scrabble word fiesta

35 Spanish Words Used in English You Have to Know!

The following 35 Spanish words are more or less common in American English. They are used in Spanish almost every day, so if you are a native English speaker who wants to speak Spanish, it’s a good starting point!

Even if you already know these words, it is important to understand the differences in the way they are used between the two languages, especially if you ever plan on using them in Spanish!

Throughout this list you will be able to see and learn how we native Spanish speakers use (or don’t!) these words, and you will be given, when necessary, a quick explanation about the differences between the English and Spanish meanings. At the end of the post, you should know if you can use any one of these words in a Spanish-speaking environment or if you would do better to keep quiet.

All these words have approximately the same meaning and usage in Spanish and English nowadays.



an image of fans

1. Aficionado

In English, it’s someone who is very interested in and enthusiastic about a particular subject. I have seen an increase in the use of this word in English lately. You used to have football fans, now you have sports aficionados. 

What is funniest for me is the fact that in Spanish we more often use the word “fan” than aficionado. 

2. Alcalde

Alcalde (mayor, magistrate) has a Spanish origin.

However, be careful where you utter it because it means “pimp” in Latin America!

3. Amigo

In English, amigo is used to address or refer to a friend predominantly in Spanish-speaking areas. Amigo comes from the Spanish word amigo, which comes from the Latin word amicus (friend), which is derived from the verb amare (to love). Maybe this is why we love everybody in Spain!

4. Buckaroo

The word buckaroo comes from Spanish vaquero (cowboy), which is a person who manages cattle while mounted on horseback. The word vaquero derived from the word vaca (cow), which was borrowed from Latin (vacca — cow).

5. Caballero

Caballero, which has the meaning of knight or gentleman in English, comes from the Spanish word caballero. A caballero is someone who rides a caballo (horse), caballo comes from the Latin caballus (horse).

6. Cannibal

In English, a cannibal is a person who eats the flesh of other human beings. Cannibal comes from the Spanish word caníbal, which is just a variation of the word caríbal, which in turn derives from the word Caribe (Caribbean, Carib). 

7. Conquistador

Conquistador comes from Spanish conquistador, which is derived from conquista (conquest). Conquista was the result of borrowing the Latin word conquisita, which means conquest.

8. Desperado

Desperado is an adaptation of the Spanish word desesperado, which means desperate.

By the way, check out these Spanish-speaking singers and listen to Marta Sánchez’s song “Desesperada.” Sexy at its best!

9. Matador

Matador literally means “a person who kills.” It comes from the Spanish infinitive matar (to kill, to slaughter).

Curiously enough, people in Spain tend to avoid using the word matador. They normally say torero (bullfighter), which is basically a person who fights toros (bulls).

10. Peon

Peon comes from Spanish peón, which is used to describe any type of laborer. Imagine a person who has to work hard to earn their money, who comes home full of dirt and tired as a mug. There you have your peón.


an image of albatros

11. Albatross

It’s a large white bird with long, strong wings that lives near the sea. 

Arabic had the word al-gattas, which means “the diver.” From there, Spanish got the word alcatraz (gannet), which entered English as albatross. Then a weird thing happened, Spanish borrowed this word back from English, thus giving us our present-day Spanish albatros!

12. Burro

The Spanish burro derived from Latin burricus, which means “small horse.” 

13. Zorro

Zorro comes from the Spanish zorro, which is fox. Foxes are known for being clever, and you can say of someone that they are un zorro because they are just too smart!


two men in sobreros playing musical instruments and singing

14. Bandolier

The word bandolier comes from the Spanish bandolera, which is a band that crosses from one shoulder to the opposite hip where bandoleros used to put their weapons, and also bandolero (one who wears a bandolera, i.e., probably a bandit).

However, if you wear something across your chest nowadays, you say in Spanish llevar algo en bandolera (to carry across the shoulder).

15. Sombrero

The word sombrero comes from Spanish sombrero, which means, literally, “shade maker.” Easy!


wine shop

16. Bodega

Bodega comes from Spanish bodega (cellar), which derived from Latin-Greek aphotheca. It is interesting that the word aphotheca entered many other languages with the meaning of pharmacy (take as an example the Polish word apteka — pharmacy). 

17. Hacienda

The word hacienda, meaning estate, comes from the Old Spanish word fazienda. There are a lot of Spanish words starting with h- that used to begin with f- in Old Spanish. 

Food and Drink

chorizo sausage on the chopping board

18. Cacao

Cocoa comes from Spanish cacao, which derived from Nahuatl cacáhuatl. If you know some Spanish, you should recognize this word, since it has given us another, also delicious, food: el cacahuete (the peanut). Manteca de cacahuete (peanut butter), anyone?

19. Chorizo

A chorizo is a spiced pork sausage probably known worldwide. 

That being said, there is another meaning of the word that is not so delicious. A chorizo is a thief, and it has been consistently used to describe some Spanish politicians in the past few years. 

20. Daiquiri

Daiquiri comes from the name Daiquiri, a port city in Eastern Cuba.

Daiquiris contain rum, a lot of rum. Cuba’s most famous alcoholic drink is rum… I am just connecting some dots here.

