Any mnemonics or tips on how to not mix up these two words? El Niño and La Niña

Do natives easily remember what is each?

  • For us in Australia, "el" Niño is hot and dry as ’ell (hell), and "niña" is so wet and rainy that the water is forever soaking "iña" (in ya). Hope that helps. :p
    – ralph.m
    Jun 11 at 3:45
  • @ralph.m Wow, I'm impressed! Yeah, I was looking for the Australian version. Is it how they teach it in the schools too? I you put it as an answer I can mark it. Jun 11 at 4:59
  • — Unfortunately, I just made that answer up to have some fun. I think Australians generally struggle to differentiate Niño and Niña, if they've even heard of them. The terms come up often in the news, since these two phenomena have brought both droughts and flooding rains in recent times, but most people don't know what I'm talking about when I mention El Niño and La Niña.
    – ralph.m
    Jun 11 at 5:35
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    I’m voting to close this question because this is nothing to do with learning English. These are transnational technical terms.
    – Colin Fine
    Jun 11 at 15:22

1 Answer 1


No, these words are part of the "semi-technical" vocabulary. If a TV weather presenter uses them they would usually explain what they mean.

Even among educated people (like me!) what exactly these words mean is rather unclear: El Niño is some kind of movement of warm water in the Pacific, and it makes the Earth warmer, La Niña is the opposite movement of water. I couldn't tell you much more than that, and many native English speakers would know even less. Perhaps just that "El Niño" is something to do with the climate, and it is "bad".

If you are a climatologist - well you are just expected to know such words (and understand the mechanisms behind them).

If it helps, El Niño is "the boy" and alludes to the Christ child, as the climate phenomenon is said to often occur between Christmas and Easter. La Niña is "the girl" and so is the opposite.

  • 1
    By way of analogy, names of computer languages "Java" and "Javascript" are part of the "semi technical language" of software engineering. A programmer would be expected to know what these mean (and use them appropriately). Many native speakers will have heard of these, but have no clear idea of what the difference is, or perhaps just that they are "something to do with computers". You don't need to know how Java is different from Javascript to have native level English skills.
    – James K
    Jun 11 at 10:52
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    You really need tildes on those words. Other you'd expect El lNino to be preceded by El Eighto and followed by El Teno.
    – tchrist
    Jun 11 at 12:40
  • No excuse for absence of tildes when you can cut and paste from the question.
    – Stuart F
    Jun 11 at 13:08
  • @JamesK And even many programmers aren't aware of the distinction between them.
    – Barmar
    Jun 11 at 13:32
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    @StuartF No excuse when writing in Spanish. This is English, and El Nino is an accepted variant spelling. But I'm not precious about people editing my answers.
    – James K
    Jun 11 at 15:07

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