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.

  36. John Cowan says
  37. He derives it from notōcāyoh “my name possesser. Person who has my name.” Unprovable but plausible, certainly more so than the alleged Latin origin.

  38. I’m currently learning Portuguese and it seems to have an even greater Arabic influence than Spanish, and they’re kind of easy to spot since they mostly begin with “al-” like alface (lettuce) and aldeia (village). I was going to include abacaxi (pineapple) but apparently that comes from the Tupi language.

  39. PlasticPaddy says

    @meena (13 years later)
    From Spanish wikipedia:
    Zubia, proveniente del árabe hispánico zúbya, y éste del árabe clásico zubyah, que significa en árabe «lugar donde fluye el agua» o «corriente de agua en un arenal», hace referencia a un lugar por donde corre, o donde afluye, mucha agua.
    So “place where lots of water flows”

  40. What counts as proof (that word again) when a written language borrows a word from an unwritten one? Unless you are lucky enough to find something like “which the Indians call askutasquash” (which we are), you can never be sure that the vegetable isn’t called that because it’s easily crushable (in some varieties, anyway).

  41. David Marjanović says

    In Plants vs. Zombies the squash is described as follows: “Squashes zombies.”

    (Like, it actually jumps up and… It’s fun. ^_^ )

  42. Spock smashes Scissors.

  43. PlasticPaddy says

    @jc 10 nov
    Squash is interesting. There are native cucurbita in Europe (and Africa, probably Asia as well) although specific instances (pumpkin) were introduced from the Americas. So are European courgettes and marrows unrelated to the pre-1500 plants? If so, are the earlier plants still farmed? Maybe David M knows.

  44. David Marjanović says

    I don’t, but Wiktionary does. There are no species of Cucurbita native to the Old World. Latin cucurbita, whence also German Kürbis “pumpkin, squash, gourd” and Old English cyrfet ~ cyrfæt, meant the bottle gourd, Lagenaria siceraria.

    Looks like somebody picked the wrong type species for the genus before the genus was split. See also: Vultur for the condors.

    Courgettes belong to the American species Cucurbita pepo, says Wikipedia. What are marrows?

  45. PlasticPaddy says

    Thanks. I needed to check more before posting. Marrows are just large courgettes gone to seed before they are harvested.

  46. Ten thousand years of cultivation in the New World in many different regions made C. pepo an incredibly variable species. The most recent broad classification divides them into eight groups (that’s a formal term in botany for similar sets of cultivars). The varieties of the eight that I think of as most representative (YMMV) are the acorn squash, the striped zucchini, the crookneck summer squash, the pumpkin, the pattypan squash, the straightneck summer squash, the spaghetti squash, the zucchini/courgette, and the various ornamental (inedible) gourds. Here’s a picture of an accidentally created hybrid between an acorn squash and a zucchini. It doesn’t pay to plant them too close together!

    While Cucurbita is indeed a New World genus, the wider Cucurbitaceae family is clearly of Old World origin, and most of its other branches (loosely speaking, cucumbers and melons) are to be found there. Just how such plants got across the Atlantic remains a question: gourds are not resistant to sea-water over long periods.

  47. Continental drift?

  48. David Marjanović says

    No, it’s way too young for that. I would suspect natural rafts (i.e. a storm rips off a piece of rainforest and sets it adrift at sea).

  49. Trond Engen says


    L. siceraria or bottle gourd, thought to have originated in southern Africa, was brought to Europe and the Americas very early in history, being found in Peruvian archaeological sites dating from 13,000 to 11,000 BC and Thailand sites from 11,000 to 6,000 BC. A study of bottle gourd DNA published in 2005 suggests that there are two distinct subspecies of bottle gourds, domesticated independently in Africa and Asia, the latter approximately 4,000 years earlier. The gourds found in the Americas appear to have come from the Asian subspecies very early in history, although a new study now indicates Africa. The archaeological and DNA records show it is likely that the gourd was among the first domesticated species, in Asia between 12,000 and 13,000 years before present, and possibly the first domesticated plant species.


  50. Cannabis has been found in Japan from 10kyBP, but it’s unclear if it was cultivated or not.

  51. David L. Gold says

    Regarding the influence of Arabic on Spanish vocabulary, in 1996 Federico Corriente published a three-part article describing his project of many years that was to culminate in a dictionary of Spanish, Catalan, Galician, and Portuguese words of Arabic origin:

    Corriente, Federico. 1996. “Hacia una revisión de los arabismos y otras voces con étimos del romance andalusí o lenguas medio-orientales en el Diccionario de la Real Academia Española». Boletín de la Real Academia Espaňola. Vol. LXXVI. Pp. 55-118, 153-195. and 371-416.

