Monthly Archives: June 2020

Spanish Words of Foreign Origins: Italianismos

Photo by Jonathan Bean, available on Unsplash

Italianismos or Italianisms are words borrowed from Italian language. Thanks to the geographic proximity and historical exchanges between Italy and the Iberian Peninsula, Spanish became rich in Italian loanwords. Most of them are related to the arts, be it architecture, music, gastronomy, literature or theatre, and its influence has been notorious.

In this blog you will learn some of these words, that go beyond pizza and pasta. Make sure to include them in your vocabulary from now on.


A capela: It comes from the Italian “a capella” (in the manner of the chapel; referring to the way Gregorian chants were sung). Nowadays, it means singing a song without using any musical instrument.

Acuarela: From “acquerèllo”, it means watercolor.

Alerta: It derives from “all’erta” and means alert.

Balcón: From “balcone” in Italian, it means balcony.

Birra: It is the Italian work for “beer”. In most Spanish speaking countries, it is an informal way to say cerveza.

Capo: Italian word for “boss”. It is used as a synonym for “jefe”.

Capricho: Adopted from “capriccio” in Italian, it means whim.

Caricatura: This word comes from the same Italian word and means “caricature”.

Casino: Italian word for “casa pequeña de campo” (countryside little house). The fact that the fist gambling facility was named “Casino dei Nobili” made the word “casino” a synonym of these types of facilities. It is worth noting that in Italian it is used a synonym of “mess”, but this is not the case in Spanish.

Chao: Adopted from “ciao” (hello/goodbye).

Charlatán: Adopted from “ciarlatano”, it refers to a person who deceives in order to make money.

Cortejar: It derives from “corteggiare” (to court, to enamor).

Escalinata: Derives from “scalinata”. It is a wide staircase or stairway.

Espagueti: Spanish adaptation of “spaghetti”.

Estropear: It comes from “stroppiare” (to ruin, to break, or to damage).

Festejar: From Italian “festeggiare”, it means to celebrate.

Fiasco: From Italian “fiasco”, meaning “bottle”, it is used to describe a bad, unpleasant situation.

Gaceta: Adopted from “gazzetta”, Italian word for “gazette” or “newspaper”.

Góndola: It comes from “gondola” (display rack).

Jacuzzi: Comes from the Italian surname and later product brand “Iacuzzi”, it is used as a common name for the automated hot tub.

Laburo: It comes from “lavoro” (work, job). It is specially used in Argentina and Uruguay instead of “empleo, trabajo”.

Novela: Taken from “novella” (novel).

Paparazzi: From the proper name Paparazzo, a character from the Italian film La dolce vita, today used as a name for photographers specialized in candid pictures of celebrities.

Pasarela: From “passarella” (footbridge, gangway, catwalk). In Spanish it also means “pedestrian overpass”.

Rotonda: Italian word for “roundabout” or “circular plaza.


Don’t forget that I’ll be sharing more loanwords in my next post!


Having trouble with tr/dr sounds.

For example, in the word "tres" it sounds and feels unnatural flicking from in between the teeth and roof of my mouth to the ridge. I was also adapted to doing a "th" sound at the beginning of tres at a young age and that doesn't seem to be working well either. I have a very slight lisp and I feel like that is affecting my pronunciation of tr/dr.

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Spanish Words of Foreign Origins: Latinismos


In Spanish, the words of foreign origin are called  extranjerismos, which derives from extranjero (foreign). These words have been incorporated into Spanish without being translated or with minimal changes in their original meanings, though the pronunciation and spelling are oftentimes adapted to the conventions of the recipient language. Extranjerismos are also known as préstamos lingüísticos (linguistic loans or loanwords).

Even though Spanish derives from Latin, it has received a notable influence of other languages, and the use of loanwords have become part of the vocabulary of hispanohablantes (Spanish speaking people). Starting with this post, you are going to learn some of these words and their origins.



A Latinism is a word that comes or is directly derived from Latin. Most of them carry the same meaning they have in English. What follows is a list of the most common latinismos used in Spanish:


A posteriori: This one means “at a later date or stage”.

