Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Loanwords Part 3: Spanish Words in English

In the neighborhood where my family lives in
the U.S., many street names are of Spanish
origin, like Orilla del Lago or Camino Real.
A week or so ago we talked about loanwords in general, and then later we focused on some specific loanwords that migrated from French to English. Since most of my current students' native language is Spanish, I thought it would be interesting to take a quick look at Spanish loanwords in English. Then, in a few days we'll look at loanwords from German.


I did a bit of research for this post, and you can read more about Spanish loanwords here, here, and here. One thing that's quickly noticeable about many of the Spanish loanwords in English is that many of them belong to certain types of words. 

As you can imagine, there are the predictable food words, such as burrito, taco, enchilada, cilantro, chili, and many others. There are also words to describe animals that would have been in areas conquered by Spanish-speaking conquistadors (itself a loanword). These are animal words such as burro, armadillo, mosquito, alligator, and others. Finally, there are others that have to do with descriptions of landscapes, like arroyo, mesa, canyon and caldera. Notice that many of them have changed their spelling, and almost all would be pronounced with an "English" sound and accent to them (just ask a Mexican and an Englishman to both say "burrito," and you'll see what I mean).

You can check out the lists if you're interested in more examples. For now, I just want to mention my Top Five Favorite Spanish Loanwords:

5. aficionado: You could say I'm a fan of this word. You could I'm also say I'm an aficionado. That's why it's so great.
4. piñata: It's written with the tilde even in English, and it's an instant party starter!
3. vigilante: The perfect word for when you need to take the law into your own hands.
2. salsa: Although it's a generic word for "sauce" in its native Spanish, in English this word makes not only your food, but also your sentence, seem more exotic and spicy!
1. machete: This doesn't actually appear on a few of the lists of Spanish loanwords, but it definitely appears on my list. Anyone who says otherwise can talk to my machete.

That's it for today, but later in the week we'll look at loanwords in English from the German language to finish our series. Thanks for reading, and if you have any comments or questions, please feel free to leave a comment. Have a great day!

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