Tourism in Spain and loanwordsSun is here, as the 70s funk group called ‘Sun’ used to sing, and the tourists are coming with it. Cities in Spain are full of foreign people looking for good weather, fun and Mediterranean food. want to give you an advise: try our Spanish Survival Course for your holidays.

Maybe some of these tourists will be fascinated in Spain and perhaps they will decide to remain here for some months, learning the Spanish language or trying to buy a house by the sea for their retirement. That’s what a loanword is.

4 loanwords whose origins you may not know

Un préstamo lingüístico (loanword) is a word adopted from other language, either literally or adapted phonetically: rancho, rodeo, mosquito, sherry, vanilla are common Spanish words used in English, and, vice versa, customizar, camping, manager, tique are among us.

Today we want to show you some of the most curious loanwords whose origins will surprise you.

Corbata: the elegance comes from Croatia

That is what the French soldiers might have thought when they would see the Croatian mercenaries in 17th century. They used to wear something strange around their neck: a tied piece of fabric as an emblem. French people started calling them ‘cravate’, adaptation from ‘Hrvat’ (meaning ‘Croatian’ in the Serbo-Croatian language). Finally, Spaniards, who like to re-adapt everything, used corbata to refer to ties.

Bacalao: from the lowlands in Europe to the highlands in Spain

‘Cod and chips’ in London or ‘bacalao al pil pil’ in Bilbao? None of them, today we’ll better have Dutch kibbeling. A dish consisting of battered chunks of ‘bakkeljauw’ (cod in Dutch). That is the term that some Romance languages adopted, Spanish among them. Nowadays, you can’t leave the north of Spain without trying bacalao: a sacred product in the Basque cuisine.

Robots: the Czechs’ sons are invading us

The worry about the rights of workers is something inherent in the East of Europe, and Czechs are not an exception. Robot comes from the Czech nouns ‘robota’ (forced labor) and ‘rabota’ (servant). The dramatist Karel Čapek made it popular in his play ‘Rossumovi Univerzální Roboti’ (Rossum’s Universal Robots), in 1920, in which a factory makes artificial people to work for humans, although, eventually they will lead a rebellion which will cause the extinction of our race.

Biombo: useful to avoid Japanese cameras

If you are very protective of your privacy, don’t worry, Japanese invented a gadget to protect yourself from voyeurs: el biombo (folding screen) from Japanese ‘Byōbu’ (‘byō’ “protection” and ‘bu’ “wind”). Using this invention, people could dress and undress preserving their privacy. Currently is more used for decoration.


As you can see, loanwords are everywhere, like tourists, enriching our language (the first ones) and our economy (the last ones). If you don’t want to look like un robot speaking Spanish when you come here on holidays, take off your corbata and dress confortably (behind your biombo, if you need it). Now you can reserve a free trial lesson via Skype here. Don’t be afraid, we don’t bite or eat anybody, apart from bacalao, of course.