    In 1996, the Royal Spanish Academy published his article as a book:
    Hacia una revisión de los arabismos y otras voces con étimos del romance andalusí o lenguas medio-orientales en el Diccionario de la Real Academia Española.

    The first edition of his dictionary appeared a few years later:
    Corriente, Federico. 1999. Diccionario de arabismos y voces afines en iberorromance. Madrid. Editorial Gredos.

    His first set of additions and corrections to the first edition soon followed:

    Corriente, Federico. 2002. “Primeras adiciones y correcciones al diccionario de arabismos y voces afines en iberorromance.” Estudios de dialectología norteafricana y andalusí. No. 6. Pp. 105-119.

    An enlarged edition of his dictionary, including the first set of additions and corrections, appeared in 2003 [same title, place of publication, and publisher as the first edition].

    His second set of additions and corrections appeared as a book:
    Corriente, Federico. 2006. Segundas adiciones y correcciones al Diccionario de arabismos y voces afines en iberorromance. Zaragoza. Instituto de Estudios Islámicos y del Oriente Próximo.

    In 2008, an English translation of his dictionary appeared:
    Corriente, Federico. 2008. Dictionary of Arabic and Allied Loanwords: Spanish, Portuguese, Catalan, Galician and Kindred Dialects. Brill. Leiden and Boston.

    It is better than the edition of 1999 because it includes both sets of additions and corrections. Much of the edition of 2008 is available online (

    In 2017 he was elected to membership in the Royal Spanish Academy.

    The latest edition of the Academy’s dictionary appeared in 2020 ( and may be better than Corriente 2008 because it presumbly includes any additions or corrections he had for Corriente 2008.

    In 2020 Federico Corriente died. Arabists and Hispanists alike recognize him as far and away the most wide-ranging and most reliable student of Arabic influence on the Romance languages of the Iberian Peninsula.

    In light of the foregoing, one would want to be cautious with works not primarily concerned with Arabic influence on Spanish, such as American Heritage Dictionary, Dictionnaire de l’Académie française, and Vocabolario etimologico della lingua italiana. Could they possibly have etymologies not in Corriente 2008 or the Academy’s dictionary of 2020? If they do, are those etymologies right?

    LH is right that Arabic does not figure in the etymologies of “Chaleco – quizá del it. Giulecco, y este del turco yelek” and “Zapato del turco zabata.”

    Regarding the alleged Arabic origin of Spanish perro ‘dog’:

    Since Proto-Semitic */p/ regularly became /f/ in Arabic (for example, Proto-Semitic *pay- ‘mouth’ became Arabic فم /fum/ ‘idem’) and /p/ in older Arabic loans from other languages was regularly integrated as /b/ (for example, Greek male given name Πέτρος > Arabic male given name بطرس‎, as in بطرس البستاني‎, [Buṭrus al-Bustānī], the name of a Lebanese writer [1819–1883]), Arabic does not have the phoneme */p/.

    If writers of Arabic have to record a non-Arabic name having /p/, such as Paris or Prescott, the letter په (borrowed from the Persian alphabet) is available, but most speakers of Arabic realize non-Arabic /p/, as in those names, as [b]. Indeed, the chief feature of the stereotypical Arabic accent in other languages is the voiced realization of /p/: [bari] ‘Paris’, [bɛni] ‘penny’, [bakistan] ‘Pakistan’, and so on.

    It is therefore hard to see how Spanish perro ‘dog’ could come from Arabic. What is the alleged Arabic etymon and what initial phoneme could the etymon possibly have that would be integrated as [p] in Spanish? (Not surprizingly, the list of Spanish words of Arabic origin in après moi, le déluge has no word beginning with /p/). Corriente 2008 does not list perro and the latest edition of the Academy’s dictionary online (the edition of 2020) gives this etymology for the word: “De or. inc.”[= de origen incierto ‘of uncertain origin’] (

    Presumably, therefore, someone has misinterpreted this entry in the list posted at après moi, le déluge: “Cárabo – del ár. Kalb, perro,” where perro is the gloss of Arabic kalb, not a reflex of it.

    Spanish cárabo designates not just any dog but a certain kind of hunting dog (kalb > cárabo therefore exhibits specialization of meaning), the exact nature of which cannot now be determined because the word has long been obsolete, the citational evidence does not go into detail, and nobody alive today knows the word at first hand.

