Monthly Archives: July 2020

Spanish Words of Foreign Origin: Arabismos

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Arabismos are Spanish words whose origins trace back to the Arabic language. There are plenty of them in la lengua de Cervantes, a direct consequence of over seven centuries of Muslim dominance in the Iberian Peninsula.

Words from Arabic appear often on everyday fields, like agriculture, manufacture, handicraft or manual labor, as that language left remarkable traces in the local Spanish and Portuguese cultures.

In that sense, even proper names of many places are known to come directly from Arabic: “Andalucía”, from “al-andalus” (الْأَنْدُلُس); “Guadalajara”, from “wādī l-ḥijāra” (وَادِي الْحِجَارَة‎), meaning “stony valley or river”; and “Gibraltar”, from “jabal ṭāriq” (جَبَل طَارِق‎), meaning “Mountain of Tariq”.

Look at these few examples of arabismos:


Aceite: From “az-záyt” (أَلْزيت), the Spanish word for “oil”. This is a near-synonym of “óleo”, though the latter is most used for “oil painting” and “oil used for religious anointing”.

Aceituna: From “āz-zaytūnah” (الزيتونة), “olive”. It is easy to establish a link between this noun and “az-záyt”, and we could even imagine how important olive was as an oil source—be it as a food item or for combustion purposes—that the plant name in Spanish became forever intertwined with “aceite”.

Albahaca: From “al-habaqa” (الحبق), Spanish for “basil”.

Albañil: From “al-banní” (البَنِّيّ‎), it means “mason” or “bricklayer”.

Alcancía: From “al-kanzíyya” (الكنزية), it means “piggy bank”. The Arabic root “kanz” means “treasure”.

Algodón: From “al-qutun” (القطن), a cognate of the English word “cotton”.

Almohada: From “al-mihádda” (اَلْمِخَدَّة‎), the Spanish noun for “pillow”.

Alquimia: From “alkymia” (اَلْكِيمْيَا‎), which comes from Greek “chymeía” (“liquid mix”). This noun means “alchemy” and was the source of the word “química” (Spanish for “chemistry”).

Arsenal: From “dar as-sina’ah” (دَار الصِّنَاعَة‎), which originally meant “manufacturing shop” in Arabic, it is now use to refer to any kind of stock or supply, especially of weapons.

Azar: From “az-zahr” (الزَهْر‎), the Arabic word for “dice”, it may be used to express “luck, chance”—as in the expression “al azar” (“at random”)—or even “misfortune”.

Azúcar: From “al-sukkar” (اَلسُّكَّر‎), another cognate with an English word, this time with “sugar”.

Limón: From “laymun” (ليمون), a cognate with the English word “lemon”.

Ojalá: ‎ From “law šá lláh” (وَشَاءَ اللّٰه). It meant “and may God will it” in Hispanic Arabic. Now, it is a most useful interjection meaning “hopefully” or “if only”.

Tarea: From “tariha” (طريحة), “task, homework”.

Zanahoria: From “safunnárya” (إِسْفَنَارِيَّة‎), this word stemmed in turn from the Greek word “staphylínē agría” (σταφυλίνη ἀγρία), meaning “carrot”.


Keep tuned for more extranjerismos in Spanish in my upcoming posts!

Colloquial Spanish Course – Social group titles in Spanish

In this Spanish lesson we are going to learn and practice describing social groups colloquially in Spanish. First we will learn some relevant grammar and vocabulary and then see if you can follow a short audio conversation in Spanish. The transcript to the audio will be given at the end of the post but please try not to look at it until you have tried playing and understanding the audio a few times.

