Spanish Terms in English

Spanish word in English
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Palabras españoles en inglés

The Spanish language has contributed numerous terms to English. Spanish is a Romance (Latin) language, so many of these terms come ultimately from Latin, while others are from various Native American or African languages.

Most Spanish words in English can be grouped into the following categories: food, animals, people, buildings, drugs, nature, and war. The second column offers some notes and the (literal meaning)


alligator from el lagarto (the lizard)
alpaca from Aymara word allpaca
armadillo diminutive of armado (armored), past participle of armar (to arm), from Latin armare (to arm), from arma (arms)
barracuda from barraco (overlapping tooth)
bronco (wild)
cockroach from cucharacha, from cuca (caterpillar)
condor from cóndor, from Quechua cuntur
coyote from Nahuatl cóyotl
iguana from Arawak iwana
jaguar from Guarani jaguá or yaguar (dog)
llama from Quechua
mosquito diminutive of mosca (fly), from Latin musca
mustang from American Spanish mesteño or mestengo (stray animal), from Old Spanish, from mesta (association of livestock owners), from Medieval Latin mixta (assorted)
pinto (piebald, spotted), from Vulgar Latin pinctus (painted)
puma from Quechua
tuna from atún, from Arabic at-tun (the tuna), from Latin thunnus

Buildings and Places

adobe from Arabic atuba (the brick)
alcove from French alcôve, from Spanish alcoba, from Arabic al-qubba (the vault)
barrio from Arabic barri (of an open area), from barr (open area)
cafeteria from cafetería (coffee shop), from café (coffee), from Turkish qahveh
hoosegow from juzgado (courtroom, past participle of juzgar [to judge]), from Latin iudicare
mosque from French mosquée, from Old French mousquaie, from Old Italian moschea, from moscheta, from Old Spanish mezquita, from Arabic masjid
patio (courtyard)
silo ~unknown origin


cigar cigaro, poss. from Maya sik'ar, from sik (tobacco)
cigarette (small cigar), French diminutive of cigar, from cigaro, etc.
cocaine French cocaïne, from Spanish coca, from Quechua kúka
marijuana marihuana
mescal American Spanish, from Nahuatl mexcalli (mescal liquor)
peyote American Spanish, from Nahuatl peyotl
sherry alteration of sherris, from Spanish city of Xeres (Jerez)
tobacco tobaco

Food Terms

alfalfa Spanish, from Arabic al-fashfasha, variant of fishfisha, from Persian aspist (clover)
banana from African languages Wolof, Mandingo, and Fulani
burrito diminutive of burro (donkey)
chile, chili type of pepper, from Nahuatl word chilli
chocolate from Nahuatl xocolatl (bitter water)
cilantro from Late Latin coliandrum, from Latin coriandrum
con carne (with meat)
enchilada ("chile peppered")
guacamole from Nahuatl ahuacamolli (avocado paste)
lime Spanish lima, from Arabic lima
mole sauce from Nahuatl molli (sauce, paste)
nacho possible diminutive of Ignacio or alteration of ñato (pug-nosed, ugly, poor)
oregano from orégano (wild majoram)
potato  from patata, from Taino word batata (sweet potato), influenced by Quechua word papa (white potato)
rusk Spanish/Portuguese rosca (coil, rusk), perhaps diminutive of Latin rota (wheel)
salsa (sauce)
sarsaparilla zarzaparilla, from zarza (bramble), from Arabic sharas, variation of shirs, from sharasa (to be vicious) + parrilla, diminutive of parra (vine)
taco (plug, wad of money)
tamale from tamales, plural of tamal (tamale), from Nahuatl tamalli
tomato from tomate, from Nahuatl word tomatl
tortilla diminutive of torta (cake)
vanilla from vainilla, diminutive of vaina (sheath) due to the shape of vanilla pods


balsa (raft)
barranca (gorge)
canyon cañon, augmentative of caña (tube, cane), from Latin canna (reed)
hurricane huracán, from Taino hurákan
llano (plain), from Latin planum, from planus (level)
mesa (table), from Old Spanish, from Latin mensa
talc French, from Old Spanish talco and Medieval Latin talcum, both from Arabic talq, from Persian talk
tornado alteration of tronada (thunderstorm) [poss. influenced by tornar (to turn)], from tronar (to thunder), from Latin tonare
tornillo American Spanish, from Spanish (small lathe, screw), diminutive of torno (lathe), from Latin tornus, from Greek tornos


aficionado past participle of aficionar (to cause a liking for), from afición (liking), from Latin affectio/affection
booby probably from bobo (silly, stupid), from Latin balbus (stammering)
cannibal from Caníbalis (name of the allegedly cannibalistic Caribs of Cuba and Haiti as recorded by Christopher Columbus), from Carib karibna (person, Carib)
matador from matar (to kill)


armada Spanish, from medieval Latin armata, from Latin feminine past participle of armare (to arm), from arma (arms)
barrack from French baraques, from Spanish barracas (soldiers' tents, huts)
comrade from French camarade, from Old French (roommate), from old Spanish camarada (barracks company, roommate), from camara (room), from late Latin camera (chamber), from Latin (vault), from Greek kamara
desperado desesperado (desperate person), past participle of desesperar (to despair), from Latin desperare
guerrilla (little war, raiding party), diminutive of guerra (war)
junta Spanish/Portuguese (conference), perhaps from Vulgar Latin past participle of iungere (to join)
renegade renegado, from Medieval Latin renegatus, past participle of renegare (to deny)
vigilante (watchman), from Latin vigilans, vigilant-, present participle of vigilare (to be watchful), from vigil (watchful)


bonanza Spanish, from Medieval Latin bonancia (calm sea), from Latin bonus (good) + Medieval Latin malacia (calm sea)
bravado French bravade and Old Spanish bravada (swagger, bravery), both from Vulgar Latin brabus
cargo from cargar (to load), from Late Latin carricare, from Latin carrus (type of wagon)
embargo from embargar (to impede), from Vulgar Latin imbarricare (to barricade)
guitar French guitare, from Spanish guitarra, from Greek kithara (cithara)
hammock hamaca, from Taino
lariat la reata, from reatar (to tie again)
lasso lazo, from Vulgar Latin laceum (noose)
peccadillo pecadillo, diminutive of pacado (sin) + Italian paccadiglio, diminutive of peccato (sin), both from Latin peccatum, from peccare (to sin)
ranch American Spanish rancho (small farm), from Spanish (hut, group of people who eat together), from Old Spanish rancharse (to be billeted), from Old French se ranger (to be arranged)
rodeo (corral), from rodear (to surround), from rueda (wheel), from Latin rota
savvy from [Ud.] sabe (you know), from saber (to know), from Old Spanish, from Vulgar Latin sapere, from Latin sapere (to be wise)
siesta Spanish, from Latin sexta (sixth hour, midday)
sombrero Spanish, possibly from sombra (shade), from sombrar (to shade), from Late Latin subumbrare (to cast a shadow)
stampede estampida (uproar, stampede), from Provençal, from estampir (to stamp), ultimately from German
vamoose from vamos (let's go), from Latin vadamus, subjunctive conjugation of vadere (to go)

 Etymology Notes Source: The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, 4th edition. Houghton Mifflin Company, 2000.

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Spanish terms in English