    It would be good to see the list of Basque words of Arabic origin. Although the Moorish occupation of the Iberian Peninsula did reach some parts of Basque speech territory (which at the time was larger than it now is), it remains to be seen whether it resulted in any linguistic influence.

    Only immediate transfer (Arabic to Basque) is proof of linguistic influence. An etymological chain such as Arabic to Spanish to Basque, therefore, would be proof of Arabic influence on Spanish and of Spanish influence on Basque but not of Arabic influence on Basque.

  52. Thanks very much!

  53. My favorite Arabic word in Spanish is azafata – “stewardess, flight attendant”.

    Kind of mind-boggling since Cordoba Caliphate surely didn’t have commercial aviation.

  54. David Eddyshaw says

    Flying carpets.

  55. “Sir, please don’t get so close to the edge of the carpet; I know the view is spectacular, but there have been unfortunate accidents. Can I bring you more arak?”

  56. David Marjanović says

    It would be good to see the list of Basque words of Arabic origin.

    azoka “market” (or “the market”?) < as-suq

  57. An etymological chain such as Arabic to Spanish to Basque, therefore, would be proof of Arabic influence on Spanish and of Spanish influence on Basque but not of Arabic influence on Basque.

    azoka “market” (or “the market”?) < as-suq

    Unfortunately Basque azoka is not a clear-cut case of direct transmission from Arabic to Basque—the case David L. Gold would be interested in. In this case, we also have Aragonese azoque and Catalan assoc, açoc:

    And Castilian azogue (in the meaning “market” rather than “mercury”):

    (Alongside Portuguese açougue, Galician azougue, etc.)

  58. PlasticPaddy says

    Now that you are here, maybe you could help me with azafata…
    the base Arabic form means “basket”, but the etymology for this word is given as a series of borrowings from Aramaic to Arabic and from Middle Persian to Aramaic. The Middle Persian word is cognate with English sieve. Are there other examples of this kind of chain of borrowing for a rather homely object, or is the idea that Aramaic was a lingua franca, so that things it took from Persian were likely to be transferred to Arabic?

  59. David L. Gold says

    @Xerîb Old Spanish also had azoca ‘market’, so that the case for direct transmission from Arabic to Basque for Basque azoka ‘idem’ is even less clear-cut than if just Aragonese azoque and Catalan assoc, açoc are considered as possible immediate etymons.

    Not surprizingly, therefore, one can find for the Basque word both

    Basque < Arabic



    (s. XIII) Mercado. Del antiguo castellano azoca, azogue (1274) (del árabe al suq "id.".).


    and maybe more possibilities have been suggested.

    It might never be possible to say anything more precise than "from X, Y, and/or Z."

  60. It seems like it would be pretty unlikely for a word to be borrowed from Arabic into Basque without also entering any of the nearby Romance languages. However, I wonder: Are there any phonological characteristics that would suggest a direct borrowing from Arabic, rather than a more roundabout path, like Arabic to Castilian, to Aragonese, to Basque?

  61. David Gold—Thanks for the bibliography!

    Corominas and Pascual’s Spanish etymological dictionary is from 1985. It’s not quite as recent as the others, but it goes into exhaustive detail, weighing the various proposed etymologies for difficult words. There are three pages there on perro, going also into the various early words for ‘dog’ and their usages. The conclusion is that the mostly likely etymology is sound-symbolic, connected with the sound shepherds make when calling their dogs. It’s not very satisfying but at least they justify it with evidence.

  62. I just found a lovely anti-etymology. What would be more natural than to assune that Mexican Spanish zócalo ‘plaza’ is connected with zoco ‘market’? However, zócalo comes from Latin soccus ‘slipper’ (as does its doublet zueco, id.) By semantic extension zócalo came to mean ‘pedestal, plinth’ (and other things, like ‘basement’ in geology). Then, in the central square of Mexico City,

    Plans were made to erect a column as a monument to Independence, but only the base, or zócalo (meaning “plinth”), was built. The plinth was buried long ago, but the name has lived on. Many other Mexican towns and cities, such as Oaxaca, Mérida, and Guadalajara, have adopted the word zócalo to refer to their main plazas, but not all.

  63. @John Cowan:

    Just how such plants got across the Atlantic remains a question: gourds are not resistant to sea-water over long periods.

    I wondered if this was actually correct. I mean, a (thin-skinned, solid) zucchini probably won’t, but why not some other thick-skinned hollow variety? Thus, to Google Scholar — [gourds|squash ocean float]:

    Whitaker, T., & Carter, G. (1954). Oceanic Drift of Gourds-Experimental Observations. American Journal of Botany, 41(9), 697-700.

