Updated: Aug 6, 2019
Did you know that English and Spanish, like many languages, are a mix of other languages? While Spanish's base is mostly Latin and Arabic, with Celtiberian and Basque influence, English's roots come from Norse, German, and French. Yet they both have several words in common from languages spanning the Americas, Europe, and Africa. Here is a glimpse of 70 words both English and Spanish have in common.
From the American indigenous languages
Still spoken by 1.2 million people in central Mexico, the Spanish conquistadors borrowed many words from Nahuatl, the language of the Aztec, to describe new food and animals. Later the English borrowed these words, which we still use today in both languages Some of these these words include guacamole, coyote, chili, chia, avocado (aguacate), tomato (tomate, jitomate), barbeque (barbacoa), and chocolate.
From the Taíno people of the Caribbean islands, who Columbus and his followers conquered, come several words that appear in Spanish and English today. Those include canoe (canoa), cannibal (canibal), iguana, hurricane (huracán), hammock (hamaca), savannah (sabana), tobacco (tabaco), and papaya. Included are several place names, such as Jamaica, Cayman (caimán), Haiti (Haití), Cuba, and even Caribbean (caribe) itself.
The same happened when the Spanish conquistadors took over the Inca in South America. In both languages, we received several words from the Quechua of the Andes. The most well-known of these words include poncho, llama, guano, alpaca, chakra (chacra), and gaucho.
The native peoples of the present-day U.S. and Canada also influenced English and Spanish. From the Plains Indians in the U.S. comes teepee (tipi). From the Inuit of Alaska, toboggan (tobogán). From the Illinois peoples comes pecan (pacana). From the Ojibwa of the northern Midwest and Canada, totem (tótem). And from the peoples who live closest to the North Pole, the Inuit, Aleut, and Yup'ik, comes kayak (kayac).
From the European languages
Both Spanish and English share several French words in common, including ballet, buffet, cabaret, begonia, vinegar (vinagre), blouse (blusa), hotel, and sofa (sofá). The only difference in pronunciation between English and Spanish among words that end in -et, like ballet, is that Spanish speakers pronounce the "t" sound at the end of each word.
From the Portuguese, both languages borrowed mango, coconut (coco), marmalade (mermelada), giraffe (jirafa), mulatto (mulato), and more. From German, kindergarten, ozone (ozono), waltz (vals), and mineral-related words like cobalt (cobalto), quartz (cuarzo), and nickel (níquel).
And from Italian, there are several, including bulletin (boletin), carnival (carnaval), trampoline (trampolin), gondola, solo, zero (cero), torso, piano, radio, porcelain (porcelana), and you know all the food-related ones like spaghetti (espagueti) and pizza.
From North, West, and Sub-Saharan African languages
From ancient Egyptian, ebony (ébano). From the Bantu peoples of the Sub-Saharan comes conga, chimpanzee (chimpancé), and banjo. Banana comes from the Wolof of present-day Senegal, the Gambia and Mauritania. From Swahili, safari. Zebra (cebra) possibly comes from Congolese. And zombie (zombi) comes from the Kimbundu peoples of current western Angola.
Now that you've had a whirl around the globe, how do you feel about learning Spanish or English? With all these words in common, it's sure to make learning vocabulary in either language all the easier.