10 commonly used English Words from Spanish

Kirsten has been fascinated by foreign languages since childhood and has made it her mission to inspire others with her passion for Spanish. She has a master’s degree in Hispanic Studies from Boston College and has tutored and taught students of all ages.
Kirsten Agla

The ultimate crossover isn’t on TV, it’s in real life with English and Spanish! Languages have influenced one another for as long as humans have been able to speak, even more so when different cultures interact and coexist. Some words that we use as English speakers can be easily traced back to another language; for example, the word entrepreneur is obviously French, and karate is clearly Japanese. On the other hand, the origin of some common words may surprise you. Here are 10 English words from Spanish and what they mean.

 

Burrito

A delicious tortilla pocket filled with tomato, lettuce, rice, and all sorts of fillings, burritos have become just as well known as tacos. But did you know that burrito translates to “little donkey” in English? Rather than being named after the meat inside, this tasty Mexican dish is named after a beast of burden for being able to carry so much food inside of one tortilla!

Mosquito

Pesky mosquitos are the worst! They may be found all over the world, but the word mosquito, or “little fly” in English, is actually a Spanish word that comes from mosca, or “fly”.

Plaza

A plaza is a nice open space in the middle of the city that provides a reprieve from traffic-filled streets and can feature fountains, shops, and other public amenities. English speakers must have liked Spanish plazas so much that they decided to use the word too! 

Cargo

This word comes from the Spanish verb cargar which means “to carry.” Literally translated, cargo means “I carry” because after all, we like to carry our own precious cargo! 

Salsa

We know salsa as a delicious tomato based dip paired with tortilla chips and other Mexican dishes, but did you know that salsa is the word for all sauce in Spanish? So don’t be surprised if you see salsa listed as a topping for pasta and other foods.

Cafeteria

While the Spanish version of this word has an accent mark (cafetería), the meaning is about the same in both languages. Café means coffee and -ería is a suffix added to words to make them places. 

Guerrilla

Not to be mistaken for gorilla the animal, guerrilla came into popular use in English during times of military combat. Guerrilla warfare refers to small groups attacking in subtle and unconventional ways such as ambushes in order to take down a larger enemy. The term more often appears in history textbooks and news coverage. Note that in Spanish the pronunciation is a little different, and sounds like gue-ree-ya.

Patio

This word originally meant an inner courtyard that was open to the sky, but has expanded to include many outdoor spaces. When imagining a dream home, it should include a patio!

Bodega

A cultural phenomenon and neighborhood staple in places like New York City, the bodega serves food, drink, and other necessities and can be the cornerstone of a community. However, the word bodega in Spanish originally just meant “wine shop.” Quite the upgrade!

Cilantro

The herb cilantro, also known as coriander, is native to Southern Europe. It’s no wonder that the Spanish were the ones to name it! Americans tend to use the word cilantro instead of coriander because of its prevalence in Mexican cuisine.  

 

As you can see, there are so many English words from Spanish! While you may have already known about some of the words on this short list, their original Spanish meanings are a delight and provide more insight as to why we English speakers use them. All of the words above have maintained the same spelling, but there are plenty of other words that have been changed over time to become less recognizably Spanish. With that in mind, what are some other English words from Spanish that you may know?

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