    Under conditions simulating oceanic drift, gourds of Lagenaria siceraria were found to be capable of floating for periods up to 224 days with no significant decrease in viability of the seed. From what is known of the velocities of oceanic currents, this length of time would be sufficient for gourds to drift from tropical Africa to the coast of Brazil by the South Atlantic Current. Up to 95 days immersion in sea water did not impair viability of the seeds as compared with dry controls. This would indicate that the critical factor in the distribution of this species by oceanic drift is the ability of the gourd to float.


    And, a few works that cite the above:

    Erickson, D. L., Smith, B. D., Clarke, A. C., Sandweiss, D. H., & Tuross, N. (2005). An Asian origin for a 10,000-year-old domesticated plant in the Americas. PNAS, 102 (51) 18315-18320

    New genetic and archaeological approaches have substantially improved our understanding of the transition to agriculture, a major turning point in human history that began 10,000–5,000 years ago with the independent domestication of plants and animals in eight world regions. In the Americas, however, understanding the initial domestication of New World species has long been complicated by the early presence of an African enigma, the bottle gourd (Lagenaria siceraria). Indigenous to Africa, it reached East Asia by 9,000–8,000 before present (B.P.) and had a broad New World distribution by 8,000 B.P. Here we integrate genetic and archaeological approaches to address a set of long-standing core questions regarding the introduction of the bottle gourd into the Americas. Did it reach the New World directly from Africa or through Asia? Was it transported by humans or ocean currents? Was it wild or domesticated upon arrival? Fruit rind thickness values and accelerator mass spectrometer radiocarbon dating of archaeological specimens indicate that the bottle gourd was present in the Americas as a domesticated plant by 10,000 B.P., placing it among the earliest domesticates in the New World. Ancient DNA sequence analysis of archaeological bottle gourd specimens and comparison with modern Asian and African landraces identify Asia as the source of its introduction. We suggest that the bottle gourd and the dog, two “utility” species, were domesticated long before any food crops or livestock species, and that both were brought to the Americas by Paleoindian populations as they colonized the New World.

    Note that the above points out a problem with ocean dispersal: most domestic gourds are thicker-skinned. Thicker skins allow the gourd to float, but present a problem for natural seed dispersal; they are propagated by humans. Wild gourds have thinner skins that allow for easier unaided propagation — but are less likely to survive the long ocean voyage. However, while they prefer the idea of humans bringing the plant along with them when coming from Asia to the Americas, they do not rule out ocean dispersal completely.

    Schaefer, H., Heibl, C., & Renner, S. S. (2009). Gourds afloat: a dated phylogeny reveals an Asian origin of the gourd family (Cucurbitaceae) and numerous oversea dispersal events. Proceedings. Biological sciences, 276(1658), 843–851.

    Knowing the geographical origin of economically important plants is important for genetic improvement and conservation, but has been slowed by uneven geographical sampling where relatives occur in remote areas of difficult access. Less biased species sampling can be achieved when herbarium collections are included as DNA sources. Here, we address the history of Cucurbitaceae, one of the most economically important families of plants, using a multigene phylogeny for 114 of the 115 genera and 25 per cent of the 960 species. Worldwide sampling was achieved by using specimens from 30 herbaria. Results reveal an Asian origin of Cucurbitaceae in the Late Cretaceous, followed by the repeated spread of lineages into the African, American and Australian continents via transoceanic long-distance dispersal (LDD). North American cucurbits stem from at least seven range expansions of Central and South American lineages; Madagascar was colonized 13 times, always from Africa; Australia was reached 12 times, apparently always from Southeast Asia. Overall, Cucurbitaceae underwent at least 43 successful LDD events over the past 60 Myr, which would translate into an average of seven LDDs every 10 Myr. These and similar findings from other angiosperms stress the need for an increased tapping of museum collections to achieve extensive geographical sampling in plant phylogenetics.

