William Robert Shepherd: our hispanic New World


Spanish and `Spanglish` in the Old West
Western and cowboy words from Spanish
taken from Dick Chamberlain

When the Yankees came to Spanish California, they found a well-established cattle and horse industry with its own vocabulary. Well could it be said that these "glory days of the Dons" also gave us the saga of the hard-riding vaqueros America's first cowboys. The language, of course, was Spanish. But the work was sheer western cowboy. Many of the terms were adopted and modified by Anglo-Americans. The terms were spread orally, which explains variations in pronunciation and spelling.

The Anglos perceived to some extent an alien culture, linquistically and (to a degree) in terms of lifestyle. Richard Henry Dana commented on some of these contrasts, as well as the romantic allure which the puritan-rooted Yankees imputed to the "Californios."

On the other hand, there was also admiration going the other way. One example, the notable native Californian Mariano Vallejo, a distinquished Norte§ćo, had a respect if not an outright love for the Yankee culture of the Anglo Americans. Like Benito Juarez, the great Mexican patriot and hero president who came on the scene a few years later, Vallejo urged his people to learn from the Yankees, and to emulate their positive virtues.

But the southwest, with its cattle-based economic biome, became quintessentially a mixed environment, and culturally heir to both cultures. Here, we list a sampling of hispanic-origin words at the time in common use in parts of the Great South West.

Perhaps the best-known term was rancho (ranch), and the boss, ranchero, became rancher. The Mexican word for cow is vaca, and the men working with the cattle were called vaqueros (buckaroos).

The men held the saddle on the horse with a cinch (chinch). When they had to catch cattle, they used la riata (lariat). Sometimes that tool was called a lazo (lasso).

The Spanish term dar la vuelta (take a turn) became dally.

When riding through brush (chaparral), the vaquero protected his legs with chaparreras (chaps). Feet were protected with tapaderos, now often called taps.

The vaquero's horse was often ridden with a bitless noseband and headstall, called a jaquima (hackamore), attached to horsehair reins and lead, the mecate (McCarthy).

In the open-range days, cattle from many ranches were gathered at the same time. This gathering was called rodeo.

If a vaquero got in trouble, the law could throw him in the calabozo (calaboose).

A wild horse was a meste§ćo (mustang), and a rough one was a bronco. Other terms that have survived include sombrero, loco, conchas, and latigo.

A canyon is our anglicized version of the Spanish word ca§ćon.

