Local November 26, 2023 - 9:05 am

From “siesta” to “reggaeton”: there are almost 2,000 Spanish words in the largest English dictionary

The key is to take a nap of less than half an hour.

Miami, Florida—The new edition of the Oxford English Dictionary, the best reference of its language, contains 1,904 terms of Castilian origin. Among them are “barrio”, “fiesta”, “guerrilla”, “macho” and “galáctico”.
Barrio, fiesta, siesta, guerrilla, macho, patio, plaza, machete, armada, vista, nada, reggaetón, galáctico or tiki-taka are some of the almost 2,000 Spanish words included in the Oxford English Dictionnary (OED), the main reference for the English language.

In total, there are 1,904 words of Spanish origin in the OED, “following the inclusion of ‘frontenis’ in the last update of the dictionary, in September,” explains Danica Salazar, of Filipino origin and one of the editors of the English language bible. “The OED is updated four times a year and there is at least one word of Spanish origin in almost every one of these updates. In 2023, anticucho (a type of brochette of Peruvian origin) has been added in March, chiminea and derecho in June, and frontenis in September,” Salazar explains.

“It’s chiminea, not chimney. The form adopted in English is a variant used in Argentina and Colombia,” the lexicographer specifies.

“Words travel”.
The OED editor and Javier Muñoz-Basols, honorary professor-researcher at Oxford University, co-authored a unique study called “Cross-linguistic lexical influence” on the reciprocal contact between Spanish and English.

Spanish has eight main varieties: Castilian, Andalusian, and Canarian in Spain, Caribbean, Mexican-Central American, Andean, Austral, and Chilean in the Americas. “Of these eight dialectal zones, Mexican-Central American Spanish is the one with the greatest historical contact with English,” says Muñoz-Basols.

But also in a reciprocal way, since there are Mexican words such as fajita, burrito, and other gastronomic vocabulary, especially in the United States, which are used daily, the Spanish researcher points out. “Let’s say that words travel as if they were merchandise or coins of exchange,” he adds.

In those 1,904 words, terms such as nada appear even though there is the equivalent of “nothing” in English. “It is one of the words that has surprised me the most that appears, with two equal vowels and two syllables that are very easy to articulate. There is evidence of its use in English-speaking countries since 1867. It is a very sonorous word, adding more expressiveness,” Muñoz-Basols says.

In his opinion, English – which does not have an academy of the language like Spanish and the Oxford dictionary is its maximum reference – is more receptive to importing words from other languages. “It is a borrowing language. The Oxford dictionary contains more than 500,000 words, while that of the Spanish language will be around almost 93,000. This does not mean it has fewer, but English does not eliminate words,” he explains.

In Spanish, “there is a linguistic protectionism that has prevented the incorporation of terms. The Spanish language dictionary is normative, while in the UK, the OED is a repository of the language, a dictionary of use and history simultaneously,” he stresses.

A far cry from French
Spanish is not the language that exports the most words to English. French and German are far ahead, as the Oxford Dictionary indicates. German currently contributes 3,944 words, while French has 24,821 due to historical linguistic contact and topics such as fashion or cooking. Italian also has more, with 2,293, while Dutch contributes 1,611 and Portuguese 446, lists the Aragonese professor, who is now working on the influence of English on Spanish with a grant at the University of Seville.

In this dynamic receiving dynamic of the Oxford dictionary, its editors work with thousands of words yearly. In the latest update of the OED published in September 2023, more than 1,000 new entries were included, details Danica Salazar.

“The candidates go through an advisory process, where the OED editors use various research sources to see if there is sufficient evidence of their use,” she says, stressing that some recent words are incorporated quickly because of their “enormous social impact.”

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