15 Spanish Words Commonly Used in English

by Maria Martin on Friday, November 29, 2019

As we live in a globalized world, international relationships are increasingly frequent. From the late 15th century to the 17th century, Western culture began to spread to other parts of the world and extensive overseas exploration emerged as a powerful factor in European culture. That led to the discovery of new continents, and also to the exploitation of different resources and cultures, meaning the beginning of globalization. In this way, all kinds of resources were exchanged, making borrowed words a thing in most languages nowadays.

As we’ve already told you in other blog posts, Spanish is the second most spoken language in the world (thanks in part to the colonization during the Spanish Golden Age), with almost 500 million native speakers, a fact that has had a considerable impact on different languages. For this and other reasons (we love helping you to learn Spanish in the most original and easy way), today we want to share some 15 Spanish-origin words that are used naturally and have been borrowed by the English language.

Continue reading this entry or click here to switch to the Spanish version.

Some Spanish Origin Words

1. Aficionado: In Spanish, this term is used to define a person who has an interest in some subject informally or superficially. But in English, this word is used as a synonym for connoisseur, that is, `understood´ or `expert´. For example, a `literature aficionado´ would be someone who, in addition to enjoy reading, has deep knowledge or is an expert in literature.

2. Barrio: Native English speakers use this term as a synonym for `neighborhood´ or `quarter´, and its meaning is the same as in Spanish: a specific area of a city or town.

3. Cafeteria: It is usually used to refer to a self-service coffee shop or restaurant, but also for those spaces found in schools, or workplaces, which are used for eating and having lunch. It is also a synonym for “canteen”.

4. Fiesta: The word fiesta has the same meaning as the word `party´, and was included in English dictionaries in 1983 after Lionel Richie used it in his song `All Night Long´.

5. Guerrilla: This word means the same in English as it does in Spanish, that is to refer to paramilitary groups acting independently of official armies in a specific conflict.

6. Macho: This word is not used in English to refer to the sex of the different species, it only means `very masculine´. It began to be used after the famous song of the Village People: `Macho Man´.

7. Maestro: Actually, this term is an Italian origin word, and it is used in English with two different connotations: to refer to famous composers and conductors of classical music, and also to designate geniuses in other areas and disciplines. 

8. Mosquito: As we do in Spanish, this term is used in English to allude to a slender, long-legged insect that bites.

9. Negro: This term was used until the 19th century, especially in the US, in a very pejorative way towards black-skinned people. Today is still a super offensive insult and disrespect for African American people.

10. Patio: This term is used in the United Kingdom to refer to outdoor spaces inside pubs or restaurants. The equivalent English origin is `beer garden´ or `terrace´. On the other hand, patio is also used to make reference to that spaces that usually exist in the single-family houses in the UK and Ireland.

11. Plaza: The word plaza means the same as in Spanish and it is a synonym for `square´, `park´ or `court´, although recently it has begun to be used for shopping mall, and also for especially representative hotels, such as the `Plaza Hotel´ in New York.

12. Politico: Word used in informal contexts to refer to the politicians of a country in a pejorative way.

13. Pueblo: In English, this word is used to refer to American Indian villages of the southwestern US.

14. Siesta: The word siesta is associated with the habit of lying down for a while after having lunch. The English-origin term is `nap´.

15. Solo: This term of Spanish origin refers to loneliness or the fact of doing something without any company, especially in a musical performance or composition.

At don Quijote, we hope that this entry’s been interesting and fun for you, but, above all, that helps you understand these words in order to use them correctly in both languages. Finally, we want to share a phrase that any English speaker would understand without much difficulty: El maestro tocó un solo de guitarra en la fiesta de la plaza del barrio, lo que no dejó dormir la siesta al macho del pueblo. Can you think of any other?


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