Spanish language link

America's First Cowboy
America's original cowboys
el vaquero Californio

Land Grant from Mexican Governor of California

Lengthier list

Spanish Words Into American English
adios (from adi§ås)
adobe (originally Coptic tobe, "brick")
alcove (from Spanish alcoba, originally Arabic al-qubba)
alfalfa (originally Arabic al-fasfasah. Many other English words beginning with "al" were originally Arabic, and many may have had a Spanish-language connection in becoming English.)
alligator (from el lagarto, "the lizard")
alpaca (animal similar to a llama, from Aymara allpaca)
armadillo (literally, "the little armed one")
arroyo (English regionalism for "stream")
avocado (originally a Nahuatl word, ahuacatl)
banana (word, originally of African origin, entered English via either Spanish or Portuguese)
bandit ("bandido"; a robber or highwayman)
bandoleer (type of belt, from bandolera)
barracuda (a tropical fish )
barbecue (from barbacoa, a word of Caribbean origin)
bizarre (some sources, not all, say this word came from the Spanish bizarro)
bonanza (original meaning was "calm seas" or "fair weather")
booby (from bobo, meaning "silly" or "selfish")
bravo (from Old Spanish, fierce or brave; also a nickname for the Rio Grande)
bronco (means "wild" or "rough" or "rude" in Spanish)
buckaroo (possibly from vaquero, "cowboy")
bunco (probably from banco, "bank")
burrito (literally "little donkey")
burro (a donkey)
cafeteria (from cafeter§ßa)
caldera (geological term)
canary (Old Spanish canario entered English by way of French canarie)
cantina (originally a canteen, cafeter§ßa; In West it meant a saloon)
canasta (the Spanish word means "basket")
cannibal (originally of Caribbean origin)
canoe (the word via Sapnish was originally Caribbean)
canyon (from ca§ćon)
cargo (from cargar, "to load")
castanet (from casta§ćeta)
catamount (from "gato mont§Ūs" - a cougar, mountain lion)
chaparral (from chaparro, thickets of scrub oak, often almost impenetrable)
chaps (from Mexican Spanish chaparreras)
chihuahua (dog breed named after Mexican city and state)
chile relleno (Mexican food)
chili (from chile, derived from Nahuatl chilli)
chili con carne (con carne means "with meat")
chocolate (originally xocolatl, from Nahuatl, an indigenous Mexican language)
churro (Mexican food)
cigar, cigarette ("cigarito"; "cigarrito"; "cigarrillo")
cilantro (an herb of the coriander family)
cinch (from cincho, "belt")
cocaine (from coca, from Quechua k&uacuate;ka)
cockroach (Two English words, "cock" and "roach," were combined to form "cockroach." It is believed, but isn't certain, that the words were chosen because of their similarity to the Spanish cucaracha.)
coco (type of tree, from icaco, originally Arawak ikaku from the Caribbean)
comrade (from camarada, "roommate")
conquistador (Spanish conqueror in the New World)
condor (originally from Quechua, an indigenous South American language)
corral (enclosure for livestock; from "corro" - a ring)
corrida - the Spanish word for a contest, race (or bullfight)
coyote (from the Nahuatl coyotl)
criollo (indigenous to South America)
dengue (Spanish imported the word from Swahili)
desperado (a bold or desperate outlaw)
dorado (type of fish)
El Ni§ćo (weather pattern, means "The Child" due to its appearance around Christmas)
embargo (from embargar, to bar)
enchilada (participle of enchilar, "to season with chili")
fajita (diminutive of faja, a belt or sash, probably so named due to strips of meat)
fandango (a lively dance)
fiesta (in Spanish, it can mean a party, a celebration, a feast ”Ŗ or a fiesta)
filibuster (from filibustero, derived from Dutch vrijbuiter, "pirate")
flan (a type of custard)
flauta (a fried, rolled tortilla)
flotilla (small fleet)
frijol (English regionalism for a bean)
galleon (from Spanish gale§ån)
garbanzo (type of bean)
gringo (from "Griego" (Greek); originally referred to most any outsider. Later, primarily yanquis, or Anglos),
guacamole (originally from Nahuatl ahuacam, "avocado," and molli, "sauce")
guerrilla (In Spanish, the word refers to a small fighting force. A guerrilla fighter is a guerrillero.)
hackamore ("j§Ņquima" - headstall, halter)
hammock (from jamaca, a Caribbean Spanish word)
habanero (a type of pepper; in Spanish, the word refers to something from Havana)
hacienda (in Spanish, the initial h is silent)
hoosegow ("juzgado" ; in the West it meant jail; the original Spanish meaning was courthouse)
huarache (type of sandal)
hurricane (from hurac§Ņn, originally an indigenous Caribbean word)
hoosegow (slang term for a jail comes from Spanish juzgado, participle of juzgar, "to judge")
iguana (originally from Arawak and Carib iwana)
incommunicado (incomunicado ~ prisoner held in isolation from outside contact)
jaguar (from Spanish and Portuguese, originally from Guarani yaguar)
jalape§ćo (tropical hot pepper)
jerky ("charqu§ß" - roughly equivalent to "tasajo")
jicama (originally from Nahuatl)
ladr§ån (thief, robber)
lariat (from la reata, braided rawhide rope)
lasso (from lazo)
llama (originally from Quechua)
machete (large heavy knife with a broad blade)
machismo, macho (macho usually means simply "male" in Spanish)
mahala (in California, an Indian squaw, corruption of "mujer" - woman)
maize (from ma§ßz, originally from Arawak mah§ßz)
mano a mano (literally, "hand to hand")
maroons ('marr§åns' wild horses)
margarita (from a woman's name)
matador (literally, "killer")
marijuana (usually mariguana or marihuana in Spanish)
mesa (In Spanish it means "table," but it also can mean "tableland," the English meaning.)
margarita (a woman's name meaning "daisy")
mariachi (street band in Mexico)
menudo (Mexican food)
mesquite (tree name originally from Nahuatl mizquitl mestizo (mixed)
mole (Unfortunately, the name for this delightful chocolate-chili dish is sometimes misspelled as "mol§Ū" in English in an attempt to prevent mispronunciation.)
mosey (a corruption of vamose to go easily, to drift)
mosquito (an insect)
mulatto (from mulato)
mustang (from meste§ćas, from mesta, mix - a wild horse)
nada (nothing)
negro (comes from either the Spanish or Portuguese word for the color black)
nopal (type of cactus, from Nahuatl nohpalli)
