44 Spanish words with Arabic origin

If you’ve ever studied Spanish, even just a little, you might have realized that our language shares lots of cognates with other Romance languages such as Portuguese, French, Italian or even Romanian (although this one got lots of influence from their neighboring Slavic languages, but still, it’s a Romance language). You may have also noticed that some of the vocabulary is strangely similar to the English one, like all those “-tion” ending words (you’ve got the Normans to thank for there). But, had you ever heard that Spanish has a great amount of words with an Arabic origin? Cool, right?

Most of these words come from the Arabic which was spoken in the Iberian Peninsula (Spanish Arabic) between the 7th and the 15th centuries, which means that they are likely to no longer be understandable for an Arabic speaker, but some still are! I’ll add a link to a video which illustrates this very well at the end of the post.

By the way, you’ll see that lots of these words begin with “a-” or “al-“. The reason is that those are articles in Arabic which were kept when introducing the words into Spanish. So basically if you say “el azúcar” (the sugar), you’re technically saying “the the sugar”. Other languages, like French, Catalan, Italian or even English in this case adopted the words without the Arabic article, giving us “sucre”, “zucchero” and “sugar” respectively.

Arabic text

Image: vecteezy.com

A non-exhaustive list of day-to-day words with Arabic origin

Little clarification: Although all of this words got to Spanish through Arabic (except “café”, “jirafa”, “algebra”, “algoritmo” and “máscara” which came through Latin and Italian), some of them originated in other languages such as Persian or Sanskrit from which Arabic borrowed them.

Food & Kitchen

  • Aceite (Spanish Arabic – azzáytClassical Arabicazzayt) – Oil
  • Aceituna (Spanish Arabic – azzaytúna, Classical Arabiczaytünah) – Olive
  • Azafrán (Spanish Arabic – azza’farán, Classical Arabic – za‘farān) – Saffron
  • Azúcar (Spanish Arabic – assúkkar, Classical Arabic – sukkar) – Sugar
  • Berenjena (Spanish Arabic – baḏinǧána, Classical Arabic –  bāḏinǧānah) – Aubergine/Eggplant
  • Café (Italian – caffe, Turkish – kahve, Classical Arabic – qahwah) – Coffee
  • Fideo (Spanish Arabic – fidáwš) – Noodles
  • Jarabe (Spanish Arabic – šaráb, Classical Arabic – šarāb) – Syrup (medication)
  • Jarra (Spanish Arabic – ǧárra, Classical Arabic – ǧarrah) – Jar/Mug
  • Limón (Spanish Arabic – la[y]mún, Classical Arabic – laymün) – Lemon
  • Lima (Spanish Arabic – lima, Classical Arabic – līmah) – Lime
  • Naranja (Spanish Arabic – naranǧa, Classical Arabic – nāranǧ) – Orange
  • Sandía (Spanish Arabic – sandíyya, Classical Arabic – sindiyyah) – Watermelon
  • Taza (Spanish Arabic – ṭássa, Classical Arabic – ṭast) – Mug/Cup
  • Zanahoria (Spanish Arabic – safunnárya)Carrot

Nature & Animals

  • Algodón (Spanish Arabic – alquṭún, Classical Arabic – quṭn) – Cotton
  • Arrecife (Spanish Arabic – arraṣíf, Classical Arabic – raṣīf) – Reef
  • Jabalí (Spanish Arabic – ǧabalí, Classical Arabic – ǧabalī) – Boar
  • Jirafa (Italian – giraffa, Classical Arabic – zurāfah or zarāfah) – Giraffe
  • Marfil (Spanish Arabic –‘aẓm alfíl)Ivory (literally, “elephant bone”)
  • Tabaco (Classical Arabic – ṭub[b]āq) – Tobacco

Grammar & Interjections

  • Hasta (Spanish Arabic – ḥattá) – Until
  • Ojalá (Spanish Arabic – law šá lláh) – Let’s hope/hopefully/God willing (literally “if God wills”)
  • ¡Olé!

Science & Hobbies

  • Ajedrez (Spanish Arabic – aššaṭranǧ or aššiṭranǧ, Classical Arabic – šiṭranǧ) – Chess
  • Alcohol (Spanish Arabic – kuḥúl, Classical Arabic – kuḥl) – Alcohol
  • Alfil (Spanish Arabic – alfíl, Classical Arabic – fīl) – Bishop (chess)
  • Álgebra (Latin – algĕbraClassical Arabic – alǧabru) – Algebra
  • Algoritmo (Latin – algobarismusClassical Arabic – ḥisābu lḡubār) – Algorithm
  • Dado (Classical Arabic – a‘dād) – Dice

Other words

  • Alcalde (Spanish Arabic – alqáḍi, Classical Arabic – qāḍī) – Mayor (literally “judge”)
  • Aldea (Spanish Arabic – aḍḍáy‘a, Classical Arabic – ḍay‘ah) – Small village
  • Alfombra (Spanish Arabic – alḥánbal, Classical Arabic – ḥanbal) – Carpet/Rug
  • Almohada (Spanish Arabic – almuẖádda, Classical Arabic – miẖaddah) – Pillow
  • Alquiler (Spanish Arabic – alkirá or alkirí, Classical Arabic – kirā’) – Rent
  • Asesino (Arabic – ḥaššāšīn) – Murderer
  • Barrio (Spanish Arabic – bárri, Classical Arabic – barrī) – Neighborhood
  • Guitarra (Arabic – qīṯārah, Aramaic – qipārā, Greek – κιθάρα, kithára) – Guitar
  • Hazaña (Spanish Arabic – ḥasána, Classical Arabic – ḥasanah) – Feat
  • Máscara (Italian – maschera, Arabic – masẖarah) – Mask (literally “object of laughter”)
  • Mazmorra (Spanish Arabic – maṭmúra, Classical Arabic – maṭmūrah) – Dungeon
  • Momia (Classical Arabic – mūmiyā) – Mummy
  • Noria (Spanish Arabic – na‘úra, Classical Arabic – nā‘ūrah) – Waterwheel/Ferris wheel
  • Tarea (Spanish Arabic – ṭaríḥa, Classical Arabic root – {ṭrḥ}) – Task

Here’s the video I was talking about at the beginning in which two native Arabic and Spanish speakers are told to utter words at the same time to compare their languages.

Sources

All the etymology roots were taken from the RAE (Real Academia Española de la Lengua) or Royal Spanish Academy.

Disclaimer: I’m not a native English speaker, therefore you might find weird-sounding/looking sentences or downright wrong stuff.




Bea

Bea

Hi! My name is Bea and I love languages! That's why I blog about anything related to them that crosses my mind right here at Anything but Language. Hope you enjoy it!
Bea
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  • Jád Dyogénix

    Tabacco is not arabic in origin …tabaco is acutally how taino ndians called the ciagrs rolls and it used to be Tabago and the leafs Cohiba

    • Bea

      There’s a debate about the origin of that word. Some say what you’re mentioning and other sources say it’s a word which already existed in the Arab world. The source where I got all my etymology, the Royal Spanish Academy, indicated the second.

      • Nazir Bashir

        Tobacco is ARABIC, that is still in use today (تيغ) . In Arabic (Tabagh)

  • Yvette Ugalde

    I’m almost positive that the word Guante, “glove” in Spanish, comes from the Arabic language.

    • Mmm I just checked that on the RAE website (Spanish Language Royal Academy) and it says that the word “guante” may come from Catalan or another Franco-Provençal language. But thanks for you comment anyway!