Lexical influences in Spanish Posted by on Feb 20, 2009 in Spanish Culture, Spanish Vocabulary

Remember that story that John loved Mary, who loved Charles, who loved…? Well, learning languages is not different, because each language ends up influencing others. You must know already that you can express things differently in Spanish depending on which country you are in, right? Let’s take for example the word “bus”: if you’re in Spain, you say autobús, in Cuba guagua (which in Chile means baby), in Chile micro and in Argentina, colectivo. This amazing vocabulary diversity goes over not only borders but also centuries of history, because Spanish comes from Latin, which branched out into many dialectal varieties that turned into the Romance languages. Check out some interesting lexical borrowings in Spanish and where they came from.

– From Arabic: foods like acelga (chard), alubia (bean), zanahoria (carrot), aceite (oil), arroz (rice), naranja (orange), café (coffee). Also words like barrio (neighborhood), alfombra (rug/carpet), asesino (assassin), guitarra (guitar), alcohol (alcohol), or cero (zero).
– From French: we have hostal (motel, guesthouse), mensaje (message), faisán (pheasant), batalla (battle), monje (monk), moda (fashion), parque (park), fresa (strawberry), crema (cream), camión (truck), marrón (brown), chaqueta (jacket), or rifle (rifle).
– When it comes to art, Italian plays a major role, with words like novela (novel), partitura (music score), diseño (design), ópera (opera), serenata (serenade), cúpula (dome), piano (piano), etc.
– From the time when Spaniards were settling in America we have indigenous words such as: cacao (cocoa), chocolate, cacahuete (peanuts), tomate (tomato), patata (potato), batata (sweet potato, yam), barbacoa (barbeque), caucho (rubber), chicle (chewing gum), tabaco (tobacco), and many others.

Nos vemos prontito.

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About the Author: Adir

English / Spanish teacher and translator for over 20 years. I have been blogging since 2007 and I am also a professional singer in my spare time.