  64. And one more recent paper, that addresses the 2005 paper that prefers human propagation:

    Kistler, Logan, et al. (2014), Transoceanic drift and the domestication of African bottle gourds in the Americas. PNAS. 111 (8) 2937-2941

    Bottle gourd (Lagenaria siceraria) was one of the first domesticated plants, and the only one with a global distribution during pre-Columbian times. Although native to Africa, bottle gourd was in use by humans in east Asia, possibly as early as 11,000 y ago (BP) and in the Americas by 10,000 BP. Despite its utilitarian importance to diverse human populations, it remains unresolved how the bottle gourd came to be so widely distributed, and in particular how and when it arrived in the New World. A previous study using ancient DNA concluded that Paleoindians transported already domesticated gourds to the Americas from Asia when colonizing the New World [Erickson et al. (2005) Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 102(51):18315–18320]. However, this scenario requires the propagation of tropical-adapted bottle gourds across the Arctic. Here, we isolate 86,000 base pairs of plastid DNA from a geographically broad sample of archaeological and living bottle gourds. In contrast to the earlier results, we find that all pre-Columbian bottle gourds are most closely related to African gourds, not Asian gourds. Ocean-current drift modeling shows that wild African gourds could have simply floated across the Atlantic during the Late Pleistocene. Once they arrived in the New World, naturalized gourd populations likely became established in the Neotropics via dispersal by megafaunal mammals. These wild populations were domesticated in several distinct New World locales, most likely near established centers of food crop domestication.

  65. David L. Gold says


    “Are there other examples of this kind of chain of borrowing for a rather homely object?”

    You may have in mind wandering words ~ wanderwörter ~ wanderwoerter. Searching for any of those variants brings up many websites.

  66. Trond Engen says

    Xerib: And Castilian azogue (in the meaning “market” rather than “mercury”)

    mercado ~ mercurio <-> azogue ~ azogue

  67. David L. Gold: I think Pasddy was asking specifically about Aramaic-mediated Wanderwörter.
    There are examples I read about recently, but I can’t remember which.

  68. David Marjanović says

    By semantic extension zócalo came to mean ‘pedestal, plinth’ (and other things, like ‘basement’ in geology).

    And not just in Spanish: French socle > German Sockel.

  69. German Sockel

    And further on:

    From Swedish sockel (“plinth”). See German Sockel (“plinth”) for more.


    1. plinth (bottom course of stones or bricks supporting a wall)
    2. plinth (base or pedestal beneath a cabinet)
    3. socle

  70. January First-of-May says

    And further on

    And also Russian цоколь, which Vasmer says was borrowed from Italian.

  71. From «Любовь сильнее смерти» (Love Is Stronger than Death), quoted in Merezhkovsky’s Leonardo:

    Фра Марьяно пустился бежать без оглядки через кладбище, через площадь Баптистерия Сан-Джованни, по улице Рикасоли — только деревянные сандалии, «цокколи» монаха стучали, отбивая дробь по обледенелой кирпичной мостовой.

    Fra Mariano [the priest who was in the tomb and witnessed Ginevra’s apparent resurrection] started running, without a backward glance, across the piazza of the Baptistry of San Giovanni, along the via Ricasoli — only the monk’s wooden sandals, or zoccoli, pounded, drumming along the ice-covered brick roadway.

  72. David L. Gold says

    SFReader wonders above: “My favorite Arabic word in Spanish is azafata – “stewardess, flight attendant”. Kind of mind-boggling since Cordoba Caliphate surely didn’t have commercial aviation.”

    The following is not original with me:

    Azafata first meant ‘Criada de la reina, a quien servía los vestidos y alhajas que se había de poner y los recogía cuando se los quitaba’ (= sense 4 here:, that is, ‘queen’s servant who hands her her clothing and jewels when she is dressing and takes them from her when she is undressing’.

    Since the word is derived from a Spanish word meaning ‘small basket’ and the latter comes from an Arabic word having the same meaning (, it is reasonable to assume that the servant in question kept the jewels in small baskets, hence the name of her position.

    In 1931 the Spanish monarchy was abolished, whereupon the position of azafata was abolished too, as a result of which the word began falling into disuse (it had not been a well-known word to begin with because relatively few Spaniards were familiar with the names of the various positions in the royal household).

    When Spanish civil aviation began hiring flight attendants, the Royal Spanish Academy was asked to suggest an appropriate title for them and someone at the Academy suggested azafata.

    Details here: Casares, Julio. 1963. Novedades en el Diccionario académico: La Academia Española trabaja [‘New words in the Academy’s dictionary: The Academy at work’]. Madrid. Aguilar

    Since Julio Casares was a member of the Academy from 1921 to his death in 1964 and its Permanent Secretary from 1939 to his death, he was intimately acquainted with its inner workings.

    Language planners for Israeli Hebrew have done the same. For example, when the Academy of the Hebrew Language was looking for a native word to replace גרז׳ (garazh) ‘garage’, someone suggested that מוסך (musach) ‘covered place, covered portico’, which occurs once in the Jewish Bible (Second Kings 16:18) and was not known to have been used in later Hebrew texts, be adopted. Today, musach is the usual word for ‘garage’ and if you’re still using the word garazh, you’re probably eighty or more years old.

