Over at après moi, le déluge, silmarillion has posted a list of all the Spanish words borrowed from Arabic, using the Diccionario de la Real Academia Española (both printed and online editions), the Corpus Diacrónico del Español (CORDE), the American Heritage Dictionary, the Dictionnaire de l’Académie francaise, and the webpage Vocabolario Etimologico della Lingua Italiana. The post and definitions are in Spanish, but if you’re interested in the subject, that shouldn’t be much of a problem. My only quibble so far (having skimmed the list) is that some of the words go back to Turkish, not Arabic:
Chaleco – quizá del it. Giulecco, y este del turco yelek
Zapato del turco zabata
But I’m certainly not going to complain about too many etymologies, and besides, for lagniappe there’s a little annex of Basque words that come from Arabic. Gracias, amigos!


  1. Thanks for your comment Languagehat.
    Jose Luis Cabo Pan states there are 800/1000 spanish words which derive directly from arab language.It is true some of the words listed go back to turkish not arabic, and some do not come directly from arabic spanish. We have listed 1250 words till now and we keep on working.
    We also have some cases not listed yet, as the case of “perro”.

  2. As stated after that list, a little comment on the Basque words coming from Arabic: they don´t seem to come directly from that language, but as a loan first to Castilian and then to Basque… Most or all of them were also used in Castilian at or around the same time.
    So… Arabic words loaned to Basque through Castilian.
    Ondo izan! Best regards!

  3. bathrobe says:

    Speaking of Arabic loan words in Spanish, has anyone done a similar survey for Portuguese? I presume the result would be similar. (This was prompted by a walk in the streets of Macau yesterday when I found the Port Captain’s building (I think it was) which had a distinctly Moorish feel about it.)

  4. Hartza: I’ll take out the word “direct” — thanks!
    bathrobe: I too would like to see such a survey for Portuguese.

  5. And I would like to see similar study concerning amount of Spanish words in Arabic

  6. I read once that the versatile particle “ya” came to Spanish from Arabic. It was not listed, so perhaps the story is a doubtful one. It was interesting to me because it was a function-word rather than a content-word (however you say that nowadays). I also would see “ya”, “ia”, or “ja” in early French and Provencal, IIRC.

  7. Spanish ya is simply Latin iam (= Italian già).

  8. Chaleco from “yelek”, but I have not found giulecco in my italian dictionary….
    jaleco attested in Lope de Vega, 1604.
    chaleco, jileco, jaleco,
    “al miserable Pánfilo, convaleciente de las heridas, con un jaleco de sayal, que apenas le cubría el pecho, unos calzones de anjeo y los pies descalzos, llevando a cuestas con otro esclavo cristiano el yeso, cal y madera del edificio.”
    1604, Vega Carpio, Lope de, El peregrino en su patria
    zapato as sabot.

  9. I hope this is not too off-topic: did the Germanic rule of Spain in the wake of the Roman Empire’s collapse leave a linguistic footprint similar to that left by the Arabs?

  10. There are less.
    From germanic:Guerra, tregua,yelmo,estribo, espuela, brida, guarnir, robar, marca, banco, jabón, fieltro, guisar.
    Borrows from goth:Agasajar, arenga, espía, espiar, broza, estaca, guadaña, hato, moho, rapar, rueca, sacar, álamo, aliso, amainar, ataviar, casta, escanciar, esquilar, eslabón, gana, ganar, ganso, gavilán, lozano, toldo.
    From occitan, catalan, french and others back to german: arpa, bando, barón, blanco, blandir, dardo, esgrimir, esmalte, esquila, cencerro, falda, fieltro, flecha, gerifalte, guante, orgullo.
    Toponymy is very rich in germanic roots in northern Spain.

  11. One of the weirder loanwords in Icelandic is fíll which means ‘elephant’. It comes from the Arabic term. How this happened is a mystery to one and all.

  12. “One of the weirder loanwords in Icelandic is fíll which means ‘elephant’. It comes from the Arabic term. How this happened is a mystery to one and all.”
    My guess would be via chess. I think the “elephant” (fil) is the Middle Eastern equivalent of the English “bishop”. Or maybe I’m completely wrong.

  13. That’s a very cool post–very exciting!

  14. J.Cassian: That’s an interesting speculation. Chess has indeed been popular in Iceland for some time. However, the oldest written instance of the word fíll is from 1584, which I think predates the introduction of chess in Iceland. Though I’ll try to make inquiries next time I’m in Iceland to be sure. Oh, and the word for a chess bishop in Icelandic is biskup, which is the same word as bishop. But this is definitely something to follow up on.
    I should also mention that in the most closely related languages to Icelandic, Norwegian, Danish, Swedish and Faroese the word used is elephant.

  15. I think it’s worth noting that the overwhelming majority of those words are hardly used today.

  16. In spanish is,
    Alfil:Del ár. hisp. alfíl, este del ár. clás. fīl, y este del pelvi pīl, elefante.
    bishop from epi + skopos,(ie spek-)

  17. Speaking about word origins, I’d like to see a list of words from Nahuatl or other indigenous languages that are common in Salvadoran Spanish. (And certainly Guatemalan Spanish has its share of Quiché or Cachiquel words.) Central Americans call buzzards zopilotes, grass is zacate and corn isn’t just maíz, but elote and some other words, including olote. To see if a Spanish-English dictionary is as comprehensive as I want, I check to see if the word zopilote is listed.
    When I majored in Spanish, I was told that the river Guadalquivir has the Arabic word waddi in it meaning river, but I may have this anecdote bass akwards.

