Spanish Language Blog

9 Supposedly English Words Invented by the Spanish Posted by on Oct 28, 2014 in Spanish Culture, Spanish Vocabulary

Guest Post by Marta Lopez: Marta is from the beautiful Galician region, in the Northwest of Spain. She is a writer, a teacher and a language learner. Marta did her Erasmus year in Paris in 2006 and since then she has been improving her French on her own. She also contributes to different British and Spanish magazines.

Let´s face it: we Spaniards have reinvented Shakespeare´s tongue. We have been doing it for ages and the funniest part is that whilst we know that these words are not used by native English speakers, we can´t resist the temptation of using them. The origin of this “invented vocabulary” might be found in the contact between both languages. Let´s think about the Spanglish phenomenon, for example, which is still the language chosen by Mexicans or Llanitos (people living in Gibraltar) when it comes to everyday communication. However, Spaniards from Castilla (where Spanish is spoken perfectly) have added to their list a full list of words that somehow have something to do with the English language.

  1. Alto standing: “High class”

This is one of the most commonly heard words in the country. Spaniards use this term when referring to something very luxurious like a very high class apartment. The reason why the word refers to luxury is still an enigma, as English speakers use the word “high standing” in a very different context. Not to mention the first part of the word “alto”- Could it sound more Spanish?

  1. Crack: “Someone who rocks”

Spaniards love this word. For those we admire, we call then “cracks” (this word is especially used by men). In any case, this is a bit curious as in English the word means something completely differently, referring to a fissure in a surface or to a drug. Either way, it has nothing to do with the fact of being awesome!

  1. Footing: “To go jogging”

In Spain, when we are going for a jog, we say we “do footing”. Let’s break the word into pieces. What Spaniards have made in this occasion is making a verb from a name which is foot and adding the –ing suffix. This is one of the most common mistakes that Spanish speakers make when they move to an English speaking country for the first time. After having said it in public for the first time, we all learnt that jogging is the right word.

  1. Quinqui: “Chav”

This is one of the most dangerous terms when it comes to having a conversation with a native English speaker. In Spain, “quinqui” is often used to mean that someone has done nothing with his or her life and the only thing that matters is having fun. It’s also used when someone hasn’t shaved in a while or just hasn’t looked after his or her appearance. For example: “You look like a quinqui.” The trouble comes when an English speaker hears this word and thinks it has the same sexual connotation as the word “kinky”.

  1. Friki: “A weird person”

When someone is very good with numbers, technology, and computers is considered to be a “friki.” English speakers commonly use the word “nerd”, however the word “freak” can be used to mean anything that is unusual such as a monster. So the question is: Where does friki come from?

  1. Zapping: “Channel-surfing”

When we found out that the word “zapping” didn’t exist in American English, we were all very upset, as it sounded very English to us.  In any case, we didn’t care and we kept using it. Zapping is a national sport for us and it consists in the art of lying on the sofa whilst changing channels until finding that good TV series or film we were looking for.

  1. Puenting: “Bungee jumping”

You don’t have to be an English lecturer from Oxford University to know that the word for “puente” in English is “bridge”. In this case “puenting” is similar to “footing”, just another word invented by Spaniards by following the old tradition which says that anything ending in –ing becomes English.

  1. Tuning: “Customizing a car”

The art of “tuning” dates back to those times when young people used to spend their savings to customize their cars. The surprise came years later, when we noticed that English speakers didn’t use it in the same way.

  1. Gin Tonic: “Gin &Tonic”

I’m not sure why, but Spaniards never use the conjunction “and” when pronouncing the drink “Gin & Tonic”, and it’s important to remember that we also pronounce it as it were only one word.  Last but not least: when we go to a bar in a foreign country Spaniards normally keep to the Latin way to order the spirit.

So there you have it, 9 “English” words that Spaniards came up with on their own. Can you think of any others?

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  1. Kabir:

    Hola Marta,

    Thanks for the interesting article. I just wanted to point out that ‘crack’ does mean “very skillful, especially as a result of being trained well” when used as an adjective( For example, a crack team of investigators or commandos.