  73. I’m not that ancient; I think of musakh as one of the more successful innovations of thte Academy, yet not one that has completely replaced garazh. I haven’t lived in Israel for a while, but I have the impression both are in use for a repair shop, and that maybe garazh would be used for a private parking structure for a single home.

  74. Фра Марьяно пустился бежать без оглядки через кладбище, через площадь Баптистерия Сан-Джованни, по улице Рикасоли — только деревянные сандалии, «цокколи» монаха стучали, отбивая дробь по обледенелой кирпичной мостовой.

    Note that he could have written “…монаха цо́кали, стучали, отбивая дробь” where цокали refers to the sound of heels, high heels especially, women especially, and hooves and shoes of horses.

  75. I remmebered these when reading the medlar thread, but as PlasticPaddy spoke about Aramaic mediated stuff, I post here.

    bunduq, funduq, ṣunduuq. This pattern seems to be sticky cross-linguistically. In Russian there are also dunduq and runduk, I will write them with q, but I mean normal Russian /k/.. All of these sound foreign and expressive. And my impression is that in Arabic the Arabic words sound as loans too.

    I looked up بندق /bun.duq/ “hazelnut” to remind myself about its proposed Greek source. Wiktionary has for


    1. inn, hotel < πανδοκεῖον (pandokeîon).
    2. hazelnut, alternative form of bunduq , < From Middle Persian pndk' (pondik, “hazelnut”), from Ancient Greek Ποντικόν κάρυον (Pontikón káruon), literally "nut of Pontus."

    bunduq [فُنْدُق‎ (funduq), بُنْدُوق‎ (bundūq) – archaic, dialectal ] < From Ancient Greek Ποντικόν κάρυον (Pontikón káruon, literally “nut of Pontus”).

    1. hazelnuts
    2.(archaic or historical) a kind of small projectiles or cartridges thereof (commonly in the phrase بُنْدُق الرَصَاص‎ (bunduq ar-raṣāṣ))
    3. (dialectal, Yemen, Oman, rural Egypt) rifles

    So what suprized me:
    → Portuguese: almôndega

    It never ooccured to me to look up the etymology of "almond".

  76. bonduc 1. nicker tree
    nicker tree 1. (botany) The plant (genus Caesalpinia) producing nicker nuts.
    nicker nut 1. The rounded seed of the nicker tree.

    Very helpful.

  77. And as I mentioned it, ṣunduuq,

    صندوق, ṣundūq or ṣandūq

    From Aramaic צנדוק‎ (ṣəndūq, “coffer, especially one storing documents, safe-guarding precious items”), ultimately from Ancient Greek σῠνθήκη (sunthḗkē).

    1. chest, box, trunk, crate
    2. safe, money box, till
    3. treasurer’s office, public fund

  78. Spanish albóndiga ‘meatball’, also from the ‘nut’ word.

  79. David L. Gold says

    @ Y. I wrote what I wrote with first-hand knowledge of the current situation.

    If you “have the impression… and that maybe….,,” and are right, you should be able to remove those hedges by checking the situation today even if you have to do so from a distance.

    The Academy of the Hebrew Language has also recommended that the neologism מוסכאי (musakay) ‘garage mechanic, garage man’ replace גרז׳ניק (garazhnik). That recommendation has been accepted just in part. The usual word today is מוסכניק (musachnik). Thus, garazhnik might now be heard only from people who are about eighty years old or older and musakay has not been accepted at all.

  80. PlasticPaddy says

    Beside the words you mentioned:
    burunduk (when I saw this, I thought it was a person from Burundi????)
    The rest of the words I could find are all borrowed. One of them is duduk (your dunduk?), which in Turkish and Armenian originally meant a pipe or wodden flute, but has been borrowed to Russian as “dummy /dunce”. In Armenian I thought that was duduz, not duduk.

  81. burunduk

    I can never decide whether this or chipmunk is a better name for that delightful creature.

  82. dunduk

    There is a word tentek/tentak/tintäk in various Turkic languages—also borrowed into Chechen, at least—meaning ‘fool’ (and ‘naughty child’ in Kazakh/Kyrghyz).

  83. David, I tend to over-hedge in general in my writing. You should see the hedging I edit out…
    I was thinking about musakhnik, too: musakhnik is pretty standard. I don’t think I have ever heard garazhnik.

  84. David Marjanović says

    almôndega […] albóndiga

    Mind blown.