A priori: The opposite of “a posteriori”, that is, “at a previous point in time”.

Ad honorem: This adjective means “in an honorary position”. It also means to do a job without getting paid.

Alias: This word is placed before a nickname or an alternate name given to any one person.

Alter ego: Its meaning can be summed up as “alternate personality”.

Auditorio: This word comes from the same Latin word and means “auditorium”.

Contra natura: This loaned expression means “against nature” or “against accepted conventions”.

Credo: From Latin “credo” (I believe), it means “creed, belief system”.

De facto: This expression means the same as in English, “in actual use, in practice”.

Ergo: Though not frequent, it is sometimes used as a synonym for “luego, entonces” (therefore, consequently).

Statu quo: Originally meaning “the state which” in Latin, it is used to mean “the current state of things”.

Etcétera: From “et cetera” (and the other things), this adverb and its abbreviation “etc.” mean “and so forth”.

Grosso modo: Meaning “roughly, approximately”, it is a direct loan from Latin.

In situ: Sometimes used as an adjective to describe something is “in its original position or place”.

In vitro: It is an adverb particularly used in the field of science meaning “in an artificial environment”, as “in vitro” literally means “within glass”.

Incógnito: From Latin “not known”, it means “in disguise” or “without being known”, as with “Incognito mode” in some Web browsers.

Ipso facto: This adverb is not used the same way as in English; in Spanish, it means “immediately”.

Jabón: This word suffered a remarkable transformation from Latin “sapo”, whose English equivalent remained relatively unchanged: “soap”.

Memorándum: From the Latin verb “memorare” (to be remembered), it means “written note or communication”.

Modus operandi: As in English, this noun means “the way of working, of operating”, referring to a person or a group, especially with criminal intent.

Per cápita: This Latin expression (“capita” came from “caput”, “head”) is frequently used as an adjective in economics meaning “per person”.

Per se: This Latin adverb has the same use as in English: “by itself” or “in and of itself”.

Potestad: “Potestas” (power, ability) changed into this Spanish word to express “authority”, especially in the compound noun “patria potestad” (child custody).

Ultimátum: Related to the adjective “último” (final, last), this noun means “final statement of terms or conditions made by one person or group to another”.

Viceversa: From a Latin phrase meaning “the position having been reversed”, this adverb is used in the way as in English, the only difference being it is written as one word.

Vox populi: This Latin noun means the same in both English and Spanish: the opinions or beliefs of the majority.


In my next posts, I will bring you more extranjerismos derived from other languages. Keep tuned! 😊

How did my girlfriend and I sound in this audio?

We are studying spanish by ourselves, watching videos, reading and speaking. All of this remotely, of course.

To train our speaking, we call each other and then read a determined text aloud. The texts are from Lingua, if someone is interested.

I recorded two calls, one that is short and the other that is longer. We are brazilians and tend to make some errors because portuguese is very similar to spanish.

Short audio

La cama es muy cómoda y es donde he colocado unos juguetes que me recuerdan a mi infancia. Encima de la cama es el mejor lugar para leer mis novelas preferidas. Me gusta mucho estirarme encima de la cama y contemplar los cuadros de las paredes de mi habitación.

Long audio

A mi perro Curro le gusta pasear por el parque a primera hora de la mañana.

Me levanto a las seis de la mañana en los días laborables para acompañarle al parque antes de ir a trabajar. Siempre me espera sentado a la puerta de mi habitación con gran impaciencia, aguardando a que me levante.

Cuando llegamos al parque, acostumbro a quitarle la correa para que pueda correr libremente, ya que a esas horas no hay nadie a quien pueda molestar. El se pone muy contento y durante un rato se dedica a explorar el parque con gran curiosidad.

Transcurrido un cuarto de hora, regresa al banco donde yo lo aguardo sentado y entonces jugamos un rato con la pelota, yo se la lanzo y él me la devuelve. Después regresamos a casa y yo marcho a trabajar y él se queda feliz tumbado en su colchón.

Can someone say how did we go? Any suggestion/tip would be appreciated.

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