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Add to Your Vocabulary: Spanish Words in English

Updated: Nov 24

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Introduction - Add to your vocabulary

As I mentioned in my articles on French words found in English, I explained that as a global language, English often borrows from other languages. So, there are quite a few words in English that originate from the Spanish language. As you will discover in this article, the spelling in many cases differs very little, if at all from the original Spanish.

Here, then, are fifteen words (together with their original spelling and meaning in Spanish) that are worthwhile becoming familiar with to develop your English vocabulary.

1 Patio

Spanish word: patio

Meaning: An open area attached to a house, a small courtyard or balcony.

2 Avocado

Spanish word: aguacate

Meaning: A dark green pear-shaped fruit with smooth, light green pulp and a large seed in the centre.

3 Stampede

Spanish word: estampida

Meaning: A sudden frenzied rush of animals or people.

4 Cockroach

Spanish word: cucaracha

Meaning: A crawling and flying insect with antennae, wings, and legs, usually found as household pests.

5 Tornado

Spanish word: tornado

Meaning: A powerful, destructive windstorm that forms itself into a cone-like shape, capable of destroying trees, buildings etc. and harming people.

6 Plaza

Spanish word: plaza

Meaning: A public area usually a building with shops and stores.

It comes from the Spanish meaning ‘place’.

7 Macho (even 'machismo')

Spanish word: macho

Meaning: To have manly characteristics and qualities such as being strong, aggressive, unemotional, etc.

In Spanish, macho means male.

8 Cargo

Spanish word: cargo

Meaning: Goods that are transported via aircraft, ship, or motor vehicles (trucks and lorries).

Originates from the Spanish 'cargo' and 'cargar' – to load.

9 Ranch (rancher)

Spanish word: rancho

Meaning: A large farm to raise livestock or crops; a cattle ranch.

The word originally means a group of people who eat together.

10 Lasso

Spanish word: lazo

Meaning: A rope with a knot that forms a ring for people to catch horses and cattle.

From the Spanish 'lazo', based on the Latin 'laqueus' meaning ‘noose’.

11 Canyon

Spanish word: cañón

Meaning: A deep narrow gorge with steep sides

Comes from the Spanish for 'tube' - cañón.

12 Guerrilla

Spanish word: guerrilla

Meaning: Someone who belongs to a small independent group taking part in irregular fighting, typically against larger forces.

Taken from the Spanish word for war: guerra.

13 Mustang

Spanish word: mestengo

Meaning: A small, lightly built horse.

The word comes from a blend of Spanish 'mestengo' (from mesta ‘company of graziers’) and 'mostrenco', both meaning wild or masterless cattle but more often applied to horses.

14 Vanilla

Spanish word: vainilla

Meaning: A sweet substance extracted from vanilla pods, used as a flavouring in food (ice cream, biscuits, desserts) and perfumes.

From the Spanish word 'vainilla' or 'little pod'.

15 Breeze

Spanish word: brisa

Meaning: A gentle wind

This word originates from Old Spanish 'briza'.


In this article, I have introduced 15 words from the Spanish language that are found in English. Some are more common than others. You may disagree, of course.

The aim of the article was to teach you words to add to your English vocabulary. Be on the lookout for more Spanish words that you come across in English and let me know in the comments.

To continue learning about other Spanish words in English, you can read the other article I have written.

Finally, if you enjoyed this article, please share it on your socials with your friends. It's easy: just copy the URL and post.

(c) Apex English Tutoring Jan 2022 - Updated Nov 2023

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About the Author

Michael Finemore, MA (Research) CQU, TEFL/TESOL Certificate, an experienced English Teacher, is the Owner-Operator of Apex English Tutoring.

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