Spanish is one of the most widely spoken languages in the world and has been influencing English for centuries. Over time, Spanish words have become a regular part of everyday English vocabulary, and this influence continues to grow. From terms commonly used in business and academia to slang found on street corners, Spanish words are everywhere you look in the English language.
In this article, we will explore how these words came into being as well as their impact on modern-day English. We’ll also discuss why learning Spanish can be beneficial if you already speak English fluently. So, let's dive in and uncover the power of the Spanish language!
The historical background of Spanish words in English is complex and multifaceted.
Spanish began to influence English in the 1500s, when English-speaking traders, sailors, and colonists encountered Spanish speakers as they traveled around the world. Since then, hundreds of common Spanish words have been borrowed and incorporated into the English language.
One common source of Spanish words in English comes from the time when England and Spain were bitter enemies – the Anglo-Spanish Wars, from 1587 to 1660. During this period, many English words were derived from Spanish, such as armada and breeze, which originated from the Spanish words armata and brisa, respectively.
Additionally, some English terms were directly taken from Spanish phrases or expressions, like gringo and guerrilla, and were adapted into the language without alterations.
In addition to these two sources, Spanish has also impacted English through the influence of other languages that were spoken in regions colonized by Spain. For example, many words of Native American origin have been incorporated into both Spanish and English vocabulary.
Impact on Modern-Day English
As you can see, the most common Spanish words have spread throughout the world over the centuries as a result of a number of factors, such as:
- Spanish colonialism,
- Hispanic influence on art and culture,
- inventions and innovations of Spanish origin.
Today, Spanish words are an integral part of the English language. Many everyday terms used in business and academia come from Spanish, such as embargo, savvy, or adobe. In addition, common slang words like macho and bonanza have become part of the English vernacular.
Furthermore, Spanish has had a major influence on the development of new words in English. In recent years, terms like taco and salsa have entered into mainstream English vocabulary due to the increasing popularity of Mexican food and other cuisines from Latin America.
For instance, you know the Spanish aguacate (that was actually first derived from Nahuatl ahuacatl) as avocado.
The impact of Spanish on modern-day English is undeniable. As the language continues to evolve and become more widely spoken, its influence is likely to grow even further.
Spanish Words in English
Now, let’s take a look at the different categories of Spanish loanwords in the English language. There might be some surprises for English speakers!
States & Cities
Spanish words have also been adopted into English when it comes to the names of states, cities, and regions. For instance:
- California is named after a mythical island in the Spanish novel Las sergas de Esplandián by Garci Rodríguez de Montalvo.
- Colorado – red-colored, to reference the Colorado river’s color.
- Florida means “flowery.”
- Nevada means “snowy.”
- San Francisco was given its name by Spanish colonists, who established Presidio of San Francisco at the Golden Gate and Mission San Francisco de Asís, named for St. Francis of Assisi.
- Los Angeles is a shortened version of the El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora la Reina de los Ángeles del Río de Porciúncula (The Town of Our Lady the Queen of Angels of the Porciúncula River).
- Montana is from the Spanish word montaña, meaning “mountain.”
- Monterey means “king's mountain.”
- Santa Cruz means “holy cross.”
- New Mexico is the anglicization of Mexican Spanish Nuevo México.
- Texas means “friends” or “allies” and originates from the Spanish word tejas, which, in turn, was adopted from the language of the indigenous Cado people.
Speaking of Texas, nothing feels more American than a cowboy, does it?
However, the strong influence of Spanish is also evident in the everyday language of cowboys. Many English terms used to describe the life and work of a cowboy have their origin in Spanish, especially considering that vaquero (which you might know as the English word buckaroo) comes from the Spanish word vaca, meaning “cow.”
Here are some more:
- rodeo is from the Spanish verb rodear which means “to go around,”
- desperado – desesperado (“desperate”),
- lasso is from the Spanish ****lazo (“tie”),
- ranch is derived from the Spanish word rancho, which means “a very small rural community,”
- 10-gallon hat is most likely derived from the Spanish tan galán (“so gallant”).
- stampede came from the Mexican Spanish verb estampida, meaning “to rush wildly in a sudden mass panic.”
Food & Beverages
The influence of Spanish is also evident in the English language when it comes to food and beverages. Some common examples include:
- burrito is Spanish for “little donkey,”
- cilantro means “coriander,”
- habanero literally means “from Havana,”
- jalapeño – “from Jalapa,”
- mojito is a diminutive form of Cuban Spanish mojo (“sauce”)
- nacho is named after Ignacio “Nacho” Anaya, who is thought to have invented the dish in 1940,
- piña colada is a combination of two Spanish words – piña (“pineapple”) and colada (“strained”),
- salsa means “ sauce,”
- vanilla is derived from the Spanish vainilla.
Spanish terms are also seen in the names of many animals, such as:
- alligator – el lagarto (“the lizard”),
- armadillo – diminutive of armado (“armed man”),
- bronco is the same word in Spanish, meaning “rough” or “rude,”
- cockroach is the anglicization of the Spanish word cucaracha (“woodlouse”),
- mosquito – literally meaning “little fly,”
- mustang – mustango, from mesteño (“untamed”).
Geography & Weather
Spanish words also frequently appear in the English vocabulary related to geography and weather – you already know about the origin of the word breeze, but there are more!
- canyon is taken from the Spanish term cañon meaning “tube” or “pipe,”
- sierra is the original Spanish word for “mountain range,”
- playa is the Spanish word for “beach,”
- tornado is an alteration of the Spanish word tronada, which means “thunderstorm” (from tronar “to thunder”), by association with Spanish tornar “to turn.”
War & Conflict
The Spanish language has also had an influence on the English language in relation to terms used for war and conflict. Common examples include:
- armada came from Real Armada Española that means “Royal Spanish Navy,”
- conquistador means “conqueror,”
- flotilla is a diminutive form of flota (“fleet”),
- guerrilla is diminutive of the Spanish word guerra (“war”), literally meaning “small war,”
- renegade came from renegado (“turncoat” or “traitor”),
- vigilante means “watchman.”
Why Should English Speakers Learn Spanish?
These countless examples of Spanish loanwords in the English language demonstrate how important this language is for understanding not only everyday life but also history.
Learning Spanish will help English speakers understand the cultural and historical background behind many English words and will also provide better access to Latin American culture since most of the region speaks Spanish as their primary language.
Furthermore, learning a foreign language like Spanish can boost cognitive functions and prevent language decline.
With its wide reach across the world, Spanish is an essential language for English speakers to learn if they want to communicate with people from other countries in a meaningful way, whether in a work environment or while traveling to a Spanish-speaking country.
Therefore, learning Spanish has many advantages for English speakers – both linguistically and culturally – and should be taken seriously when considering languages to study.
With the right resources and guidance, anyone can become a proficient Spanish speaker in no time!
The Bottom Line
Of course, these are only basic Spanish words that have been adopted into English, but the influence of Spanish on English is much deeper than this. From food and drinks to animals, geography, and other topics, Spanish has had a major impact on the English language for centuries – and it doesn't look like that's changing anytime soon!
So, if you want to broaden your cultural understanding as well as benefit from the cognitive advantages of learning a foreign language, start exploring Spanish today! Download our Langster app to start expanding your Spanish vocab right away! Good luck!