English words that come from spanish

English Words That Come From Spanish

English is a bit of a mongrel language. According to Joseph Williams, about 40 percent of our lexicon comes from French, around a third is ‘native’ English and 15 percent comes from Latin

All other languages combined contributed just 5 percent of our words. One of those ‘other’ languages is Spanish.

Whilst the impact of Spanish on English is much less than Latin or French, there’s certainly enough of an influence to keep us eagle-eared linguists interested.

From canyons to calderas and tornados to tangos, we’re taking a whistlestop tour through the linguistic influence of Spanish on English. Let’s get started.

English Words That Come From Spanish


The language of British fauna has quite an interesting history. You see, many animals in English have dual French and Anglo-Saxon variations. For example, cow/beef, sheep/mutton and deer/venison.

These variations typically arose because the Old English-speaking working class reared the animal and the French-speaking upper class ate them.

However, not all animal names came from French or Old English. Our names for a handful of exotic beasts come straight from Spanish.


Comes from el lagarto de Indias which means the lizard of the Indies. The Spanish original was first used by trans-Atlantic explorers when they arrived in modern day Florida.


Comes from mosquito which means little fly. We think that’s far too cute for such an annoying little beastie but there’s not much chance of changing it now!


Comes from barracuda which means, unsurprisingly, barracuda. (We didn’t say every word would all be interesting!)


Comes from armado which means armoured. It makes a lot of sense when you think about the scuttling suit of armour that is an armadillo!

English Words That Come From Spanish


From Dali to Dan Juan and Cervantes to Catalan, Spanish culture has spread across the world. Here is a handful of terms that made their way into the English language.


Comes from macho which originally meant male animal.


Comes from patio which in turn probably comes from super old Romance language Old Provençal.


Comes from aficionado which refers to a devotee of bullfighting. The English word has come to mean someone enthusiastic about a subject.

English Words That Come From Spanish


At its peak in the 16th and 17th centuries, the Spanish Empire stretched from the Falkland Islands in the west to the Spanish East Indies in the east. It was the first truly global power and boasted the first empire on which the sun never sets.

As such, a lot of our military terms — especially our nautical terms — come from Spanish.


Comes from armada which originally meant any armed force. Perhaps the most famous armada was Spanish Armada, a huge Spanish fleet that sailed on England in the 16th century with the intention of removing Elizabeth I from power.


Comes from flota which means a fleet of boats.


Comes from renegado which originally meant a Christian who converted to Islam. Renegade now means anyone who deserts or betrays a particular side.


Comes from vigilante which literally means watchman. In English, a vigilante is someone who enforces the law but does so without proper authority.

English Words That Come From Spanish

Food and Drink

Tacos, burritos, mojitos and tequila! Between Spain and Mexico, Spanish is the language of spicy, flavoursome food the world over.

Here are just a few highlights!


Comes from the Spanish for little donkey. We’re not entirely sure why it’s named after a small donkey but there you go!


Named after Ignacio ‘Nacho’ Anaya who is believed to have invented the dish in the Mexican border town of Piedras Negras.


Comes from vainilla which means little pod.


Comes from chorizo which means chorizo. Yeah, we pretty much just stole the word verbatim.

English Words That Come From Spanish

Geography and Weather

As we mentioned above, the Spanish were particularly good at colonising large swathes of the world during the 16th and 17 centuries.

As they sailed and trekked their way across mountains, around lakes and through rivers, they inevitably gave Spanish names to the things they saw. Here’s a handful of examples.


Comes from caldera which means cauldron or kettle — pretty apt for a large volcanic crater!


Comes from cañon which means a pipe or tube. It’s a good job the Spanish language got involved as the Grand Pipe doesn’t have the same ring to it!


Comes from briza which means a cold northeast wind. In English, it came to mean any gentle wind.


Comes (with a bit of linguistic mangling) from tronada which means thunderstorm.

Double Agents: 68 Sneaky English Words Undercover as Spanish Words

English Words That Come From Spanish

Are they speaking English?

No, they couldn’t be. But that word sounded so darn familiar.

You’re speaking Spanish with native speakers, and all of sudden something odd happened. You can hardly make sense of it. But—ah, again!—there’s another strangely familiar word that sounds distinctly un-Spanish.

You start to question yourself. Are you mishearing? Are they trying to make it easier for you to understand? Are you in some sort of alternate universe? The answers are no, no and probably not.

