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95 Common English Words that Originate from Spanish

Did you know that you probably use Spanish on a daily basis when speaking English? From cowboys to buildings to minerals to animals to food, Spanish can be found in our everyday conversations.

The following is a list of Spanish loanwords that we use regularly in English.

Words to describe people

  • aficianado – from the verb aficionar, to inspire affection

  • Angeleno – a person from Los Angeles, originates from Spanish in the U.S.

  • incommunicado – from incomunicado, without communication (in the mountains, in the jail, etc), "in solitary confinement"

  • Latino – English short for the Spanish word latinoamericano, formed by latino, "related to the Latin empire and language" and americano, "from the Americas"

  • macho – from macho, "male, brave"

  • peon – from Spanish peón, "laborer"

  • quixotic – derived from the name of Cervantes’ famous, delusional knight Don Quixote

  • renegade – from renegado, "turncoat, heretic, disowned"

  • savvy – from Spanish or Portuguese sabe, "he/she/it knows;" sabio, "wise, learned"

  • suave – from suave, means " smooth, polite, and a little bit cool"

  • vigilante – from vigilante, "watchman"

  • Zorro – from zorro, a fox, originally from Basque for "smart"

Words to describe people that are often offensive in English but not in Spanish (in other words, take care of what context in which you use these words in English)

  • gringo – probably from griego, "Greek," in reference to the language (for instance, "it's Greek to me"), and originally referring to any type of foreigner but now used to describe an American, and in some countries, a European, usually white

  • mestizo – from mestizo, "racially mixed," refers to a person of mixed European and Native American descent

  • mulatto – from Spanish or Portuguese mulato meaning "octoroon, sambo" from mulo "mule" > "hybrid," refers to a person of mixed European-African descent

  • Negro – from negro, "black"

Words for animals

  • alligator – from el lagarto, "the lizard"

  • armadillo – from armadillo, "little armored one"

  • barracuda – from barracuda, may have come from barraco, meaning overlapping tooth

  • cockroach – from cucaracha

  • matador – from matador meaning "killer" from the verb matar ("to kill")

  • mosquito – from mosquito, literally "little fly," diminutive of mosca, "fly"

Words for weather

  • breeze – from brisa, "cold northeast wind"

  • tornado – from Spanish tronada, "thunderstorm", influenced by the verb tornar, "to turn"

Words for geological sites, botanical features, and minerals

  • canyon – from cañón with same meaning; derived from caño, "a pipe, tube, gorge, tube"

  • chaparral – from chaparro, loosely meaning small evergreen oak

  • jade – from piedra de ijada, "stone of flank"

  • platinum – from platina, "little silver" (now spelled platino)

  • mesa – from mesa, “table”

  • sierra – from sierra, “mountain range”

Words for buildings and places

  • adobe – from the verb adobar, "to plaster"

  • cabana – from cabaña, “cabin”

  • cafeteria – from cafetería, "coffee store;" although in English this now has a different meaning from coffee shop, it now means a restaurant or dining room in a school or a business in which customers serve themselves or are served from a counter and pay before eating

  • embarcadero – from embarcadero, "boat dock," from barca, "rowboat"

  • patio – from patio, inner courtyard, "an open paved area adjacent to a home"

  • plaza – from plaza, "public square, spot or place" < latin platea.

  • ranch – from rancho, a very small rural community, smaller than a town; also a very humble dwelling in South American Spanish

  • silo – from silo, "bunker, underground store, storage pit"

Words related to the military

  • cargo – from the verb cargar meaning "to load"

  • flotilla – diminutive of flota (fleet)

  • guerilla – from guerilla, “small war”

  • junta – from junta, as a noun, "joint", as an adjective, "together," a board of joint administration; sometimes used to refer to military officers command in a coup d'état

Words related to the Old West

  • 10-gallon hat – the Americanized pronunciation of tan galán, "so gallant," or possibly galón, "braid"

  • bronco – from bronco, "coarse"

  • buckaroo – the Americanized pronunciation of vaquero, "cowboy," derived from vaca, "cow"

  • chaps – from chaparreras, leg protectors for riding through chaparral

  • corral – from corral, “pen, yard”

  • lasso – from lazo, "tie"

  • mustang – from mustango, which is from mesteño, "stray, untamed"

  • pinto – from the verb pintar, "to paint;" a white horse with a coat "painted" in large patterns of any other color.

  • rodeo – from rodeo and the verb rodear, "to go around"

  • stampede – from estampida, "stampede, flight"

  • vamoose – the Americanized pronunciation of vamos, "let's go"

Words related to food and drink

  • chorizo – from chorizo, "sausage"

  • cilantro – from cilantro

  • habanero – from habenero, “from Havana (Cuba)”

  • jalapeño – “from Jalapa (Guatemala)”

  • mojito – diminutive form of Cuban mojo, "sauce"

  • nacho – from Nacho, a nickname for the given name Ignacio, who was Ignacio “Nacho” Anaya, inventor of the snack in 1943, which he called "Nacho's especialidades"

  • oregano – from orégano, "marjoram"

  • paella – from paella, from Valencian paella, "pan" and the dish name

  • palmetto – from palmito, "palm heart, little palm," diminutive form of the word for palm

  • pimento – from pimiento, "pepper"

  • piña colada – from piña, "pineapple" and colada, "strained," from the verb colar, "to strain"

  • quesadilla - from quesadilla, a traditional Mexican dish made with tortillas and cheese, diminutive of queso, cheese

  • salsa – from salsa, "sauce"

  • sherry – from Old Spanish Xerés, modern Spanish Jerez

  • taco – from taco, "plug"

  • tapioca – from tapioca, "cassava"

  • tequila – from tequila, from the town Tequila, Jalisco, Mexico, where the beverage originated

  • tomatillo – from tomatillo, "small tomato"

  • tuna – from atún, tuna fish

  • vanilla – from vainilla

More words

  • bonaza – from bonanza, "prosperity"

  • cigar – from cigarro, "stogie, stogy," derived from Mayan verb siyar, "to smoke tobacco leaves"

  • marijuana – from marihuana or mariguana, "cannabis," may have come to English via Mexican Spanish though the exact etymology is unclear

  • nada – from nada, "nothing"

  • pinata – from piñata, "jug, pot"

  • pronto – from pronto, "soon, prompt"

  • siesta – from siesta, "nap"

  • vertigo – from vértigo, "dizziness, vertigo"

Want to learn other words in English that come from Spanish? Check out this article on 70 words that English and Spanish have in common, many thanks to the native peoples of the Americas. Also check out this article on Spanish state names in the U.S.

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