Spanish Word Histories and Mysteries, by the editors of American Heritage Dictionary, gives the etymology of about 100 words that have either been incorporated into English, or that are commonly used in English, that originated in Spanish. Many are fairly obvious Spanish words (habanero, nachos, arroyo), some less so (hurricane, volcano), and others are quite surprising (jade, gambit).

A surprising number of words entered English in different forms via different paths. For example, the word tilde, the squiggly line written over the letter ‘n’ to make ‘n-yeh’, originated from vulgate Latin ‘titulus’, meaning ‘something written on top of’. Tilde entered English via Spanish. But ‘titulus’ entered English via Old French to also become the English word ‘title’.

Another surprise is that a number of words came to English via Spanish via vulgate Latin via Germanic languages. These originated during the period after the fall of the western Roman empire.

In all, this is a mildly interesting book. The interest lies mostly in the view it provides of the tangled history of language evolution.



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Metadata Info

  • Title: Spanish Word Histories and Mysteries: English Words That Come From Spanish
  • Author: American Heritage Dictionaries
  • Published: ****
  • ISBN: 0618910549
  • Buy: Amazon search
  • Check out: Seattle library
  • Rating: 3.0 stars