21. Oregano

Oregano entered English via Spanish orégano, which means oregano or marjoram.

22. Tapas

The word tapas comes from the word tapar (to cover). Back in the Middle Ages, when you could not find a single tavern without flies, these little insects had a tendency to taste the drinks served. I guess they got drunk and died inside the beverage… Until one smart person thought it would be interesting to cover the glass with something in between sips. They started using a loaf of bread, then chorizo was added… You can imagine the rest.

If you want to know other curious facts about the origin of tapas, I recommend you visit this page.

23. Vanilla

Vanilla comes from Spanish vainilla, which in turn comes from Latin vaina (pod).

As you may already know, the Spanish suffix -illo/-illa is used as a diminutive, so a vainilla would be a small vaina.

24. Yerba buena

Yerba buena comes from Spanish yerbabuena, which, literally translated, means “good herb.”

Music and Dance

man and woman dancing tango on the street

25. Flamenco

Flamenco is one of those music genres you either love or hate.  Even people from the South of Spain, where flamenco originated, are divided into flamenco lovers and flamenco… not lovers.

The word flamenco is used to define a type of music and dance performed mainly by people of Gypsy origin. The word flamenco comes from the Middle Dutch word vlaminc (which means “from Flanders”), because in the past there was a theory that said Gypsies were of Germanic origin.

26. Rumba

Rumba comes from Spanish rumba, which is that impossible dance all my friends have mastered to perfection and I am not even able to describe.

If you like rumba, I really recommend you get familiar with the rumba catalana. I love it!

27. Tango

Tango is one of those sexy words the Spanish language has given the world. For free.

Whether you know how to dance a tango or not, just remember it is a word of Spanish origin. If you want to pronounce it correctly in Spanish, it should be said tan-goh


dressed up in a party clothing people laughing

28. Fiesta

I still have not met a person in the whole world who does not know or has not heard about the word fiesta. 

What is true is that the word fiesta entered English through Spanish. We also have fiesta (party), which comes from Latin festa.

29. Siesta

Siesta comes from Latin sexta hora (the sixth hour). The sixth hour refers to the prayer time at noon (six hours after dawn), but Spanish siesta starts after eating lunch, which can normally be 3 or 4 p.m.

If you are in Spain, bear in mind that most shops are closed during siesta time, which means if you need to buy something, you will have to wait until around 6 p.m.!

30. Adobe

Adobe is written exactly the same both in English and Spanish. Adobe comes from the Arabic word al-tob, which means something along the lines of “mud brick.”

There is one difference between the English and the Spanish, though: pronunciation. Remember that in Spanish we normally read words exactly how they are written, so we say ah-dóh-beh.

31. Corralito

Corralito comes from the Spanish word corral, which, like in English, is a pen or farmyard. Originally, the word corralito was used to define a closed playground where children could safely play without escaping.

However, the new definition of the word says that a corralito is a situation where a government closes the banks (the playground) so that money (the children) cannot be withdrawn (i.e., cannot escape). 

32. Crusade

Crusade is a blend of the Middle French croisade and Spanish cruzado. Both words came from Latin crux, crucis (cross).

Maybe you can understand now why the Stations of the Cross, or the Way of the Cross, are called Via crucis, and how the word crusade has developed the meaning it has today from its place in history.

33. Galleon

Galleon comes from Spanish galeón, which is a large sailing ship with three or more masts.

It is interesting how the word in Spanish has its accent on the last syllable, while in English it is on the first one. 

34. Lolita

I was so surprised when I discovered this word is actually of Spanish origin!

Lolita is the diminutive form of Lola, which in turn is short for Dolores (a female proper noun meaning “pains, sorrows”). That this word, closely related to religion, ended up meaning what it means today is strange to say the least.

35. Telenovela

The word telenovela is a fusion of two Spanish words: televisión (TV) and novela (novel). Watching a telenovela is indeed like watching a book be scenified on your TV. However, there is a difference between reading a novel and watching a telenovela. If you choose the latter, you can very well spend six months of your life waiting for the big climax to happen!

Nowadays, the word telenovela can also be used in Spanish to talk about people whose lives seem like a TV soap opera, full of drama, cliffhangers and love stories that can leave you breathless:

Su vida parece una telenovela. ¡Se ha divorciado 4 veces ya! (Her life looks like a telenovela. She has been divorced 4 times already!)

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So there you have it. 35 super awesome words of Spanish origin that have traveled time and space and have landed in American English.

And One More Thing…

If you've made it this far that means you probably enjoy learning Spanish with engaging material and will then love FluentU.

Other sites use scripted content. FluentU uses a natural approach that helps you ease into the Spanish language and culture over time. You’ll learn Spanish as it’s actually spoken by real people.

FluentU has a wide variety of videos, as you can see here:


FluentU brings native videos within reach with interactive transcripts. You can tap on any word to look it up instantly. Every definition has examples that have been written to help you understand how the word is used. If you see an interesting word you don’t know, you can add it to a vocab list.


Review a complete interactive transcript under the Dialogue tab, and find words and phrases listed under Vocab.


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