5 English words we stole from Spanish

Hola and welcome to another thrilling article dedicated to the language of Cervantes and Iglesias.

Did you know? Many common English words come from español, and chances are you’ve already used one or more at some point unknowingly and without from the King of Spain. Many of these palabras are spelled similarly, which bodes well for learning Spanish once you take the plunge.

Let’s take a tour through the linguistic influence the Spanish language has had on English.

#1 Siesta

If you thought “naps” sounded enjoyable, wait until you take your first siesta. The word siesta – referring to a nap or sleep taken in the early afternoon – is a staple of daily life in many Spanish-speaking countries.

English speakers simply use this word as a synonym for “nap”. 

#2 Avocado

One of nature’s greatest gifts to vegetarians and meat lovers alike, the avocado (or aguacate in Spanish) was discovered by the Aztecs around 500 BC. They named it āhuacatl, which translates to “testicle” in Nahuatl, the most widely spoken indigenous language in Mexico. The English word “avocado” as we know it today has been used since the late 1600s.

Did you know? The word “guacamole” also derives from a Nahuatl Indian word, namely ahuacamolli, a blend of ahuácatl and molli, which means “sauce” or “soup”.

#3 Cafeteria

First recorded in the early 1800s, the English word “cafeteria” comes from the Spanish word of the same spelling: cafetería, referring to a “coffee shop”. In English, the word is associated with a self-serving establishment offering both food and drinks, and is often used in a school or work environment (what the French call une cantine).

Useful tip: Other languages have borrowed this Spanish word, namely French with the word cafétéria or its diminutive form cafet’.

#4 Chocolate

The term “chocolate” entered the English language around the 1600s. It comes from the Spanish word chocolate which derives from the Nahuatl word xocolatl which means “bitter water” (due to the fact that chocolate was originally a bitter drink brewed from cacao beans).

Useful tip: if you’re rustling up a cup of hot chocolate, don’t forget to add a hint of “vanilla”, a word which also has Spanish roots (vainilla).

#5 Aficionado / aficionada

We know all of our readers are language aficionados, but here’s hoping that you’re also aficionados of the term aficionado.  The noun “aficionado / aficionada” takes its roots from the past participle form of the Spanish verb aficionar which means “to be fond of” (something or someone), though in English it is often used as a noun (a horse aficionado, a drug aficionado). It was first used in the English language in the 1800s and describes a person who is very knowledgeable and/or enthusiastic about a particular hobby or subject.

Bonus: Cannibal

The word “cannibal” dates back to the mid-1600s and originates from the Spanish Caríbales (also spelled Caníbales) variant of Caribe, the name of a West Indian tribe. It is said that Columbus encountered them and mistakenly thought they consumed human flesh. Little did he know that Caribe actually stands for “brave one”. Another terrible mistake for Christopher Columbus with devastating cultural implications, but who’s keeping track, right?

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