Palabras de orígen árabe- Huellas del pasado
The origin of words in any language is interesting to study and Spanish words certainly have an interesting history. The fact that Spanish originated from Latin is one way to trace the origin of a large percentage of words. However, there is a small percentage of Greek origin, borrowed words from English (including the letters [k] and [w]), indigenous words from various Latin American countries and significant foreign lexicology content in Spanish is of Arabic origin which became official Spanish words long before any of the other foreign contributions.
Knowing the etymology (word origin) of certain words in Spanish justifies its phonetic sound, its grammatical category and irregularities and its relationship to other words in a sentence in Spanish. An essential part of studying Spanish is the study of its words and the Arabic influence was significant which dates back to when the Moors inhabited Spain (also referred to as
la invasión musulmana in some textbooks) for eight centuries. Of their numerous cultural contributions one was definitely its contribution to the Spanish language and some of the adopted words remained in original form for the most part.
Some may find it easier than others to recognize foreign words in Spanish but I would like to highlight a few aspects that I find interesting about words in Spanish that have been adopted from other languages. We have had discussions about Taino words in Dominican and Caribbean Spanish in addition to indigenous words that are inherent to Latin countries such Guatemala, Peru, Bolivia and Ecuador just to name a few. However, we can't forget Arabic words that have been adopted into Spanish centuries ago (prior to all the other adoptions) that are so recognizable once you decipher certain trademarks of words of Arabic origin in Spanish.
Words of Arabic origin range from daily everyday words (that replaced Latin ones) to names of places (topónimos) as well as last names. According to studies done many words of Arabic origin begin with [a] and the stress patterns (accentuation) don't always follow those of Latin origin. For example the stress on the very last syllable of a word that ends in a vowel. Words such as or 'ojalá', 'almorí' etc. exemplify this. These stress patterns are not characteristic of words of Latin origin.
I) Here is a sample list of words of Arabic origin that I find very interesting that are currently in my (and surely other people’s) everyday speech:
aceite/ aceituna/ adoquín/ alajú/ alarde (I was surprised. I did not know that alarde was of Arabic origin) albóndiga / alcántara / alcaparra / alcohol / alfalfa / alfombra / álgebra / alicate/ almacén/ almíbar/ almohada/ alfaguara/ amén/ albur/ atún/ arrabal/ arroba/ ataúd/ auge/ avería/ azabache/ azafrán/ azar/ azotea/ azúcar/ azucena/ azulejo
I listed words beginning with [a] because there are many however, this list is by no means exhaustive.
One should not be surprised that these words of Arabic origin crossed continents are used and heard in the DR and Latin America still today. Key examples: azabache (which many may have believed was a Taino word), alcántara (which is a last name of many means puente),
guitarra, naranja- yes, even naranja is of Arabic origen and the list continues.
II.) Some trademarks of foreign words:
1) Words of Greek origin adopted in Spanish are masculine gender nouns. For example: 'el poema', 'el poeta', 'el programa', 'el clima' etc.
2) Words of Latin origin that are diseases or medical conditions are always feminine (usually ends in [is] or [es]). For example: 'la diabetes', 'la nefritis','la celulitis', 'la fibrosis' etc.
3) [k] and [w] are foreign letters that were adopted into the Spanish alphabet. All words in Spanish that have either of these letters are foreign words. If you browse through the dictionary you will see that there is not a long list of words for either letter.
4) Some words of Arabic origin are easily identifiable by the ending. For example: [che], [je], [ja], [jo] [ya] and an accented vowel on the last syllable.
This area of Spanish studies in my opinion is one of the most interesting to pursue because out from understanding the origin of words comes the understanding of many historical and cultural aspects and this study reveals how words transcend and evolve over time. I find it extremely interesting how some Arabic words remained in original form without any phonetic changes and are very much part of contemporary Spanish vocabulary still today.
Last edited by Marianopolita; 02-19-2006 at 08:08 PM.
Great topic Lesley!
The reason so many Arabic-derived words begin with A is that in Arabic nouns are preceded by and joined to the article 'Al' (= the). Al-macen for (the) store, for example. Not all Arabic words that were adopted into Spanish shed the 'Al' article.
Here are some more, from www.spanish.about.com, from the rest of the alphabet.