    Or should I update that to “galaxy brain”…

  85. Ruvik Rosental’s Hebrew slang dictionary has an instance of garazhnik from 2004, to my surprise. Otherwise he lists garazh with the meaning “commercial or manufacturing activity taking place in a covered structure in a house’s backyard”. A newspaper search shows garazh in the sense of a car repair shop dying out around the 1960s. The sense ‘private parking’, as for a detached home, appears through the 1990s. These days it might be competing with the less specific khanaya ‘parking’.

    Add: an article from 1973 starts with “The mechanic Azriel Levy, who insists on calling his musakh a garazh, sent his son Yossi to university in London…”; the old-fashioned older generation wishing a better future for the younger one, etc.

  86. PlasticPaddy says

    I found dunduk in Dal’ but no etymology, just
    Дундук м. каз. бестолковый человек. | Смол. коротыш, толстяк

  87. @drasvi: almôndega comes ultimately from Ποντικόν (κάρυον) while almond (Port. amêndoa) is from ἀμυγδάλη. Eventually, πόντος made it as far as Lingala via some Arabic dialect where bunduq had come to mean “rifle.”

  88. @Alex K. I am not exactly sure.

    almond (n.)

    kernel of the fruit of the almond tree, c. 1300, from Old French almande, amande, earlier alemondle “almond,” from Vulgar Latin *amendla, *amandula, from Latin amygdala (plural), from Greek amygdalos “an almond tree,” a word of unknown origin, perhaps from Semitic. Late Old English had amygdales “almonds.”

    It was altered in Medieval Latin by influence of amandus “loveable.” In French it acquired an unetymological -l-, perhaps from Spanish almendra “almond,” which got it by influence of the many Spanish words beginning with the Arabic definite article al-. Perhaps through similar confusion, Italian has dropped the first letter entirely (mandorla). As an adjective, applied to eyes shaped like almonds, especially of certain Asiatic peoples, from 1849.

    Just a reference form Wiktionary.

  89. I recently found that ‘dunduk’ became one of those words used only by girls – apparently it means a male admirer who is boring in irritating way.

  90. @PlasticPaddy,

    1. duduk , the instrument, is famous here, and Djivan Gasparyan particularly.

    2. I do not hear the insult “dunduk” often. It is used in a well-known epigram by Pushkin (about one of his censors, prince Dondukov-Korsakov).

    Russian Wiktionary defines it as an insult to the effect of “dumbass”, and the quotation is:
    «Он придурок, дундук, ишак и бирюк» — под общий гул одобрения присутствующих заявил Каноненко. В. Н. Гельфанд, «Дневники 1944-1946 гг.», 1944-1946 г

    “He is a pridurok, dunduk, ishak and biryuk.”.

    Pridurok is a normal word for “moron”, and it is stressed differently. The next three words are stressed similarly, and all sound as borrowings.
    Biryuk is a lone wolf, now rare. Has Turkic, Volga Finnic and East Iranic parallels. In Turkic and East Iranic sometimes explained as tabu reprlacement and borrowing from… each other:-)
    Ishak is a donkey in Central Asian or Arab context, juha’s eponym Juha would ride one.

    WIktionary also has “a river in Bashkiria” and “a surname” for Дундук Dunduk.

  91. Google says that a Mongolian etymology is suggested for Dondukov. But I did not check if it makes sense (and know nothign abotu Mongolic langauges)

  92. Donduk Ombo was an 18th-century Kalmyk chief. Donduk Kuular was the first PM of the Tannu-Tuva statelet in the 1920s. (I’m aware that Tuvan is a Turkic language but I understand Mongolian was widely spoken by the Tuvan elite at that time.) Dondukov is a common surname in Buryatia. The Mongolian connection looks plausible.

    As for the meaning of dunduk in Russian, I suspect it means “blockhead” simply because of the way it sounds to the Russian ear. Pushkin’s epigram can be reduced to this: “Prince Dumbo sits in the Academy. Why? Because he has an ass.” Because he is somebody’s gay lover, specifically Count Uvarov’s. Sergey Uvarov was the classicist who had founded the Russian gymnasium system and invented the “Orthodoxy, Autocracy, Nationality” triad.

  93. Alex K., but the wounderful thing is that burunduq also sounds to a Russian ear (and not only Russian: see LH above).
    And sunduq. And runduq. (I decided to write them with q systematically). And maybe even viaduс🙂

    I actually like the surface reading: “he sits upon because he has a place for sitting (a sit upon)” more.