  18. Taínas:
    caiman – cayman
    cuba, curazao , caribe, bahama, habana, haiti,
    daiquiri 🙂
    Maís is collected by Presbítero las Casas in “Historia Natural de la destrucción de Indias”. Taíno origin. Elote is Nahua.
    Guadalquivir, wadi, river. I have gathered a long list of arabic toponyms in Spain. In some days I’ll place a post about arabic toponymy.

  19. Guadalquivir is wadi al-kabir ‘big river.’

  20. Arabic “wadi” is not exactly river,meaning is valley or river bank.
    Question is if all spanish “guads” can be explained by arabic wadi, or if it is an assimilation of a pre existing IE root *wed ( water)

  21. It is widely believed that all words begining with al- or az- in Spanish are Arabic. While many indeed are, there is still a sizeable number which aren’t. For example, Abedul “Birch tree” is from Celtic or at least Gallo-Roman ‘betula’ and related to Irish beith “birch.” Alamo “Poplar tree” appears to be Gothic; Azar “hazard” is from Old French; Alambre “wire” is from the a Latin word for “copper”, aeramen and alzar “to raise” from a Vulgar Latin *altiare. Even azul “blue” (cf. Italian azzuro)is more Persian instead coming from Persian “lapus lazuli”, a precious stone of that color.

  22. azul
    ár. lazaward, persa lagvard o lažvard, y sánscr. rajavarta
    attested forms are lazulum azolum lazurius azzurrum, lazul.
    in ME azur, from OF azure

  23. I am interesting to know if my last name “Aguirre”, which comes from Basque, has any arabic influence.
    Thanks in advance,

  24. Hartza would surely give a better answer. Aguirre means” high place”.
    The oldest Aguirres come from Guipuzcoa and fought the Clavijo battle in the year 850. I believe it has no arabic influence.

  25. Absolutely no arabic influence involved. It’s a very old Basque surname (usually understood as “high place” as Silmarillion notes) which appears under some other forms like: “Agirreacotegui, Agirrearanzamendi, Agirreazpiroz, Agirrebasabe, Agirrebengoa, Agirregoitia, Agirregomezkorta, Agirremota…”
    The proper way of writing it in Basque is “Agirre”.
    In fact no Arabic influence is known whatsoever to have reached Basque except in an indirect way through Castilian Spanish: Kotoia (cotton), alkate (major of a city), gutuna (letter), alkondara (shirt), alboka (a musical instrument)… and maybe another three or four words.

  26. Hartza:
    Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day? 🙂
    You’re such a lovely bear!
    The list of basque words influenced by arabic is completed by the following:
    txoko o zoko , corner
    albaitari, veterinarian
    azoka, market

  27. I believe that most of the mixing of Arabic words into the Spanish Language that the Mextizo race speak now, derived from the time there was a contact with the Olmec Civilization and a race of Mindigi that sailed to South, Central and what is now called Mexico(Ref. They came before Columbus by Ivan Van. Sertima). And their is evidence that 93 percent of all Africans that were enslaved spoke Arabic and were Muslims. African People migrated are all over Mexico, South and Central America during Slavery (running aways) and during Ancient Times. I belive these influences may have an profound effect on the Spanish spoken by those in Latin America.
    And let us not forget the Moors that came from Africa (a Black Civilization not that Arabin Origin), (ref.The story of the Moors in Spain by. Stanley Lane-Poole).

  28. Im doing a spanish oral on the influence of the arabic language on spanish, however i have to narrow it down to one specific area.
    I was wondering, is there a general area where a significant amount of spanish words have arabic origins? (maybe clothing? food? everyday words? etc.) or is it just an all over general influence?

  29. Raz06:
    kitchen, garden, house.

  30. Is the surname Zubia a basque name and does it have an arabic etimology? Thanks for any help you can give me.

  31. Does the name Farfan have arabic influence?

  32. dfa:
    As far as I can see, Farfan ( spanish Farfán) is from goth origin.

  33. Thanks for the answer Silmarillion oh and do you have any suggestions on where I could find more information on this kind of thing.

  34. Concerning: “And let us not forget the Moors that came from Africa (a Black Civilization not that Arabin Origin), (ref.The story of the Moors in Spain by. Stanley Lane-Poole).”
    Actually, Mali and Songhay were the famous Black Muslim kingdoms in Africa with Timbuktu in Mali having one of the world’s largest libraries at one time.
    The Moors however were all Caucasian peoples – the first ones were Hamito-Semitic Arabs and Berbers; many of the latter-day ones were of Turkic, Iranian and Circassian stock (The Turks, in fact, eventually took over the whole Arab Empire). Some of the Moors were even native Spaniards. The last Moorish king of Granada, Boabdil also called “El Chico” – The Little One – (1492) had blond hair and is believed to have been of Visigothic origin.

  35. If you speak either Spanish or English, you probably speak 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.

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