In addition to the simplicity of its inflections, English has two main characteristics: flexibility of use and openness of its vocabulary to new words. The latter implies both the free admission of words from other languages and the ready creation of compound terms and derivatives.
Although this language, like so many others, has borrowed many words from other languages, there is a very close relationship with Spanish in terms of everyday use. Which words are they and which ones are most frequently used?
Terms that have traveled miles
We know that English is open and flexible when it comes to incorporating vocabulary. In fact, as noted in the Encyclopedia Britannica, its modern vocabulary is approximately “one-fourth Germanic, Old English, Scandinavian, Dutch, German and two-thirds Romance languages especially Latin, French, Spanish and Italian with copious and increasing imports from Greek in science and technology, and with considerable borrowings from over three hundred other languages”.
Among the words borrowed from Spanish, it mentions, for example, cannibal, vanilla, matador, armada, galleon, mosquito, guerrilla, tornado…. although, many of these “borrowings” date back to the 16th century. Names of animals and plants have also entered English from indigenous languages through Spanish: potato-patata, from Taino, batata; and tomato–tomate, from Nahuatl, tomatl.
In the United States, Spanish has the second largest population of Spanish speakers in the world. Source: Forbes
Other words have entered from Latin America through Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California, such as canyon, cigar, estancia, lasso, mustang, pueblo and rodeo. Some have even acquired new connotations: bonanza, which originally denoted “goodness”, became, through the miners’ jargon, “spectacular windfall, prosperity”; while “mañana” (tomorrow) acquired an undertone of mysterious unpredictability.
On the other hand, from Arabic, through European Spanish; from Spanish, through French; from Latin or, occasionally, from Greek; English has obtained the following terms: cipher, elixir, mosque, nadir, naphtha, algebra, alkali, almanac, arsenal, alchemy, alcohol, alembic, assassin, attar, azimuth, sugar, syrup, zenith and zero.
The “historic” barrio (neighborhood) and the pleasure of the siesta
Beyond the origins of thousands of words from other languages, the truth is that there are several Spanish terms and expressions that are used daily in English; “fiesta” is one of them. Although the term party exists, many times, citizens choose to use the word in Spanish.
In the state of California (USA), in 2019, about 44.5% of people spoke a language other than English at home. Source: Statista
Siesta is another word that is used, with multiple examples that can be found in print. The Merriam-Webster dictionary revives the everyday use of terms such as “barrio“, “gusto” and “aficionado“, among others.
Multiculturalism is commonplace in the United States. As a result, words are fluid, as are speakers. The nuances of certain Spanish sounds are particularly appealing and, as a result, become terms that are borrowed and end up taking on new meaning.