While I continue devouring the book Spanish Word Histories and Mysteries: English Words That Come From Spanish here is a second taste of what I have been learning. It is fascinating to read interesting stories about all these Spanish words in English and how they passed from one language to another.
In the first article 10 Easy English-Spanish Words You Can Add to Your Vocabulary Today I listed some word examples that were borrowed by the English language with the exact same spelling. In this second article, I will focus on examples whose spelling is slightly different.
Please feel free to download and share the following slide show I’ve created.
12 Additional Stories About Spanish Words in English
1. caramel | caramelo
The word caramel passed by different languages before it first appears in English in the 1720’s. English actually borrows it from French caramel that previously took it from Spanish. But Portuguese was the language that originated this word with caramelo probably due to the way sugar was produced: “conical piles that look like icicles.” In Portuguese the word caramelo means both “icicle” and “caramel.”
2. cargo | carga
The first known used of this word in English was from 1657 and came from two different, but related words in Spanish: cargo and carga. In Spanish, cargo has a vast list of meanings that includes “load,” “responsibility,” “a work related role” or “a felony charge.” In the other hand, the meanings of carga includes “the load transported on your back or in any vehicle,” “a tax” and “electric charge.” Both words come from the Latin carricāre.
3. guitar | guitarra
Spain played a key role in the evolution of this musical instrument which led the English language to borrow guitarra in 1668. The early use of this word in English kept its Spanish spelling “guitarra,” but later transformed to “guitar.”
4. hurricane | huracán
Hurricanes were new to the Spaniards that lived in the new territories of the Caribbean, the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic coast that had never experienced a strong storm of this type. The word hurricane comes from the Taíno language of the native people: hura (wind) and can (center).
5. lasso | lazo
The English word lasso is part of the Old West vocabulary and comes from the Spanish word lazo that means “a tie” or “knot.” This word was first used in English in 1807.
6. platinum | platino
This new metal was brought from South America to Europe by the Spaniards under the name platina that is a diminutive for plata or silver. Spaniards also name it Platina del Pinto after the Pinto River in Colombia. This metal was found combined with gold and it was thought to be “unripened gold” and not a new metal. In the mid 1700’s, Englishmen Charles Wood and William Brownrigg conclude that this was actually a new metal and used the same word “platina” to name it. Then the name was change to “platinum” to make it uniform to Latin words for other metals such as aurum (gold) and argentum (silver). Eventually the word in Spanish was also change to platino.
7. potato | patata
The word potato comes from the Spanish patata that is a combination of papa (Quechua for white potato) and batata (Taíno for sweet potato). The sweet potato was found in the Caribbean and was the first tuber brought to Spain after 1492 Christopher Columbus’ first trip. On the other hand, the white potato is native to Peru and was introduced in Spain later on. It is believed that Spaniards combined both words because of the similarities of both vegetables that were relatively new for them. The word patata for “white potatos” is used in Spain and the word papa is used in Latin America.
8. ranch | rancho
The Spanish word that gave origin to this word is rancho. While this word has other meanings in Spanish like “communal food served to soldiers or workers” or “a camp outside town, home to several families or individuals,” none of these were the one that stick in the English language. The word “ranch” meaning “a large farm for raising horses, beef cattle, or sheep” was used for the first time in 1831 when English-speaking settlers moved in to the areas of California, the Rocky Mountains, Texas, etc. that were part of Mexico during that time.
9. savanna | sabana
A savanna (also spelled “savannah”) is a tropical or subtropical grassland (as of eastern Africa or northern South America) containing scattered trees and drought-resistant undergrowth. This word comes from the Spanish sabana, a word used by the Taíno habitants of the Caribbean. The first known use of this word in English was in 1555.
10. tomato | tomate
Despite the tomato fruit being native to today’s Peru area, it was also cultivated in Central America and Mexico. When the Spaniards took over the Aztec Empire in the 1500’s they brought the tomato to Europe. This word comes from the Nahuatl tomatl, a generic word for any “plump globose fruits,” that passed to the Spanish language as tomate. In fact, the word was borrowed in English in 1604 with exactly the same Spanish spelling. By mid 1700’s the spelling was transformed to “tomato” perhaps by the inclination of English-speakers “to add an o to the end of any word they know to be of Spanish origin.”
11. vanilla | vainilla
The vanilla is native to Mexico and Central America where it was used to flavor foods such as their chocolate drinks. They named it vainilla or “little pod” that is the diminutive of the Spanish word vaina or sheath. The first known use of this word in English was in 1662 with the spelling “vaynilla.”
12. volcano | volcán
The incursion of volcano into the English language has a long path that ties it back to its origin. The history of this word starts with the Roman god of fire and metalworking Vulcanus that is a Latin word. When the Arabs ruled over Sicily for about two centuries (from 832 to 1072 AD), they took some words including volcanus now transformed as burkan. Spain also experienced its long Muslim domination (from 711 to 1492) resulting in many vocabulary borrowings. Experts theorize that the Spanish word volcán came from the Arabic, but also “reflect the influence of the original Latin word.” The Spanish volcán was transfered to French and English as volcan, but later the English spelling changed to “volcano” perhaps under the influence of the Italian word vulcano.
Check out these other English Spanish articles.