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Colloquial social group titles in Spanish:

Gothic: Siniestro
Snob / Posh person: Pijo/a
Nerd / Freak / Geek / Dork: Friki
Swot: Empollón
Student: Estudiante
Fan of heavy metal music: Heavy
Foreigner: Guiri
Hermit: Ermitaño/a
Person from the country: Un pueblerino/Una pueblerina
Punk: Punky
Skater: Skater
Surfer: Surfero/a
Drug addict: Yonqui
Alcoholic: Alcohólico/a
Tramp: Vagabundo/a
Hippy: Hippy
Gypsy: Gitano/a
Traveller: Nómada
Grunger: Alternativo/a
Emo: Emo
Boy racer: Tunero/a
Chav: Choni
Skinhead: Cabeza rapada / Skinhead
Hooligan: Júligan

Now play the audio to listen a conversation. Can you understand what is being said? Play the audio a few times before you look at the transcript. Don’t worry if you don’t understand every single thing the two people are saying. Try to catch whichever words you can and then try to piece things together to work out what is being said.

(Play the audio a few times before you scroll down and look at the transcript)



Alan: Olivia ¿qué tal fue tu primera semana en la universidad?
Olivia: Interesante. He conocido gente muy diferente.
Alan: ¿Ah sí? Cuéntame un poco.
Olivia: Bueno, yo reconozco que soy un poco pija y que todos mis amigos son pijos como yo. La gente que estoy conociendo es bastante diferente.
Alan: ¿Un momento? Yo soy tu amigo. ¿Me estás llamando pijo?
Olivia: A ver Alan. Somos pijos. No hay nada malo en ello. Bueno tú eres pijo guiri. Y un poco friki también con tu adoración por el manga y esas cosas.
Alan: Y tú eres una pija empollona ¿no?
Olivia: Sí, la verdad es que sí. Me gusta estudiar y ser la mejor de la clase, no lo voy a negar.
Alan: Bueno, cuéntame un poco sobre la gente que has conocido en la uni. ¿Cómo son?
Olivia: Hay de todo. Las chicas con las que comparto habitación son muy diferentes. Carolina es una siniestra, solo tiene ropa negra y se echa polvos blancos en la cara para parecer más blanca.
Alan: ¡Ah sí!
Olivia: Verónica es una hippy. Muy buena persona pero siempre habla de la paz y del amor. Lleva ropa muy hippy y pone música reggae a todo volumen todo el tiempo.
Alan: ¿Música reggae? A ti no te gusta el reggae ¿no?
Olivia: No mucho, pero prefiero el reggae al heavy metal que pone Patricia, mi otra compañera de habitación.
Alan: ¿Es una heavy?
Olivia: ¡Sí, y cuando yo pongo mi música favorita se ríe de mí!
Alan: ¿Qué pones? ¿A David Bisbal?
Olivia: ¡Claro! ¡Es mi cantante favorito! ¡Lo adoro!
Alan: Creo que la convivencia va a ser difícil para ti, Olivia. Buena suerte.
Olivia: Gracias Alan. Creo que la voy a necesitar.


So, how did you get on? How much did you understand of the listening? Please let me know in the comments section below…

Don’t worry if you didn’t understand that much, keep reviewing the vocabulary and phrases and you will soon be up to speed and ready for the next lesson in this course. See you next time!

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Is there a chart/map showing the pronunciation of the letter ‘v’ in Spanish Speaking countries?

From what I’ve found on the internet, the letter ‘v’ is quite regional and can be pronounced either like an English V, the exact same as a B, or slightly different than a spanish B. I tried to find a map that showed how each country/region pronounced it and couldn’t find anything. Can someone either please make one or direct me to one? Or even just a list of how each dialect of Spanish pronounces it?

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I cannot roll my R’s for the life of me

I really want to learn Spanish and am at the very beginning of this Journey. I'm feeling a bit unsure if I even can though. I've never been able to roll my R's. I'm in my 30's now. I remember in middle school taking a Spanish class but quickly learned I cannot trill at the the front of my mouth. The way you have to do it to speak Spanish. I can however roll my R's way at the back of my throat. That doesn't really work though when trying to say a Spanish word. Has anyone not been able to do this at all but then learned?

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