QUIZ: Do You Know the Origins of These English Words?

English borrows many words from other languages, but do you know where they come from?

English Words That Come From Spanish

English Words That Are Actually from the Spanish Language

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”).

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.

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”

arroyo – “stream”

breeze – from brisa (“cold northeast wind”)

caldera – “cauldron”

canyon – cañón (“pipe”, “tube” or “gorge”)

mesa – “table”

playa – “beach”

sierra – “mountain range”

temblor – from temblar (“to shake”)

tornado – from tronada (“thunderstorm”), from tornar (“to turn”)

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 (“wild”, “untamed”)

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 – “jug”, “pot”. Mexican Spanish, from Latin pinea (“pine cone”)

pueblo – “small town”, derived from Latin populus

quinceañera – quince + años (fifteen years)

quixotic – derived from the name of Cervantes’ famous, delusional knight Don Quixote.

telenovela – “soap opera”

armada – “armed”, from Real Armada Española (“Royal Spanish Navy”)

bandolier – bandolera

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”, “to impound”)

galleon – galeón, a large sailing ship with three or more masts

stevedore – from estibador (“ship loader”), literally, “one who stuffs”

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”), derived from mojar (“to moisten”)

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 [ʃeˈɾes], modern Spanish Jerez [xeˈɾeθ]

taco – “plug”

tequila – named after the town where the spirit originated

tomatillo – “small tomato”

vanilla – from Spanish vainilla, diminutive of Latin vaina (pod)

Do you know of any other English words that come from Spanish? Tell us in the comments below.

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English borrows many words from other languages, but do you know where they come from? English Words That Come From Spanish Arizona – from...
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