In today’s American English, it is obvious how Spanish words have been absorbed into the language. Almost anyone can identify some words in English that were originally from Spanish—you do not need to be an etymologist to do so! Since English has now become world language, there are more English words being absorbed into other languages than there are foreign words being brought into English. Even though this is the case now, it was not always so. English itself borrowed many words from German, Latin, French, Greek, Spanish, and other languages from around the world. English may not absorb many foreign words today, but the Spanish words that made their way into the language previously have remained.
Some Spanish words made their way into the English language thanks to the Spanish and Mexican cowboys who used to work in what is now the southwestern part of the United States. More Spanish words entered the language when the Caribbean influence came to America through trading. Still more words entered American English thanks to the blending of cultures—once food of Spanish origin made its way into America, the Spanish names of the foods often remained the same since there was no English equivalent.
It is possible that more and more Spanish loan words could make their way into English, especially since America borders a Spanish speaking country, and many Spanish speaking people are moving into the U.S. Spanish is becoming a necessary language for business, and translators are still in high demand. If Spanish becomes an official language of the U.S., the possibility of a blend of English and Spanish becomes even more real.
Spanish words, even if they are not the names of foods, are easily recognizable in the English language. The paragraphs below detail some Spanish words that have been absorbed into English. Each paragraph represents a different category. Check it out and see how many words you know!
Some words for animals were originally borrowed from Spanish such as: alligator, barracuda, canary, Chihuahua, cockroach, coyote, iguana, jaguar, llama, mustang, and tuna.
There are also many general foods and drinks that got their name from Spanish. Avocado, banana, chili, chocolate, cilantro, flan, margarita, oregano, papaya, pina colada, potato, tequila, tomato, and vanilla are all examples of this.
There are also more specific types of food that we know originally came from Spanish speaking countries. The names of foods like churro, enchilada, fajita, guacamole, nacho, quesadilla, salsa, taco, tamale, and tortilla are all examples of this.
There are plenty of nouns and adjectives that came into English through Spanish. Think of words like adobe, albino, alcove, armada, bizarre, bonanza, bronco, buckaroo, cafeteria, cannibal, canoe, canyon, cargo, cigar, cigarette, comrade, conquistador, and embargo. Several other examples include fiesta, filibuster, guerilla, hammock, hurricane, key, macho, patio, poncho, ranch, savvy, sombrero, stampede, tobacco, and wrangler.
Finally, there are also expressions such as “Adios!” and “vamoose!” that have made their way into English. These are phrases you will hear many people say, even if they have no knowledge of Spanish whatsoever. The words listed in the other categories are also all typical words that English speakers use without any knowledge of Spanish. The names of specific foods are the easiest Spanish words to spot, but some of the words in the other categories are definitely obvious to those who have studied Spanish at least a little!
On the other side of the story, there are plenty of English words that have been absorbed into Spanish (or at least inspired the Spanish equivalent of the word). Some of the main categories of these loan words include sports, technology, music, food and drink, and nouns. Check out the paragraphs below for detailed lists.
In the sports category, there are plenty of words that picked up Spanish pronunciations and articles. For example, el básket (basketball), el surf (surfing), el tenis (tennis), el beisbol (baseball), el footing (jogging), el rugby, el fútbol (football), and el waterpolo.
The technology category includes words like: el webcam, el email, los FAQ, el GPS, el chat, el DVD, el CD, and el PC. English words are very common for names of technology in other languages.
Music words brought from English into Spanish include a lot of major categories (for us in America anyway!). This category has blues, punk, pop, heavy, funk, house, jazz, and breikdans (breakdance). These names mostly remained the same since they are abstract objects.
Just like with the Spanish words, there are English words for food and drink that were brought into Spanish. Some examples include: el béicon, un picnic, un cóctel, un sandy (sundae), un bloody Mary, and un sandwich. These words are really easy to spot!
In the noun category, we have a large mix of words. For example, there are place names like un club, un pub, and un bar. There are also words like el marketing, un overbooking, un hobby, un bypass, un bol (bowl), zapping (surfing TV channels), and un piercing. There are also words that are used to describe people such as: un rockero (rocker), un yanqui (yankee), un hacker, un esnob (snob), un drag queen, and un barman (bartender).
It is always really interesting to see how words travel and change between two different languages. It will be interesting to watch how both English and Spanish change in the coming years, since the growth of the Hispanic population in the United States is expected to grow significantly. English and Spanish will be exposed to each other even more within America, and there are bound to be some new borrowings between the languages. Who knows, maybe one day we will all speak a new language forged from English and Spanish as parent languages! Or think of the alternative: Americans may one day all be bilingual in both Spanish and English from a young age, if school systems get involved. This would open up a world of opportunities for the average American of the future. You don’t have to wait until then, though—you can learn Spanish now and create your own opportunities!