How to use the word "caliente" without embarrassing yourself

Just because it has a salacious meaning in some contexts doesn't mean you need to avoid the word "caliente" like the plague! Learn how to use this word confidently without embarrassment.

Dec 03, 2020
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“Don’t say “estar caliente”, say “tener calor”. This is one of the first things we warn Spanish students of in class. We explain to them that if they say “estar caliente” then they are saying they are sexually excited, which although often very humorous, causes a negative effect: unsure of when using “caliente” is okay, they just avoid using it altogether!

We understand that no one wants to mess up like this and sound extremely inappropriate in conversation; however, the adjective "caliente" is very commonly used in Spanish and does not always have a sexual connotation. So let’s take a look at all the implications and meanings that it has for you to use it with confidence and without fear of embarrassing yourself.

Use “caliente” to describe:


That’s right, if a person is very upset, we can say that they are "caliente" - kind of like "fuming". The context and the attitude of the person will make clear the meaning of "hot" to which he/she is referring to.

  • No me hables ahorita que estoy caliente.
    Don’t talk to me right now, I’m very upset.

We can also use the verb “calentarse”.

  • No le puedes decir nada cuando está trabajando porque se calienta.
    You can’t tell him anything when he’s working because he gets angry.

A fever

When someone has a fever, we can confidently say "está caliente".

  • El niño está caliente. Tiene 40º.
    The boy has a fever of 40º.

Sexual excitement

This is the meaning we're warned about from the start. This is something you can confidently say only under the right context.

  • Ella lo pone muy caliente.
    She turns him on.

A delicate situation

When a situation seems to be very complicated or does not have a solution, we can say that it is a "hot" situation, especially when it triggers strong emotions in people.

  • La situación política del país está caliente.
    The political situation in the country is complicated.

A warm place

Caliente is a perfect adjective to describe the weather. If you live in a warm place, you can say it without fear.

  • España en agosto es super caliente.
    Spain is very hot in August.

A dangerous place

If you know a place has a high crime rate, you can also describe it as hot, like you can in English.

  • Las calles de ese pueblo están muy calientes últimamente. Debemos tener precaución.
    The streets of that town are very hot these days. We must be careful.

Something warm to the touch

There is no other way to describe that something feels hot if it is not using this adjective. We cannot say that the soup ‘tiene calor’, for example, we can only say that it is hot = está caliente.

  • Este café está muy caliente.
    The coffee is very hot.

Something that makes you feel warm

If something makes you feel warmer, like a jacket, a blanket, a room, etc., then you can describe it as hot.

  • Esta es la chaqueta de invierno más caliente que tengo.
    This is the warmest winter jacket I own.
  • No me gusta esa habitación porque es muy caliente.
    I don’t like that room because it’s too hot.

Special expressions:

Doing something "en caliente"

This is an expression that indicates that something must be done immediately before the time to do it loses its importance.

  • Mejor resolvemos este problema en caliente.
    We better solve this problem right now.

Línea caliente: Hot line?

According to the Real Academia Española dictionary - the "bible" of the Spanish language - a "línea caliente" (literal translation of hotline) is a phone line set up for a specific purpose, for example customer support for a company. However, in everyday and colloquial speech, a "línea caliente" is a phone sex line. So, if you want to properly translate "hot line" into Spanish, we recommend you say "línea de ayuda" instead.

Last but not least:

If you wish to describe your thermal sensation, use the verb "tener" (to have). In the case of feeling hot, you should say: tengo calor. This is just a particularity of Spanish that has nothing to do with the use of the adjective "caliente", so don't think too much about it.

Now that you've got an understanding of how to safely use the word "caliente", why not practice a bit with our exercises?

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