August 28, 2007

#01-013: Speaking of Spanish: English Vocabulary from Spanish

world map showing countries where Spanish is spoken

Note: English is made up of many other languages. One of these is Spanish (the second most-common native language, after Mandarin Chinese; English is third!). Read on to learn some of the Spanish words we commonly use.

Get Ready: Do you know any Spanish words? Can you name some countries that speak Spanish?

In many parts of America (and especially in the southwest of the country--California, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, Colorado, and Texas) you will often hear people speaking the beautiful Spanish language. In addition to "pure" Spanish, there are several words that have changed sounds and/or meanings as they "became English." (By the way, all of those state names, as well as Montana and Florida, come from Spanish, or from an Indian word as understood by the Spanish.)

The Spanish language has contributed a huge number of words to English. Many of them are just direct borrowings, such as the names of foods: enchilada, taco, tamale, etc. Others have taken on a wider meaning. Salsa, for example, is a hot sauce, but has become the name of a dance. (You can find salsa dancing classes and clubs all over the world.)

Stop in at a Mexican restaurant (my favorite!) and you may hear the staff greeting you with a happy "Hola!" (pronounced OH-la), or, when you leave, "Adios!" (ah-dee-OSE). These are the Spanish words for "hello" and "goodbye."

Instead of a restaurant, you may go to a barbecue on someone's patio. Barbecue and patio are Spanish.

Or you might go to a supermarket and buy bananas and papayas, or tomatoes and potatoes--all Spanish words. Pick up some ice cream: chocolate and vanilla come from Spanish. Drink some hot cocoa, or Coca Cola. Both beverage names come from Spanish.

Sit down and eat your purchases in a plaza, which means "town square" in Spanish.

Or, head back to your company or school for lunch in the cafeteria, another Spanish word.

Care to smoke after lunch? Tobacco, cigar, and cigarette come from Spanish.

Lots of animals' names come directly from Spanish, like condor, jaguar, llama, and puma (a big cat, as seen on the shoes' logo). But others were transformed from Spanish: alligator came from el lagarto, "the lizard"; tuna from atun; and cockroach from cucaracha. Speaking of insect pests, mosquito is Spanish for "little fly," and the terrible disease it causes, dengue, is also Spanish.

A few cowboy-related terms are derived from Spanish words: buckaroo (from vaquero, "cowboy"), corral, lasso, ranch, rodeo, and savvy (from sabe, "he knows.")

I should point out that many of the words I've given you here (tomato, potato, chocolate, and tobacco, among others) came from Native American languages into Spanish before becoming English.

One more word: An old Spanish word for "roommate" is camarada. Any idea what that's related to, Comrade?


Read more:

Practice: Fill in the blanks in the sentences below with words from Spanish (all answers are mentioned above). Be sure to use the correct form (singular vs plural).

  1. My house has a ----- out back where we can have dinner in the summer.
  2. I wish my roommate wouldn't smoke so much; he smokes two packs of ----- a day!
  3. It looks funny when a man slips on a ----- peel, but it can really hurt him!
  4. If you ----- vegetables, they taste much better.
  5. At school, I usually eat in the -----, even though the food is terrible.
  6. There's a shopping ----- near my house.
  7. I like to drink hot ----- when the weather is cold.
  8. I would never buy a bag or shoes made of ----- skin.
  9. A ----- bit me in my room last night!
  10. I love French-fried -----!

Answers are in the first comment below.

Submitted to the Shenzhen Daily for August 28, 2007

This lesson received 253 visits on my old site between January, 2012, and June, 2021.

1 comment:

  1. Answers to the Practice: 1. patio; 2. cigarettes; 3. banana; 4. barbecue; 5. cafeteria; 6. plaza; 7. chocolate; 8. alligator; 9. mosquito; 10. potatoes