Some I already knew about, while others came as a surprise. One or two are dubious.
berenjena — eggplant
café — coffee
cero — zero
chisme — gossip, gadget
gacela — gazelle
hasta — until
jaque — check (in chess)
jaque mate — checkmate
jirafa — giraffe
lila — lilac
lima — lime
limón — lemon
macabro — macabre
marfil — marble, ivory
masacre — massacre
masaje — massage
máscara — mask
mazapán — marzipan
mono — monkey
paraíso — paradise
rehén — hostage
rincón — corner, nook
sorbete — sherbet
sofá — sofa
tamarindo — tamarind
tarea — task
tarifa — tariff
toronja — grapefruit
zanahoria — carrot
Some of these have earlier roots, and came to Spanish via Arabic, like 'jaque mate' and 'paraíso' which are originally Persian, and one that you mentioned, 'naranja' which is originally a Sanskrit word.
Where the English word is similar, it becomes apparent that many words in English came from (or via) Arabic as well - gazelle, giraffe, zero, check and check mate...
Arabic is also present in countless Spanish place names, some of which crossed to the Americas with the Spaniards. Any place name starting with Guada (like Guadalajara or Guadalupe) comes from Wadi - river.
e.g. Guadalquibir - Wadi al kbir - the great river. Algeciras - Al jezireh - the island.
Same goes for surnames. Common Spanish surnames like Alvarez and Alburquerque, to name but two, are certainly of Arabic origin.
How about, "bueno, bonito y barato"
The link does give a brief intro to words of Arabic origin. I was familiar with the origin of most of the words on your list. What I find interesting is the meaning of the names of places. For example: Guadalajara (río pedregoso), Guadarrama (río arenoso), Albacete (la llanura).
The [al] word combination that you mentioned makes sense now as I recall many Spanish words. There are many more words of Arabic origin. Unfortunately I cannot add them all but I have chosen some more that I thought are interesting and are completely of everyday usage.
*babucha-/ balde/ baño/ barragán- this is a last name of some people I know/ barrio/ carcajada/ cifra/ chaleco/ chivo/ chupa/ *fulano, na/ hazaña/ hola/ jaqueca/ jarabe/ jarra/ jinete/ *tabique/ tarea/ * tarifa/ * tarima/ zafra
* I was surprised that the word was of Arabic origin.
I also wanted to point out the word alberca (from the link) because it is an example of a word that has an equivalent Latin based meaning piscina. As per my opening post some words of Arabic origin replaced Latin ones while some co-exist. The two words are both used but depending on the country one is more common than the other but neither has phased out of usage. There are many other word pairs Arabic vs Latin based words in Spanish that are synonyms of one another. Another example from my list above is jaqueca vs migraña. I hear both used equally.
Mirador- Bueno and bonito are of Latin origin. These words are also similar in the other romance languages. I verified in the RAE. I have no idea about barato and no information was given in the RAE about its origin.
The only place as far as I know to use alberca (from the Arabic Al-birka) for swimming pool is Mexico. In southern Spain, where like in the rest of the Spanish-speaking world, piscina is the word for swimming pool, alberca means the water tank or small reservoir.
Yes, fulano surprised me too, but when I thought a little harder I made the connection.
I agree regarding alberca. I knew the usage was limited to Mexico but I just checked in the RAE out of curiosity and it seems very specific as well if you compare the definition given for alberca vs. piscina. See below.
alberca= f. Méx. Piscina deportiva.
piscina= f. Estanque destinado al baño, a la natación o a otros ejercicios y deportes acuáticos.
courtesy of the rae.es
Very good info, Lesley and Chirimoya. I knew most of those words were of Arabic origin, some others I did not know. I wonder what guadalupe means. I know it has to do with a river, but don't know the rest.
I think Mirador was joking. He was probably referring to the words Arab merchants use to attract customers and describe the merchandise they are selling.
I don' t know what Guadalupe means and in general I find information on this topic very scarce and brief. Even in the numerous textbooks and resources I have I always found the details too brief for such an important topic. Maybe someday I will come across the meaning.
Just an fyi I found Mirador's question to be quite odd given that IMO those words are no where close to being Arabic in origin. Interesting sense of humor.
Can anyone tell me if the name "Almonte" is of Arabic origin as well? I have been told this on two occasions. It certainly sounds as though it could be.
Here's an interesting source: www.celtiberia.net/articulo.asp?id=1155
Almonte is on their list.