ocelot (originally Nahuatl oceletl; the word was adopted into Spanish and then French before becoming an English word)
ol§Ū (in Spanish, the word can be used in places other than bullfights)
oregano (from or§Ūgano)
paella (a savory Spanish rice dish)
palomino (from paloma, dove - a horse of a particular gold color, perhaps originally the grayish golden color of the dove; in Old Spain called "Isabellas")
papaya (originally Arawak)
patio (In Spanish, the word most often refers to a courtyard.)
patr§ån (the boss man, owner)
peacherino (blend-word Anglo-Spanish, meaning something excellent as a good horse, pretty girl, etc)
peccadillo (from pecadillo, diminutive of pecado, "sin")
pedregal (a stony place)
peso (Although in Spanish a peso is also a monetary unit, it more generally means a weight.)
peyote (originally Nahuatl peyotl)
picaresque (from picaresco)
pickaninny (offensive term, from peque§ćo, "small")
pimento (Spanish pimiento)
pinole (a meal made of grain and beans; originally Nahuatl pinolli)
pinta (tropical skin disease)
pinto (Spanish pintar for "spotted" or "painted")
pi§ćata (from the Christmas Party festivities)
pi§ća colada (literally meaning "strained pineapple")
pi§ćon (type of pine tree, sometimes spelled "pinyon")
plantain (from pl§Ņtano or pl§Ņntano)
plaza (town square)
poncho (Spanish adopted the word from Araucanian, an indigenous South American language)
potato (from batata, a word of Caribbean origin)
potrero (pasture land)
pronto (from an adjective or adverb meaning "quick" or "quickly")
pueblo (in Spanish, the word can mean simply "people")
punctilio (from puntillo, "little point," or possibly from Italian puntiglio)
puma (originally from Quechua)
quadroon (from cuater§ån)
quesadilla (cheese item)
quirt ("cuerda" or cuarto - a horsewhip)
ranch (Rancho often means "ranch" in Mexican Spanish, but it can also mean a settlement, camp or meal rations.)
ramada (a shelter of brush or trees, arbor)
reefer (drug slang, possibly from Mexican Spanish grifa, "marijuana")
remuda (regionalism for a relay of horses)
renegade (from renegado)
rodeo (cattle roundup or exhibition of skills by vaqueros from verb to encircle, roundup)
salsa (In Spanish, almost any kind of a sauce or gravy can be referred to as salsa.)
salina ( a salt lick, salty deposits discovered by animals)
sarsaparilla (from zarza, "bramble," and parilla, "small vine")
sassafras (from sasafr§Ņs)
savanna (from obsolete Spanish §Łavana, originally Taino zabana, "grassland")
savvy (from sabe, a form of the verb saber, "to know")
segundo ('second' - the straw boss of a crew, second in command)
serape (Mexican blanket)
serrano (type of pepper)
shack (possibly from Mexican Spanish jacal, from the Nahuatl xcalli, "adobe hut")
siesta (a nap)
sinch ( from "cincha" - saddle girth )
silo (location for storing fodder)
sombrero (In Spanish, the word, which is derived from sombra, "shade," can mean almost any kind of hat, not just the traditional broad-rimmed Mexican hat.)
spaniel (ultimately from hispania, the same root that gave us the words "Spain" and espa§ćol)
stampede ("estampida" - the panicked flight of a herd; longhorn breed considered the worst)
stockade (from a French derivation of the Spanish estacada, "fence" or "stockade")
tapaderos (protective cover for front of stirrup)
tobacco (from tabaco, a word possibly of Caribbean origin)
taco (In Spanish, a taco can refer to a stopper, plug or wad. In other words, a taco originally meant a wad of food. Indeed, in Mexico, the variety of tacos is almost endless, far more varied than the beef, lettuce and cheese combination of U.S.-style fast food.)
tamale (The Spanish singular for this Mexican dish is tamal. The English comes from an erroneous backformation of the Spanish plural, tamales.)
tamarillo (type of tree, derived from tomatillo, a small tomato)
tango (Argentinian dance) tequila (- alcoholic drink made from the maguey; named after a Mexican town of same name)
tejano (type of music)
tomatillo (from the word `tomato` but the plant is unrelated)
tomato (from tomate, derived from Nahuatl tomatl)
toreador (bull fighter)
tornado (from tronada, thunderstorm)
tortilla (in Spanish, an omelet often is a tortilla)
tulare (wetlands where tules or bullrushes grow)
tuna (from at§ģn)
vamoose (from vamos, a form of "to go")
vanilla (from vainilla)
vaquero (or "baquero"; English regionalism for a cowboy)
veranda (porch along the outside of a building)
vicu§ća (animal similar to a llama, from Quechua wiku§ća)
vigilante (from adjective for "vigilant")
wrangler (some sources say word is derived from Mexican Spanish caballerango, one who grooms horses, akin to remudero)
zapateado (a type of dance emphasizing movement of the heels)

Anglo attacks AZTLAN
[There is an] irredentist fantasy that California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas -- the states created in the territory obtained from Mexico through the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in 1848 -- compose 'Aztlan,' the mythical homeland of the Aztec Indians, and those states must be wrested from the United States in order to create a new Chicano homeland. More than a quarter century ago, political analyst Patty Newman warned that 'the basic concept of El Plan de Aztlan is endorsed by most of the major Mexican-American organizations on campus and off, liberal and supposedly conservative.' Believers in the Aztlan legend insist upon the indivisibility of 'la Raza' (the Mexican race) and the need to abolish the border between the U.S. and Mexico; one of their preferred slogans is, 'We didn't cross the border -- the border crossed us.'               Reconquista: Latin pride

The above attack upon Aztlan written by William Norman Grigg, February 19, 1996

Esteban the Black Moor of Coronado's Expeditions

Benito Juárez : called "the Abe Lincoln of Mexico"

Why Americans should honor Cinco de Mayo, also

Columbus and the religion issue - a harm or a help?

Profound Arabic impact, via the Moors, on Spanish

William Robert Shepherd: our hispanic New World

General Mariano Vallejo: he admired the yanqui spirit

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