Special Report

30 Common English Words You Didn’t Know Were Really Spanish

America’s love of Mexican food has implanted plenty of Spanish words into our everyday lexicon. But when not ordering a quesadilla or tamale at the local taquería, we may still be using Spanish words without even knowing it. (Spanish isn’t the only language that has influenced English. Here are 30 English words you didn’t know came from Arabic.)

The Spanish origins of many words commonly used in the United States can be traced to the 16th century, when Spanish influence in the Americas began. Spanish has actually been spoken in North America for longer than English has. In the centuries following the initial Spanish arrival, many areas in what is now the U.S., including Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama were colonized by Spain. 

In addition, several states from California to Oklahoma were part of Mexico until the Mexican-American War. This gave the Spanish language countless opportunities to rub off on American English. Even the names of some of these states – like Colorado (meaning “red-colored”) and Nevada (meaning “snowfall”) – are Spanish. 

To compile a list of some common English words that are really Spanish – either spelled exactly the same way, usually with the same meaning, or drawn from a similarly spelled Spanish term – 24/7 Tempo consulted the Oxford English Dictionary and language sites including Babbel, ThoughtCo., and Busuu. We have omitted familiar culinary terms.

Many of these words – including lariat, bronco, and ranch – are derived from the Spanish equestrian tradition that would become U.S. cowboy culture. Others are the names of plants and animals that are common south of our border. (Many Spanish words are based on Latin, the language that Spanish descended from. Here are 30 Latin phrases that everyone should know.)

Click here to see 30 common English words you didn’t know were really Spanish

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