ates of the caribbean

Spanish Loanwords in English

…Minus most terms for food that English has taken from Spanish like taco and tortilla etc.

(How many cowboy words can you spot~)

  • alligator | el lagarto - “lizard” / “large lizard”
  • cafeteria | la cafetería - “place to buy coffee”
  • canyon | el cañón - “giant reed” / “large hollow”
  • hoosegow | e ljuzgado / los juzgados - “judged” or “courthouse”
  • buckaroo | el vaquero - “cowboy” / “cow-herder”
  • bronco | bronco/a - “rough” / “hoarse”
  • bonanza | la bonanza - now it means “party”; in Spanish it used to be related to bueno/a “good” making bonanza an “act of good" or "fair weather” or “prosperity”
  • jalapeño | el jalapeño - “from Xalapa (Mexican city)”
  • mustang | mestengo / mesteño - an older Spanish word for “lacking a master”
  • lasso | el lazo - “tie” or “rope”
  • sherry | el jerez - which technically comes from the town of Jerez de la Frontera in Spain
  • tequila - from Tequila in Mexico
  • tabasco - from Tobasco in Mexico
  • daiquiri - Daiquirí is a city in Cuba
  • habanero / habanera | habanero/a - from Havana, Cuba
  • pinto | pinto/a - “spotted” (type of horse… or type of bean)
  • quixotic | quijotesco/a - “seeming like Don Quixote”
  • ten-gallon hat - "ten-gallon" is a misheard version of tan galán “so gentlemanly”
  • stampede | la estampida - related to estampar which is “to smash/crush” or “to press (printing press)”
  • tornado | el tornado - from tornar which means “to turn all around”
  • vanilla | la vainillala vaina means “a sheathe” for a sword; so “vanilla” means “little sheathe” because of the pod [also related to la vagina which also means “sheathe” literally]
  • corral | el corral - a rounded enclosure for livestock; originally something like a hippodrome, where horses would race with chariots around a track
  • patio | el patio - means “courtyard” or “outside enclosure”
  • vigilante | el vigilante - in English it means someone who takes the law into their own hands; in Spanish it means “watchman” or “one who keeps vigil”
  • el Zorro - el zorro means “fox” literally, animals known for their smarts… but don’t call a woman zorra just don’t
  • cargo | el cargo - from cargar “to load” or “to burden”
  • armada | la armada
  • armadillo | el armadillo - “little armored one”
  • vamoose | vamos - “Let’s go”
  • ranch | el rancho - a small rural environment
  • rodeo | el rodeo - “a roundabout” in Spanish; in English it remains more in a Western “bull-riding” environment
  • savvy | sabe - from saber “to know”
  • mosquito | el mosquito - diminutive of la mosca “fly”; making a “mosquito” a “little fly”
  • cockroach | la cucaracha
  • crusade | la cruzada - “related to La Cruzmeaning "Cross” or “religious”
  • bodega | la bodega - in English a “bodega” is a small store or shop similar to “boutique”; in Spanish la bodega is a “wine cellar”… because they’re all related to botella “bottle” and “apothecary”
  • cabana | la cabaña - for “cabin”
  • flotilla | la flotillaflotilla is the diminutive of la flota meaning “fleet”

  • Florida - florido/a in Spanish means “flowery”
  • Arizona - either meaning “small spring” in an Uto-Aztecan language or it comes from haritz ona “solid oak” in Basque
  • Nevada - la nevada means “snowfall” and nevado/a means “snowy”
  • Colorado - colorado/a “colored” but meant “color in the cheeks” or “red”
  • Montana - la montaña means “mountain”
  • California - either from a mythical island in Spanish literature… or related to calor and el horno meaning “hot oven/furnace”

Other words that English regards as Spanish loanwords are actually loanwords from various indigenous tribes that the Spaniards encountered during the colonization period of Spain.

  • avocado | el aguacate = ahuacatl Nahuatl
  • chocolate = xocolatl Nahuatl
  • alpaca = Aymara (in Bolivia)
  • cannibal (el canibal) = Caribe (named caribal at first; it meant a specific tribe in the Caribbean that ate their enemies)
  • iguana = iwana in Taino
  • condor = cuntur in Quechua
  • dengue = dinga in Swahili means “seizure”
  • hurricane | el huracánhurákan in Taino
  • poncho = pontho meaning “woven cloth” in Auracanian
  • puma = from Quechua
  • jerky | el charqui = “sundried meat” in Quechua
  • Chiclets (brand of gum) | el chicle = “chewing gum” in Spanish and “Chiclets” comes from “gummy” or “squishy” in Nahuatl tziktli
  • potato | la patata / la papa = Spain gets patata from Taino's batata, and Latin America gets la papa from Quechua… both meaning “potato”