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IslamiCity > Articles > Spanish's Arab Connection
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There are nearly 5000 words of Arabic origin in Spanish ..
Audio Spanish's Arab Connection

Spanish's Arab Connection
2/21/2014 - Education - Article Ref: IC0604-2971
Number of comments: 22
By: IslamiCity Staff
IslamiCity* -

When you think of European culture, one of the first things that may come to your mind is the renaissance. Many of the roots of European culture can be traced back to that glorious time of art, science, commerce and architecture. But did you know that long before the renaissance there was a place of immense sophistication and beauty in Muslim Spain?

Not only was Muslim Spain artistic, scientific and commercial, but it also exhibited incredible tolerance, imagination and poetry. Moors, as the Spaniards call the Muslims, populated Spain for over 700 years (711 - 1492 AD).

If you speak either Spanish or English, you probably know more Arabic than you think you do.

After Latin and English, Arabic is probably the biggest contributor of words to the Spanish language, and a large portion of English-Spanish cognates (words that the two language share) that don't come from Latin come from Arabic.

The English words you're most likely to think of as Arabic origin are those that start with "al-," words such as "algebra," "Allah," "alkali" and "alchemy," and they exist in Spanish as algebra, Ala, alkali and alkimia, respectively. But these are not the only Arabic words in Spanish. A variety of other types of common words such as "coffee,' "zero" and "sugar" (cafe, cero and azucar in Spanish) also come from Arabic.

The etymology of English words goes beyond the scope of this article, but the introduction of Arabic words in Spanish began in the eighth century, although even before then, some words of Latin and Greek originally had roots in Arabic.

Muslim watchtower along the river Guadaliquivir in Spain

People living in what is now Spain spoke Latin at one time but over the centuries Spanish and other Romance languages such as French and Italian gradually differentiated themselves. The Latin dialect that eventually became Spanish was highly influenced by the the Arabic-speaking Moors in 711. For many centuries, Latin/Spanish and Arabic existed side by side, and even today many names of Spanish places retain Arabic roots. e.g. The name Gibraltar derives from the Arabic Jabal-al-Tarik [mount of Tarik].

It wasn't until late in the 15th century that the Spanish inquisition expelled the Muslims, and by then literally thousands of Arabic words had become part of Spanish.

There are nearly 5000 words of Arabic origin in Spanish. Following are just some of the most common Arabic origin Spanish words you'll come across. As you can see, many of the words also are a part of English. Although it is believed that the English words like "alfalfa" and "alcove," which originally were Arabic, entered English by way of Spanish (alfalfa and alcoba), most Arabic words in English probably entered English by other routes.

Arabic-origin Spanish words English
aceite  oil
adobe  adobe
aduana customs - as at a border 
ajedrez  chess
Ala Allah
al-acran scorpion 
al-bacora albacore 
al-bahaca  basil 
al-cade  mayor
al-coba bedroom, alcove
al-cohol  alcohol
al-dea  village - alderman
al-fombra  carpet 
al-garroba carob 
al ghattas alcatraz - as pelican
al-godon  cotton 
al-gontmo  algorithm 
al-kimia  alchemy 
al-macen storage 
al-manaque almanac

al-mirante 

admiral

al-mohada 

pillow 

al-qasr alcazar - fortress

al-quiler 

rent 

amalgama 

amalgam 

arroz 

rice 

asesino 

assassin 

atun 

tuna 

ayatola 

ayatollah

azafran 

saffron 

azucar 

sugar

azul 

blue - azure

bano 

bathroom

barrio 

district 

berenjena 

eggplant 

cafe 

coffee 

cero 

zero

chisme 

gossip, gadget

Coran 

Koran 

cuzcuz 

couscous

dado 

die - singular of "dice"

embarazada  pregnant 
espinaca  spinach 
fez  fez 
fulano  what's-his-name 
gacela  gazelle 
guitarra  guitar 
hachis  hashish 
haren  harem 
hasta  until
iman  imam 
jaque  check - as in chess
jaque mate checkmate
jirafa giraffe
laca lacquer 
lila lilac
lima lime
limon  lemon 
macabro  macabre 
marfil  marble 
masacre  massacre 
masaje  massage 
mascara mask
mazapan marzipan
mezquita  mosque 
momia  mummy 
mono  monkey 
naranja  orange
ojala  I hope, God willing 
ole  bravo
paraiso  paradise 
rehen  hostage 
rincon  corner, nook
sorbete sherbet 
sofa sofa
rubio blond 
talco  talc 
tamarindo tamarind 
tarea  task 
tarifa  tariff 
toronja  grapefruit 
zanahoria  carrot

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