The reason those words sound so un-Spanish is probably that they aren’t Spanish at all—at least not originally. Spanish has borrowed a number of words from the English language.

Words We Stole From Spanish

Rodeo, pronto, taco, enchilada — English or Spanish?

The answer, of course, is both. For English, like most languages, has expanded over the years through assimilation of words from other tongues. As people of different languages intermingle, inevitably some of the words of one language become words of the other.

It doesn't take someone who studies etymology to look at a Spanish-language website (or the websites in nearly any other language) to see how English vocabulary, particularly as it relates to technical subjects, is spreading.

And while English now may be giving more words to other languages than it is absorbing, that wasn't always true. For the English vocabulary today is as rich as it is largely because it accepted words from Latin (mostly by way of French).

But there's also a small share of the English language that is derived from Spanish.

Many Spanish words have come to us from three primary sources. As you can hypothesize from the list below, many of them entered American English in the days of Mexican and Spanish cowboys working in what is now the U.S. Southwest. Words of Caribbean origin entered English by way of trade.

The third major source is food vocabulary, especially for foods whose names have no English equivalent, as the intermingling of cultures has expanded our diets as well as our vocabulary.

As you can see, many of the words changed meaning upon entering English, often by adopting a narrower meaning than in the original language.

Following is a list, by no means complete, of Spanish loanwords that have become assimilated into the English vocabulary.

As noted, some of them were adopted into the Spanish language from elsewhere before they were passed on to English.

Although most of them retain the spelling and even (more or less) the pronunciation of Spanish, they are all recognized as English words by at least one reference source.

