Skip links
Published on: Grammar Bites

Many meanings of ‘background’ in Spanish

The English term ‘background’ has many different equivalents in Spanish, so we have prepared an easy guide to help you out. Let’s take a look!

1. Background as FONDO: 

When we use the term ‘background’ to describe the location, person, or object placed at the back or rear of a painting, picture or physical area, the proper equivalent is ‘fondo’:

  • ¿Ves esas personas en el fondo de la foto? Esos son mis abuelos. See those people in the background of the picture? Those are my grandparents.
  • Allá, al fondo, está el faro. The lighthouse is over there, in the background.
  • El fondo de mi teléfono es una foto de mis mascotas. I have a picture of my pets as the background of my phone.
2. Background as CONTEXTO, TRASFONDO: 

When ‘background’ refers to a set of causes, antecedents, or reasons to lead to an event or circumstance, we can use equivalents like ‘contexto’, ‘trasfondo’, ‘historial’, or ‘antecedente’:

  • Para entender el conflicto político actual es importante entender primero el trasfondo social. In order to understand the current political turmoil, it’s important to first understand its social background.
  • ¿Quién puede explicar los antecedentes de la Primera Guerra Mundial? Who can explain the background leading to World War I?

Sometimes we use the term ‘background’ to describe a person’s origins, education, or career. In this case, words like ‘trayectoria’, ‘experiencia’ or ‘origen’ are the preferred equivalents, although we can also use ‘historial’ and ‘antecedente’ depending on the context:

  • Ella usa su experiencia médica para trabajar como intérprete en hospitales. She uses her medical background to work as an interpreter in hospitals.
  • Viene de una familia de larga trayectoria artística. He comes from a family with a long artistic background.
  • Él ahora es un jugador muy famoso, pero sus orígenes son muy humildes. He’s a very famous player now, but he comes from a very poor background.
4. Background as DE FONDO: 

Although mostly used as a noun, we can also use the term ‘background’ as an adjective. In this sense, it describes the sounds that can be heard in the background of an action or scene. The Spanish equivalent is the phrase formed by a noun + ‘de fondo’:

  • Hay mucho ruido de fondo en este bar; no puedo escuchar nada. There’s too much background noise in this bar; I can’t hear a thing.
  • En la recepción del hotel se escuchaba una música de fondo muy placentera. At the hotel lobby you could enjoy some lovely background music.
Activities for private students & members: