There’s a village in Spain called Lepe, which literally translates to “be a complete twit or idiot”. Anyone that comes from that village must be faced with an untold amount of jokes at their expense when asked by an outsider where they come from.
But Lepe isn’t the only place in this country with a weird or comical name. This is our guide to the 10 Spanish towns and villages with the oddest or most curious names and a description of where these place names actually originate from.
Guarromán, Jaén, Andalucía
With a name like this (dirty man), many are probably wondering about the cleanliness and hygiene habits of the residents of this town in the south of Spain. However, the town’s name actually has nothing to do with personal hygiene or the mixture of English and Spanish words, and is, in fact, just the Castilianisation of the original Arabic name of the place. The Moors christened the town Wadi-r-rumman, which means ‘River of Pomegranate Trees’. However, the local residents, the ‘guarromanenses’ were so taken with the name of their village that they founded the International Association for Towns with Ugly, Strange and Peculiar names in the World. The HQ for this association is actually in Guarromán.
Parderubias, Pontevedra, Galicia
In this village with 450 inhabitants in the northwest of Spain, there are probably more than just the pair of blonde girls living there than the name suggests. Parderubias, or ‘pair of blondes’ has unbelievably nothing to do with the complexion or hair colour of its female inhabitants! The name of the village is actually derived from the Latin ‘pera rubeas’, which actually means ‘blonde stones’, and over time it has evolved into its current name, also being influenced by the Galician language spoken in this region.
Peleas de Abajo, Zamora, Castilla y León
In this case, the naming of this little village was quite literal. Peleas de Abajo (fights below) was the location of many cruel and bloody battles between the Moors and Christians, who fought over land and the right to rule it. Not only this, but around the 16th century, bands of highwaymen existed in great numbers. They would highjack passing carriages and rob the occupants of any silver and other objects of value.
So, you must be wondering whether the village of Peleas de Arriba also exists. Well, the answer is yes, and the two towns are divided by the Valparaíso River. The curious thing is that Peleas de Abajo is actually technically situated north of Peleas de Arriba, which would suggest that their names are the wrong way round. However, the former is also situated in the lower course of the river, which gives the true meaning of the name.
Villanueva del Pardillo, Madrid
The origin of this town located in the region of Madrid has had scholars and researchers confused for a very long time. Even now, no one knows where this name, which means ‘New Town of Gullible People’ comes from. A popular story is that a minister named Pardo christened the village and gave it his name, while others believe that it originates from the castellano word ‘pardal’, which means ‘village’ or ‘villager’. The most academic are under the impression that the name is derived from the Latin ‘parietinas’ (casas con paredes sin techo – houses with walls but without a roof) or ‘pardina’ (casa aislada en la montaña – isolated mountain house).
Los Infiernos, Murcia
Well, if you’ve ever wondered what it would feel like to be in hell, you only have to travel to this little village just 40km southeast of the city of Murcia to do so. While this name is suggestive to its meaning, the origins of this place name are not certain. However, merely by visiting Los Infiernos in the height of the summer, this might give you some idea, as temperatures reached in this part of the country are higher than in most other parts of Spain.
Dios le Guarde, Salamanca, Castilla y León
So, it’s no coincidence that this village in the province of Salamanca was named ‘May God Be with You’. Legend has it that a very long time ago there was a dark and sinister forest located very close to this settlement that was habited by many dangerous wolves who set upon anyone that entered their wood. Therefore, those who lived close by and who were aware of the perils awaiting those that dared pass through always blessed them with the same words: “Dios le guarde”. Today, the scary forest doesn’t exist as it did back then, but this story is a popular one that has been passed down from generation to generation.
Apparently, Victoria Beckham once said that Spain smells of garlic. Maybe she had visited the small town of Ajo in the northern region of Cantabria, although it is most likely that she did not. Nevertheless, it is said that this village was given the same name as the pungent plant, which its inhabitants were said to consume in very large amounts on a daily basis, because the whole town was consumed by its highly characteristic aroma. Despite the fact that the town may smell of garlic and put some people off visiting it, this part of Spain has some of the best beaches located on the Cantabrian coast, which, in reality, should be more of an incentive to go there than not.
Villalibre de la Jurisdicción, León, Castilla y León
This name suggests that anyone that has committed a criminal offence or who makes a living from crime would do well to go and live in Villalibre de la Jurisdicción. Literally translated, the name of this tiny village in León with just 400 inhabitants means ‘town free from any jurisdiction’. However, everyone here is not actually free from any jurisdiction and has to follow the same laws as everyone else in Spain! Many have their theories about where this namesake comes from, and include originating from the Celtic word for ‘camino’, or more likely from Roman times when gold, which was mined in Galicia, was freely transported (vía libre) through the area to the capital of the empire.
Villapene, Lugo, Galicia
OK, so this is probably the most unfortunate place name, or the most hilarious, whichever way you tend to look at things. The name of this village in the north-western-most corner of the country literally translates to ‘Penis Town’ and very often the sign that welcomes visitors to the village is often missing, having been stolen with the intent of advertising it along with their antics on some social media site. The jokes associated to this village are numerous, but academics have found out that the origin of this fascinating name have nothing to do with the male genital organ. The town actually owes its name to a man called Penius, who was by all accounts important enough to name this part of the world after himself.
Guasa, Huesca, Aragón
For those English speakers with very little knowledge of the Spanish language, the name of this tiny village with barely 50 inhabitants will probably be lost on them. However, if you pronounce the name as any Spaniard would, you’ll realize that it’s exactly the same as the way the Spanish would say the word ‘Whatsapp’ in English. And if that’s not enough, just down the road is the village of ‘Triste’ or ‘Sad’. Perhaps the best thing going for both of these village is the fact that they are situated in the unbelievably picturesque setting of the Aragonese Pyrenees.