  • adios (from adiós)
  • adobe (originally Coptic tobe, “brick”)
  • aficionado
  • albino
  • alcove (from Spanish alcoba, originally Arabic al-qubba)
  • alfalfa (originally Arabic al-fasfasah. Many other English words beginning with “al” were originally Arabic, and many may have had a Spanish-language connection in becoming English.)
  • alligator (from el lagarto, “the lizard”)
  • alpaca (animal similar to a llama, from Aymara allpaca)
  • armada
  • armadillo (literally, “the little armed one”)
  • arroyo (English regionalism for “stream”)
  • avocado (originally a Nahuatl word, ahuacatl)
  • bajada (a geological term referring to a type of alluvial slope at the base of a mountain, from bajada, meaning “slope”)
  • banana (word, originally of African origin, entered English via either Spanish or Portuguese)
  • bandoleer (type of belt, from bandolera)
  • barbecue (from barbacoa, a word of Caribbean origin)
  • barracuda
  • bizarre (some sources, not all, say this word came from the Spanish bizarro)
  • bonanza (although the Spanish bonanza can be used synonymously with the English cognate, it more often means “calm seas” or “fair weather”)
  • booby (from bobo, meaning “silly” or “selfish”)
  • bravo (from either Italian or Old Spanish)
  • bronco (means “wild” or “rough” in Spanish)
  • buckaroo (possibly from vaquero, “cowboy”)
  • bunco (probably from banco, “bank”)
  • burrito (literally “little donkey”)
  • burro
  • cafeteria (from cafetería)
  • caldera (geological term)
  • canary (Old Spanish canario entered English by way of French canarie)
  • canasta (the Spanish word means “basket”)
  • cannibal (originally of Caribbean origin)
  • canoe (the word was originally Caribbean)
  • canyon (from cañón)
  • cargo (from cargar, “to load”)
  • castanet (from castañeta)
  • chaparral (from chaparro, an evergreen oak)
  • chaps (from Mexican Spanish chaparreras)
  • chihuahua (dog breed named after Mexican city and state)
  • chile relleno (Mexican food)
  • chili (from chile, derived from Nahuatl chilli)
  • chili con carne (con carne means “with meat”)
  • chocolate (originally xocolatl, from Nahuatl, an indigenous Mexican language)
  • churro (Mexican food)
  • cigar, cigarette (from cigarro)
  • cilantro
  • cinch (from cincho, “belt”)
  • cocaine (from coca, from Quechua kúka)
  • cockroach (Two English words, “cock” and “roach,” were combined to form “cockroach.” It is believed, but isn't certain, that the words were chosen because of their similarity to the Spanish cucaracha.)
  • coco (type of tree, from icaco, originally Arawak ikaku from the Caribbean)
  • comrade (from camarada, “roommate”)
  • condor (originally from Quechua, an indigenous South American language)
  • conquistador
  • corral
  • coyote (from the Nahuatl coyotl)
  • creole (from criollo)
  • criollo (English term refers to someone indigenous to South America; Spanish term originally referred to anyone from a particular locality)
  • dago (offensive ethnic term comes from Diego)
  • dengue (Spanish imported the word from Swahili)
  • desperado
  • dorado (type of fish)
  • El Niño (weather pattern, means “The Child” due to its appearance around Christmas)
  • embargo (from embargar, to bar)
  • enchilada (participle of enchilar, “to season with chili”)
  • fajita (diminutive of faja, a belt or sash, probably so named due to strips of meat)
  • fiesta (in Spanish, it can mean a party, a celebration, a feast — or a fiesta)
  • filibuster (from filibustero, derived from Dutch vrijbuiter, “pirate”)
  • flan (a type of custard)
  • flauta (a fried, rolled tortilla)
  • flotilla
  • frijol (English regionalism for a bean)
  • galleon (from Spanish galeón)
  • garbanzo (type of bean)
  • guacamole (originally from Nahuatl ahuacam, “avocado,” and molli, “sauce”)
  • guerrilla (In Spanish, the word refers to a small fighting force. A guerrilla fighter is a guerrillero.)
  • habanero (a type of pepper; in Spanish, the word refers to something from Havana)
  • hacienda (in Spanish, the initial h is silent)
  • hammock (from jamaca, a Caribbean Spanish word)
  • hoosegow (slang term for a jail comes from Spanish juzgado, participle of juzgar, “to judge”)
  • huarache (type of sandal)
  • hurricane (from huracán, originally an indigenous Caribbean word)
  • iguana (originally from Arawak and Carib iwana)
  • incomunicado
  • jaguar (from Spanish and Portuguese, originally from Guarani yaguar)
  • jalapeño
  • jerky (the word for dried meat comes from charqui, which in turn came from the Quechua ch'arki)
  • jicama (originally from Nahuatl)
  • key (the word for a small island comes from the Spanish cayo, possibly of Caribbean origin)
  • lariat (from la reata, “the lasso”)
  • lasso (from lazo)
  • llama (originally from Quechua)
  • machete
  • machismo
  • macho (macho usually means simply “male” in Spanish)
  • maize (from maíz, originally from Arawak mahíz)
  • manatee (from manatí, originally from Carib)
  • mano a mano (literally, “hand to hand”)
  • margarita (a woman's name meaning “daisy”)
  • mariachi (a type of traditional Mexican music, or a musician)
  • marijuana (usually mariguana or marihuana in Spanish)
  • matador (literally, “killer”)
  • menudo (Mexican food)
  • mesa (In Spanish it means “table,” but it also can mean “tableland,” the English meaning.)
  • mesquite (tree name originally from Nahuatl mizquitl)
  • mestizo (a type of mixed ancestry)
  • mole (The name for this delightful chocolate-chili dish is sometimes misspelled as “molé” in English in an attempt to prevent mispronunciation.)
  • mosquito
  • mulatto (from mulato)
  • mustang (from mestengo, “stray”)
  • nacho
  • nada (nothing)
  • negro (comes from either the Spanish or Portuguese word for the color black)
  • nopal (type of cactus, from Nahuatl nohpalli)
  • ocelot (originally Nahuatl oceletl; the word was adopted into Spanish and then French before becoming an English word)
  • olé (in Spanish, the exclamation can be used in places other than bullfights)
  • oregano (from orégano)
  • paella (a savory Spanish rice dish)
  • palomino (originally meant a white dove in Spanish)
  • papaya (originally Arawak)
  • patio (In Spanish, the word most often refers to a courtyard.)
  • peccadillo (from pecadillo, diminutive of pecado, “sin”)
  • peso (Although in Spanish a peso is also a monetary unit, it more generally means a weight.)
  • peyote (originally Nahuatl peyotl)
  • picaresque (from picaresco)
  • pickaninny (offensive term, from pequeño, “small”)
  • pimento (Spanish pimiento)
  • pinole (a meal made of grain and beans; originally Nahuatl pinolli)
  • pinta (tropical skin disease)
  • pinto (Spanish for “spotted” or “painted”)
  • piñata
  • piña colada (literally meaning “strained pineapple”)
  • piñon (type of pine tree, sometimes spelled “pinyon”)
  • plantain (from plátano or plántano)
  • plaza
  • poncho (Spanish adopted the word from Araucanian, an indigenous South American language)
  • potato (from batata, a word of Caribbean origin)
  • pronto (from an adjective or adverb meaning “quick” or “quickly”)
  • pueblo (in Spanish, the word can mean simply “people”)
  • puma (originally from Quechua)
  • punctilio (from puntillo, “little point,” or possibly from Italian puntiglio)
  • quadroon (from cuaterón)
  • quesadilla
  • quirt (type of riding whip, comes from Spanish cuarta)
  • ranch (Rancho often means “ranch” in Mexican Spanish, but it can also mean a settlement, camp or meal rations.)
  • reefer (drug slang, possibly from Mexican Spanish grifa, “marijuana”)
  • remuda (regionalism for a relay of horses)
  • renegade (from renegado)
  • rodeo
  • rumba (from rumbo, originally referring to the course of a ship and, by extension, the revelry aboard)
  • salsa (In Spanish, almost any kind of a sauce or gravy can be referred to as salsa.)
  • sarsaparilla (from zarza, “bramble,” and parrilla, “small vine”)
  • sassafras (from sasafrás)
  • savanna (from obsolete Spanish çavana, originally Taino zabana, “grassland”)
  • savvy (from sabe, a form of the verb saber, “to know”)
  • serape (Mexican blanket)
  • serrano (type of pepper)
  • shack (possibly from Mexican Spanish jacal, from the Nahuatl xcalli, “adobe hut”)
  • siesta
  • silo
  • sombrero (In Spanish, the word, which is derived from sombra, “shade,” can mean almost any kind of hat, not just the traditional broad-rimmed Mexican hat.)
  • spaniel (ultimately from hispania, the same root that gave us the words “Spain” and español)
  • stampede (from estampida)
  • stevedore (from estibador, one who stows or packs things)
  • stockade (from a French derivation of the Spanish estacada, “fence” or “stockade”)
  • taco (In Spanish, a taco can refer to a stopper, plug or wad. In other words, a taco originally meant a wad of food. Indeed, in Mexico, the variety of tacos is almost endless, far more varied than the beef, lettuce and cheese combination of U.S.-style fast food.)
  • tamale (The Spanish singular for this Mexican dish is tamal. The English comes from an erroneous backformation of the Spanish plural, tamales.)
  • tamarillo (type of tree, derived from tomatillo, a small tomato)
  • tango
  • tejano (type of music)
  • tequila (named after a Mexican town of the same name)
  • tobacco (from tabaco, a word possibly of Caribbean origin)
  • tomatillo
  • tomato (from tomate, derived from Nahuatl tomatl)
  • toreador
  • tornado (from tronada, thunderstorm)
  • tortilla (in Spanish, an omelet often is a tortilla)
  • tuna (from atún)
  • vamoose (from vamos, a form of “to go”)
  • vanilla (from vainilla)
  • vaquero (English regionalism for a cowboy)
  • vicuña (animal similar to a llama, from Quechua wikuña)
  • vigilante (from adjective for “vigilant”)
  • vinegarroon (from vinagrón)
  • wrangler (some sources say word is derived from Mexican Spanish caballerango, one who grooms horses, while other sources say the word comes from German)
  • yucca (from yuca, originally a Caribbean word)
  • zapateado (a type of dance emphasizing movement of the heels)
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The English words Spain begrudgingly added to its dictionary this year

The latest edition of Spain’s most prestigious dictionary has been released (link in Spanish). And it has a lot of English in it.

Every new dictionary release comes with a host of additions—new words, definitions, and meanings that reflect how language has changed since the previous update.

Like language arbiters in many countries, the organization that oversees the official dictionary, the Real Academia Española (RAE), is protective of its native tongue, and fears Spanish will be diluted by the addition of too many foreign words.

That is especially true of English words. Thanks to Hollywood, the default use of English in science and technology, and globalization in general, English words are widespread in Spanish. Try as it might, the RAE can’t stop Spanish speakers from saying “gángster” or “hacker” in everyday speech.

But sometimes, a usage becomes so common that the RAE has to relent, allowing an Anglicism into its pages. “Hacker” was added a few years ago. The RAE might try to change the spelling, though—”tuit,” meaning “tweet,” was added recently. Here are the RAE’s English additions, and English-derived words, this time around:

The most notable:

  • ataché: This incorporates both the French meaning of attaché as a diplomatic functionary, and the American usage of attaché case.
  • clic: A click, as on a computer.
  • clicar: To click, as on a computer.
  • cliquear: Alternate spelling of “clicar.”
  • cliqueo: The action of clicking.
  • container: This entry uses the English spelling as-is, and refers to either a general container or specifically a shipping container.
  • cracker: Information pirate.
  • fair play: Also included as-is, with the English meaning.
  • posverdad: From the English “post-truth,” meaning “a deliberate distortion of reality.”
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The scientific:

  • autólogo: autologous
  • biocida: biocide
  • bioenergía: bioenergy
  • especismo: speciesism
  • holter: A heart monitor

New definitions for the word “English”:

The RAE has added two amusing definitions for the word “inglés,” meaning “English,” itself.

  • inglés: Related to humor: Characterized by the sharp irony and concealed sarcasm attributed to the English.
  • inglés: Related to punctuality: Rigorous, exact.

In a press conference announcing the new edition, RAE director Darío Villanueva mentioned several “unnecessary” English terms that would not make it into the dictionary: black Friday, take away, save the date, dress code, prime time, streaming, product manager, and community manager. They already have Spanish equivalents, he says.

Villanueva also noted, “The Academy is not against the incorporation of foreign terms, though we are concerned with the excessive and unnecessary use of English words.”

Have a look at all the new additions here (pdf).

English Words Commonly Used in Spanish – El Rincon del Tandem Spanish School Valencia

Did this happen to you? You are listening to a native Spanish speaker talking trying hard to understand and suddenly you catch a familiar word.

Wait, is he speaking English now or did I miss something? Well, it might surprise you, but there are hundreds or maybe even thousands English words that are commonly used in everyday colloquial Spanish.

In this article you will learn some of them so that you can use them next time.

The words that one language borrows from another language are called ‘loanwords’, in our case English ‘loanwords’ in Spanish are known as ‘Anglicisms’. They are usually connected to media, technology and sport. While some of these ‘Anglicisms’ kept their form, some have been transformed a bit, so be careful with that.

Freaky/ friki

Quite common Anglicism, especially between young people. ‘Friki’ refers to a person who is obsessed with something (usually technology), is different from others or has unusual habits. In English we could say geek, nerd or freak, although there’s no exact equivalent.

Algunos consideran mi novio un poco friki. Colecciona espejos. (Some people consider my boyfriend to be a freak. He collects mirrors.)


It has nothing to do with the drug. Crack is used to describe really cool or talented person. In English we could say ‘a star’.

11 Spanish Words You Never Realised Came From English

Cocktails | © bridgesward / Pixabay

Spanish is a rich and varied language that, over the years, has borrowed words from several other languages. Many Arabic words made their way into everyday Spanish when Moorish rulers dominated the Iberian Peninsula, and these days, lots of English words are finding their way into everyday Spanish discourse. Read on to discover some common Spanish words that originally came from the English language.

Bistec – beef steak

Britain’s good old roast beef lends its name to this cut of meat in Spain, which is also sometimes called a filete (filet). Many Spanish borrowings from English spell the word as it is pronounced by Spaniards, so ‘beef steak’ becomes bistec.

Panfleto – pamphlet

Panfleto is the Spanish version of the English ‘pamphlet’, which first appeared in Middle English in the late 14th century as panflet or pamphilet. The word comes from the comic poem Pamphilus, Seu de Amore.

Mitin – meeting

Many anglicisms to do with business have made their way into foreign languages, and Spanish is no exception. But rather than a business meeting, mitin in Spanish refers to a public meeting or a political party conference.

Drenaje – drainage

This is actually a triple-borrowed word: Spanish borrowed the word from English and English borrowed the word from the French drainage. The word became commonly used in English with the advent of agricultural technology.

Esmoquin – tuxedo

The Spanish esmoquin means ‘tuxedo’ © loveismovie / Pixabay

This is a bit of a false friend: esmoquin in Spanish does not mean ‘smoking’, as you might assume, but ‘tuxedo’. It comes from the English ‘smoking jacket’, a jacket that was typically worn to – you guessed it – smoke. It was usually made from velvet or silk, and although not very common these days, the style was a favourite of Playboy founder Hugh Hefner.

Esnob – snob

You may have noticed that Spanish tends to add the letter e to the start of words that begin with s to make it easier for Spaniards to pronounce. Examples include ‘spaghetti’, which becomes espagueti, and the English word ‘snob’, which in Spanish becomes esnob, referring to someone who believes they are superior to others. Snobbishness is esnobismo in Spanish.

Fútbol – football

Football might be Spain’s most popular sport, but the Spanish word for the beautiful game comes straight from the English, ‘football’. Intriguingly, Spanish does have its own word for the sport, balompié, but it is seldom used. It does appear in the full title of some football team names, though, such as the Seville-based team Real Betis Balompié.

Cóctel – cocktail

No need to worry about learning the word for ‘cocktail’ when you’re travelling through Spanish-speaking countries; it’s practically the same as in English, with just a slight difference in spelling. The origin of the word is disputed, but the Oxford English Dictionary claims it comes from the USA, with the first recorded usage back in 1803.

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Jogging is ‘footing’ in Spanish ©skeeze/Pixabay

Nothing to do with football, this is another false friend that actually means jogging in Spanish. Spaniards ‘hacer footing’ which means ‘go jogging’. Confusingly, Spaniards also use the English word running to mean something a bit more serious: a run that is a specific distance or timed.

Beicon – bacon

There’s nothing more satisfying than a hearty bacon sandwich, and when you’re in Spain, you will be sure to know the correct word for it, because it comes from the English. In much of South America, however, they use the term tocineta or tocino.

Lifting – face lift

Nope, it’s not referring to weight lifting, but to face lifting; the Spanish word lifting means ‘face lift’ and comes straight from the English term.

111 English Words That Are Actually Spanish

Thanks to the popularity of Mexican cuisine around the world, there are plenty of Spanish words in English that you probably use daily: taco, tortilla, quesadilla, tequila, and so on. But you may be surprised to learn that there are hundreds more Spanish words hidden in English. In fact, English has been borrowing from Spanish for a very long time.

Present-day California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Nevada and Utah (plus parts of Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma and Wyoming) were all part of Mexico until they were ceded to the United States at the end of the Mexican-American War in 1848. Although the change in sovereignty meant a massive influx of English speakers, it also meant that thousands of Mexicans living in the region suddenly became Americans.

Even earlier, in 1819, Spain ceded their Florida colony (which included parts of Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana) to the United States. As a result of a centuries of shifting borders, Spanish and English have had numerous opportunities to rub off on each other. Here are just some of the Spanish words that you probably use every day:

State Names

  • California – a mythical island from the 1510 Spanish novel Las sergas de Esplandián by Garci Rodríguez de Montalvo.
  • Colorado – “red-colored” (referring to the color of the river that is the state’s namesake).
  • Florida – “flowery”
  • Montana – from montaña (mountain)
  • Nevada – “snowy”
  • New Mexico – Nuevo México
  • Texas – the Spanish adopted the word tejas from the language of the indigenous Cado people. It means “friends” or “allies.”
  • Utah – derived from the name of the indigenous Ute people, via Spanish yuta.
  • Arizona – from Spanish Arizonac, itself an adoption of the word alĭ ṣonak, meaning “little spring,” from the local O’odham language. Alternate etymology may be the Basque haritz ona (good oak).


  • Buena Vista – “good view”
  • El Paso – “the pass”
  • Fresno – “ash tree”
  • Las Vegas – “the meadows”
  • Los Angeles – El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora la Reina de los Ángeles del Río de Porciúncula, “The Town of Our Lady the Queen of Angels of the Porciúncula River”
  • Monterey – “king’s mountain”
  • San Antonio – “Saint Anthony”
  • San Francisco – “Saint Francis”
  • Santa Cruz – “holy cross”

Cowboy Vocabulary

Nothing’s more American than a cowboy, right? Well actually, the first people to herd cattle on horseback in North America were the vaqueros who introduced the ancient Spanish equestrian tradition to the Southwest. Their name is derived from vaca, the Spanish word for — you guessed it — cow.

