When you think of Languages related to Spanish you probably think of Portuguese, Italian & maybe even French, but did you know that Spanish has another neighbor language? Arabic! While not neighbors in sense of sharing a spot in Romance-Language family, Arabic has shaped a lot of modern vocabulary in Spanish from complex words to everyday phrases:
The History of Arabic Influence on Spanish
Much of the influence of Arabic on Spanish has directly to do with historical interaction:
Spanish originally stemmed from a variation of Vulgar Latin that later transformed into Old Castillian, however, this period also marked the control of Muslim rule over the Iberian peninsula.
Starting from the Umayyad Conquest of 711, the Iberian Peninsula had some Arabic control until 1492, nearly 800 years
This all changed with the La Reconquista (the reconquering) in which the Spaniards & Portuguese successfully re-claimed the Iberian peninsula.
Arabic Influence on Spanish Vocabulary
Toponyms → Place Names
The most obvious influence of Arabic on Spanish is in place names all around the world, especially in Spain:
But this can even be seen in Latin America; have you ever heard of Guadalajara?
This stems from the Arabic word وادي الحجارة (wadi al-Hijara) meaning Valley of Stones
Words that Directly Entered Spanish
It is said that almost 8% of all Spanish words have an Arabic origin, which would be 3% higher than Greek words that are in English. Given this frequency, some very commonplace words come directly from Arabic:
As the Moors had a big influence on Iberian cuisine and farming, a large number of words relating to food or agriculture came directly from Arabic:
You may have started to realize a trend. A lot of words that begin with a- or al- most likely stem from Arabic. Yet even words as classic to Spanish like barrio (neighborhood) come the Arabic word بري (barri) which are the “wild, outskirts of city” most likely because that is what the Spaniards were to the Ruling elite Moors
Words that Indirectly Entered Spanish
Many words indirectly entered Spanish, but most of these words are shared around the world like café stemming from caffé in Italian, which came from kahve in Turkish, and finally from Arabic قهوة
Everyone’s favorite topic….right? Well even if you did not like Math class, you have to thank the Moors and the Arab world for a lot of mathematical discoveries. You can see the Arabic connection even in English, but in Spanish, it is to a different level:
Ojalá – meaning hopefully or “god willing” is one of the most used phrases across all of the Spanish speaking world, but did you know that this is exactly a phrase in Arabic?
Ojalá stems from the Arabic word إن شاء الله (iin sha’allah) which means the exact same thing as in Spanish. The –alá section of the word is directly the word for god in Arabic, allah.
Connecting Arabic and Spanish Influences
Spanish and Arabic are both equally fascinating languages and getting the opportunity to learn either one will help immensely to speak to the broader global community. From music to food to architecture and even to language, you can see the impact that Spanish has had on Arabic and there is still plenty more that I will let you see on your own journey to learning either of these beautiful languages!
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