Origins of Spanish LanguageWhat was the first Spanish word? When was it pronounced for the very first time? It’s impossible to know. The transition from Latin to Castilian, via vulgar Latin, was slow and smooth. However, the first manifestations of written Castilian are perfectly documented.

Las Glosas Emilianenses (10th-century) are one of them. These glosses were annotations in the Romance language in the margins and between the lines of a Latin codex. In this way, the monks would translate words and sentences from the Latin to the local language.

This codex was written in the Monastery of Suso (the upper one), and later moved to Yuso (the lower one), a re-foundation of the first monastery. Suso, comes from Latin ‘sursum’ (up), and Yuso, from ‘deorsum’ (down). They are now in disuse, although we still have some expressions like susodicho (aforesaid, or above-mentioned) or toponyms.

Adverbs and prepositions of place

The adverbs and prepositions indicating place are always confusing for our students: arriba, abajo, bajo, debajo… Today, on we are going to shed light on this issue.

Arriba, encima, sobre…

Arriba is an adverb that expresses the top position or the movement to that highest position: El libro está allí arriba / Ve arriba y trae el libro.

On the other hand, encima refers to the top part compared to a lower one: el libro está encima de la cama.

The meaning of movement is also important. Arriba can express it but not encima: Voy arriba y ahora vuelvo / Voy encima y ahora vuelvo.

Sobre is quite similar to encima. They both compare a high position against a lower one, but sobre also emphasizes the gravitation applied by the object: La ciudad está sobre la montaña.

Abajo, bajo, debajo

Abajo is used with verbs of movement (La casa estaba muy vieja y se vino abajo) and expresses a location at any lower place (Te espero abajo).

Debajo shouldn’t be used with verbs of movement but with static ones. It refers to a place located vertically under the speaker or the referred object: la farmacia está debajo de mi casa (exactly vertically under my house) / la farmacia está abajo (it can be under my house but maybe next to it or, even, in front of it).

Bajo works exactly as debajo but it’s never followed by any preposition, as debajo can do it (debajo de). The reason is that bajo is a preposition itself: el gato está bajo la cama / el gato está debajo de la cama.


On our Spanish for Different Levels Course via Skype, our students can learn easily the uses of prepositions and adverbs. Likewise the origin of written Spanish was from a monastery that was arriba to a monastery that was abajo, your level in Spanish will make the opposite movement quickly. Reserve now a free trial lesson here.