • Ellos/ellas/ustedes kinesian

Past Tense:

  • Yo kinesié
  • Tú kinesiaste … and so on.

Contextual Usage

In a sentence, the verb might be used as:

  • “Ella va a kinesiar su lesión para recuperarse más rápido.”
  • Translation: “She is going to treat her injury through kinesiology to recover faster.”

Summary Table:






To treat or heal through kinesiology


Derived from the study of human movement, “kinesiología”

Common Use

Therapeutic contexts

Example Sentence

“Mi amigo necesita kinesiar su espalda después del accidente.”

While “kinesiar” is not a verb you’ll hear in everyday Spanish conversation, its presence underscores the adaptability of the Spanish language and its openness to incorporate terms from diverse fields of study.

An Assortment of Additional K-Starting Spanish Terms

The Spanish lexicon, influenced by a myriad of cultures and languages, occasionally sees the inclusion of words starting with the letter ‘K’. These words, while not very common, often have intriguing backgrounds and usages. This section provides a glimpse into some of these K-starting Spanish terms that did not fit neatly into previous categories.

Loanwords and Borrowings

Foreign words, often unaltered in spelling, get incorporated into the Spanish language due to globalization, technological advancements, or cultural exchanges.

  • Kebab: Borrowed from Turkish, this term refers to a dish made of pieces of meat, fish, or vegetables roasted or grilled on a skewer or spit.
  • Kickboxing: Derived from English, it’s a hybrid martial art formed from elements of karate and boxing. It’s both a sport and a method of self-defense.
  • Keyboard: Another English borrowing, it refers to the panel of keys on a computer or typewriter.

Words of Indigenous Origin

Languages native to the Americas, such as Quechua or Nahuatl, have contributed K-starting words to Spanish.

  • Kermes: This is a term used in Mexico and refers to a small-scale festival or fair, often held in neighborhoods. Its origin is from Nahuatl.
  • Kañiwa: A grain similar to quinoa but smaller, it’s native to the Andes, and the word is of Quechua origin.

Technical or Niche Terms

Certain K-starting terms in Spanish belong to specific fields of study or areas of expertise.

  • Krypton: A chemical element with the symbol Kr and atomic number 36. It’s a noble gas and is used in certain types of lighting and in lasers.
  • Kilobyte: A unit of digital information equal to 1024 bytes. It’s a term used in computing and digital technology.

Summary Table

Spanish Term

Meaning or Description

Origin or Context


Meat or vegetables grilled on a skewer or spit



A martial art combining karate and boxing



Panel of keys on a computer or typewriter



A local festival or fair

Nahuatl (Mexican)


A grain native to the Andes, similar to quinoa



A noble gas, used in lighting and lasers



A unit of digital information equal to 1024 bytes


The diversity of these K-starting terms in Spanish serves as a testament to the dynamic nature of language. Words, regardless of their origin, can find a place in daily conversation, specialized fields, or cultural events when they fulfill a need or resonate with speakers.

Key Takeaways from Spanish Vocabulary Beginning with K

As we’ve navigated through the landscape of Spanish vocabulary that begins with the letter ‘K’, it’s evident that this isn’t a native characteristic of the language. The presence of ‘K’ primarily stems from foreign influence, be it from other languages, technological terms, or global phenomena. Here are the main insights we’ve gathered:

Summary Table

  • Foreign Borrowings: Many K-starting words in Spanish are direct borrowings from other languages. These are often maintained in their original form without translation, such as “kickboxing” or “keyboard.”
  • Indigenous Contributions: Languages from the Americas, like Quechua or Nahuatl, have enriched the Spanish vocabulary with terms that start with ‘K’. These words often pertain to native customs, flora, fauna, or phenomena.
  • Technical Terminologies: The realms of science, technology, and academia have also introduced K-words into Spanish. Examples include “krypton” from chemistry and “kilobyte” from computing.

Usages and Contexts

  • Niche Use: While the general Spanish vocabulary might be sparse with K-words, certain professions or academic disciplines might encounter them more frequently.
  • Regional Variations: Some K-words might be more prevalent in specific Spanish-speaking regions due to local influences or historical reasons. For instance, “kermes” is primarily used in Mexico.

Adaptability of Spanish

  • The incorporation of K-starting words underscores the adaptability and dynamism of the Spanish language. It shows the language’s capability to evolve and integrate new terms as societies change and cultures intermingle.

Summary Table

Key Takeaway

Examples or Remarks

Foreign Borrowings

Kebab, keyboard, kickboxing

Indigenous Contributions

Kermes (Nahuatl), Kañiwa (Quechua)

Technical Terminologies

Krypton (Chemistry), Kilobyte (Computing)

Niche Use & Regional Variations

“Kermes” predominantly in Mexico

Adaptability of Spanish

Incorporation of K-words from diverse backgrounds

Concluding, while ‘K’ might not be a quintessential Spanish letter, the words it introduces to the lexicon offer a window into the multifaceted influences on the language. They enrich the Spanish vocabulary, ensuring it remains vibrant and contemporaneous with global developments.

FAQ on Spanish Vocabulary Beginning with K

Q: How is the Letter K pronounced in Spanish?

A: The letter ‘K’ in Spanish is pronounced similarly to English, as in ‘kilo’ or ‘kangaroo’. However, it’s relatively uncommon in native Spanish words and is mostly found in borrowed terms or proper nouns.

Q: Are there common substitutions for the Letter K in Spanish?

A: Yes, the letter pair ‘QU’ often substitutes for the sound of ‘K’ in Spanish, especially in native words. For instance, the word ‘que’ (which means ‘what’) is pronounced similarly to the English ‘kay’.

Q: Can you provide an example of a Spanish noun that starts with K?

A: Certainly! One example is ‘Kebab’, a term borrowed from Turkish, referring to a dish made of pieces of meat, fish, or vegetables roasted or grilled on a skewer or spit.

Q: Are there Spanish adjectives that begin with the letter K?

A: Yes, while they’re rare, there are a few such as ‘Kafkiano’, which is derived from the writer Franz Kafka and refers to something surreal or absurd, similar to Kafka’s writings.

Q: What are the main insights regarding the use of the letter K in the Spanish vocabulary?

A: The letter ‘K’ is not a native characteristic of the Spanish language. Its presence in the language mainly stems from foreign influence, including other languages, technical terms, or global phenomena. This showcases the adaptability and dynamism of the Spanish language.

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