  94. SFReader says

    I think we discussed origin of Mongol/Kalmyk name Donduk. It’s from Tibetan ‘Don-rtogs’ and means something like “Cognizant of ultimate meaning of reality”.

  95. В академии наук заседает князь Дундук
    v akadʲemʲii naúk / zasʲedajet knʲazʲ dundúk.

    говорят не подобает дундуку такая честь
    govorʲat nʲe podobájet / dunduku takaja chʲéstʲ

    почему ж он заседает? потому что жопа есть.
    pochʲemu ž on zasʲedájet? potomushto žopa jéstʲ.

    in academy of-sciences sits-upon prince Dunduk.
    They-say not becomes to-Dunduk such honour
    why then he sits-upon? Because arse [there] is.

  96. “Cognizant of ultimate meaning of reality”. I think, defines well “dumbass” (in Buddhist way).

    Yandex, a Russian search engine, censored this verse. It actually changed the line to “…потому что есть чем сесть”. I don’t know who and when invented this:( My teacher of Russian language and literature said žopa.

  97. January First-of-May says

    I don’t know who and when invented this

    I always thought it was my mother – or, at least, when she presented this version to me and my brother several years ago, it came across as spontaneous. I also learned the жопа version.

    This is the first time I recall having seen the “gay lover” interpretation. I thought it was literal. (I vaguely recall that the comparable English phrase is “warm body”.)

  98. @PlasticPaddy

    the base Arabic form means “basket”, but the etymology for this word is given as a series of borrowings from Aramaic to Arabic and from Middle Persian to Aramaic. The Middle Persian word is cognate with English sieve.

    Activity on the other thread jogged my memory– I owe you some sort of answer for your question to me above… It is easy to imagine how words for containers of commodities might travel trade routes along with the commodities they contain. But I don’t see how English sieve could possibly be related to the Persian word— the historical phonology simply doesn’t work.

    As you note, the Iranian family of Persian سبد sabad “basket” is particularly widely disseminated. It was borrowed from Middle Iranian into Armenian as sapat at a very early date. It also passed into the Turkic languages and from there into Slavic (Russian сапетка “wicker basket with handles, skep”) and Albanian. In Arabic, beside safaṭ سفط (the source of azafata), we also find sabaḏ سبذ “large baskets”, sabaḏa سبذة “large basket”. This can be a direct loan into Arabic from an Early New Persian sabaḏ with [δ], before the merger of [d] and early [δ] after the 13th century.

    H.W. Bailey, Dictionary of Khotan Saka, under sava “box, basket” (p. 422, column b), has further etymological details here. Bailey proposes an Iranian root etymology, *sap-, but offhand I do not know of any further support for this root, and would be interested to learn of any.

    Claudia A. Ciancaglini (2008), Iranian Loanwords in Syriac, under Syriac sbṭʾ ܣܒܛܐ “box, basket” (p. 218f.), suggests a possible connection of the Iranian words with Sanskrit sampuṭa- “hemispherical bowl; round covered case, box, or casket”, Prakrit saṁpuḍa- “collection, mass”. (Ciancaglini doesn’t provide a source for this etymology so maybe it is her own.) The Sanskrit is a compound of sam- and puṭa- “fold, wrapping, pocket, hollow space, container made of leaves”. Here is the entry for the reflexes of saṁpuṭa- in Turner’s A comparative dictionary of Indo-Aryan languages. (This puṭa- may, if from an earlier *pl̥to-, be cognate with the family of English fold.)

  99. PlasticPaddy says

    You don’t owe anyone an answer, especially someone like me who is only able to ask naive questions. But thanks for the great answer! I probably saw the sieve correspondence to a Persian word on Wiktionary or somewhere else I looked when I was trying to find the correspondences you managed to dig out and elucidate.

  100. David Marjanović says

    DWDS has Sieb = sieve as a *p derivate of a PIE root *sey- “dribble, run, [be?] moist” that isn’t in Wiktionary as such, though *seykʷ- “moisten; filter” is. *p as a derivational suffix is known, but was only worked out beyond the mere fact of its existence a few years ago.

  101. Lars Mathiesen (he/him/his) says

    Is there any sort of consensus on even vague semantics of all those nominal root extensions, like what seems to be the case for those thematic present (verbal) ones that our esteemed host worked on back in the dream time? (Fientives and all that).

  102. David Marjanović says

    My impression is there hasn’t been enough research for “consensus” to mean anything; for each root extension there seem to be 0 or 1 papers arguing for it and 0 arguing against it.

    *p specifically is discussed at some length in the paper on Crotonian (paywall, free pdf).

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