  • buckaroo – anglicization of vaquero
  • corral – “pen” / “yard”
  • chaps – chaparreras: leg protectors for riding through chaparral
  • desperado – desesperado (desperate)
  • hackamore (a kind of horse bridle) – jáquima (halter)
  • lasso – lazo (tie)
  • quirt (a short horseman’s whip) – cuarta: quarter
  • ranch – rancho (“a very small rural community”)
  • rodeo – from rodear (to go around)
  • stampede – from estampida
  • 10-gallon hat – from Spanish tan galán (so gallant), or possibly galón (braid)

Geography & Weather

  • arroyo – “stream”
  • breeze – from brisa (“cold northeast wind”)
  • caldera – “cauldron”
  • canyon – cañón (“pipe,” “tube,” or “gorge”)
  • mesa – “table”
  • playa – “beach”
  • sierra – “mountain range”
  • tornado – from tronada (thunderstorm)


  • alligator – el lagarto (the lizard)
  • armadillo – “little armored one”
  • barracuda – possibly from barraco (snaggletooth)
  • bronco – “rough”
  • burro – “donkey”
  • cockroach – anglicization of cucaracha
  • mosquito – literally, “little fly”
  • mustang – mustango, from mesteño (untamed)

Arts & Culture

  • aficionado – “fan,” from aficionar (to inspire affection)
  • bodega – “cellar”
  • fiesta – “party”
  • macho – “the property of being overtly masculine”
  • matador – from matar (to kill)
  • patio – “inner courtyard”
  • plaza – “public square”
  • piñata – Mexican Spanish, from Latin pinea (pine cone)
  • pueblo – “small town,” derived from Latin populus
  • quinceañera – quince + años (15 years)
  • quixotic – derived from the name of Cervantes’ famous, delusional knight Don Quixote
  • rumba
  • tango
  • telenovela – “soap opera”

War & Conflict

  • armada – “armed,” from Real Armada Española (“Royal Spanish Navy”)
  • conquistador – “conqueror”
  • flotilla – diminutive of flota (fleet)
  • guerrilla – “small war”
  • renegade – from renegado (“turncoat,” “traitor”)
  • vigilante – “watchman”


  • cargo – cargar (to load)
  • embarcadero – “boat dock”
  • embargo – embargar (“to seize”)
  • galleon – galeón, a large sailing ship with three or more masts

Food & Drink

  • burrito – “little donkey”
  • chorizo – “spiced pork sausage”
  • cilantro – “coriander”
  • daiquiri – named after a port city in eastern Cuba
  • habanero – “from Havana”
  • jalapeño – “from Jalapa”
  • mojito – diminutive form of Cuban Spanish mojo (sauce)
  • nacho – named after Ignacio “Nacho” Anaya, who is purported to have invented the dish in 1943
  • oregano – orégano
  • piña colada – piña (pineapple) + colada (strained)
  • salsa – “sauce”
  • sherry – from Old Spanish Xerés, modern Spanish Jerez
  • taco – “plug”
  • tequila – named after the town where the spirit originated
  • vanilla – from Spanish vainilla 

More Spanish Words In English

  • bonanza – “prosperity”
  • cafeteria – from cafetería (coffee store)
  • incommunicado – estar incomunicado (to be isolated)
  • jade – from piedra de ijada (stone of flank)
  • nada – “nothing”
  • platinum – from platino (little silver)
  • pronto – “hurry up!” in Mexican Spanish
  • savvy – from sabe (knows) and sabio (wise)
  • siesta – “nap,” originally from Latin sexta hora (“sixth hour”)
  • suave – “smooth”; sometimes “cool” in Latin America
  • adobe – from Spanish adobar (to plaster), from Arabic aṭ-ṭūb, meaning “the bricks”
  • cabana – from Spanish cabaña, meaning “cabin”

Plus: Spanish Words In English That Are Actually Indigenous

English isn’t the only language with a penchant for absorbing words from other languages. Many words that English has acquired from Spanish originally came from other languages, mostly those of native American populations that were subjugated by the Spanish colonial empire. Here are popular examples that entered English vernacular through the Nahuatl language in Mexico.

  • avocado – anglicization of Spanish aguacate, from Nahuatl ahuacatl
  • chili – chilli
  • chipotle – “smoked chili pepper”
  • chocolate – xocolatl (hot water)
  • cocoa – Spanish cacao, from Nahuatl cacáhuatl
  • coyote – coyotl
  • guacamole – ahuaca-molli, ahuacatl (avocado) + molli (sauce)
  • mesquite – from Mexican Spanish mezquite, from Nahuatl mizquitl
  • mole – molli (sauce)
  • tamale – tamalli
  • tomato – Spanish tomate, from Nahuatl xitomatl
  • peyote – peyotl (caterpillar)
  • mezcal – from Nahuatl mexcalli
  • shack – Mexican Spanish jacal (hut), from Nahuatl xacalli 14

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