Over the centuries, Spanish has made a significant contribution to the English language. When American settlers began exploring the west in the early 19th century, they crossed paths with an established Mexican culture that supplied the English language with a number of everyday words. Merchants conducting trade in the Spanish-influenced Caribbean brought back not only goods but new words as well. Novel foods introduced to us through exposure to Hispanic cultures have expanded both our menu options and our vocabulary.
Let’s explore some of the Spanish loan words that you probably use all the time but never gave a second thought as to their origins.
Chocolate – When the Spanish conquistadors took their first sip of xocolatl, a beverage made from the pods of the cacao tree, they knew the Aztecs were on to something. The Spanish returned to Europe with their newfound chocolate, a word they derived from the Aztec language Nahuatl and later passed on to English.
Hurricane – With the constant threat of these severe storms looming over the tropics, it’s no surprise that the English word “hurricane” comes from huracán, a word picked up by the Spanish explorers from Taino, an indigenous language from the Caribbean.
Aficionado – Aficionado came into the English language from Spanish in the mid-1800s. While the word was initially only used within the context of bullfighting, it later came to mean a “practitioner or enthusiast of any sport or activity.”
Rodeo – The word “rodeo” is derived from the Spanish verb rodear, which means “to surround.” In the past, rodeo was used to refer to the pen where cattle were corralled and eventually to the informal events involving horses and livestock that took place there. Related words like lasso, rancho, hacienda, bronco and even buckaroo passed to English from Spanish back in the days of the Wild West.
Tomato – This vegetable’s (or is it a fruit?) moniker comes from the Spanish word tomate, a corruption of the Nahuatl word “tomatl”. A number of other fruits and vegetables that may grace your plate such as banana, papaya, jicama and potato have their roots, so to speak, in Spanish.