How Spanish Influenced Languages Around the World


April 30, 2024

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Hola, amigos y amigas.

Did you know that you use Spanish almost daily? Were you aware that in the Philippines almost half of the vocabulary they use is Spanish?

Today, we're going to discover how the Spanish language left its mark on languages around the world, exploring Spanish influenced languages. Let me show you the history and connections behind it while learning Spanish vocabulary. Let’s go!

Spanish is the official language of 20 countries today (plus Puerto Rico, a dependent territory) and is spoken by 475 million native speakers worldwide. It is the language with the second most native speakers in the world, after Chinese.

Spanish originated from colloquial Latin after the 5th century, when the Roman Empire fell, and it was a mix between that vulgar Latin and the languages that were spoken in the peninsula before the arrival of the Romans (Proto-Basque, Iberian, Lusitanian, Celtiberian, and Gallaecian). The language also got a lot of vocabulary from Arabic after the invasion of the Muslims in the 8th Century. Spanish also has a lot of words coming from Ancient Greek, because Latin had assimilated many Greek words.

Let’s have a look at the Spanish that we find in other languages.

We’ll start with Filipino.

In the Philippines, they speak more than 120 languages, but the official ones are just two: Tagalog, or Filipino, and English. And Tagalog uses a lot of Spanish words.

Here are some words that sound exactly the same.

  • Bintana - Ventana (Window)
  • Biyahe - Viaje (Trip)
  • Kwento - Cuento (Tale)
  • Visita- Visita (Visit)
  • Keso - Queso (Cheese)
  • Niyebe - Nieve (Snow)

Among many other words.

Why is this? Because the Philippines were colonized by Spain for 300 years, and they were taught the language, the Christian religion, and the Spanish style of architecture.

It is interesting that Spanish last names are the most common in the Philippines: Dela Cruz, Garcia, Reyes, Ramos, Mendoza, Santos… and many more (Flores, Gonzales, Bautista, Villanueva, Fernandez, Cruz, De Guzman, Lopez, Perez, Castillo…) This is because the Spanish colonial authorities recorded the names of the native Filipinos, and when they didn’t have a surname, they made them choose one from a list of Spanish surnames.

There are also two creole languages in the Philippines that have many vocabulary and grammar influences from Spanish. Those are “chavacano” and “chamorro.” Chavacano is very similar to Spanish – I was really surprised when I heard it. 

Let’s go with English.

In the United States there is a big influence from Latin American countries. 

To start, the west coast and south have plenty of Spanish place names such as Los Angeles, San Diego, Colorado, San Francisco, California, Arizona, Nevada… because they were all part of Mexico until they were ceded to the United States at the end of the Mexican-American War in 1848. So thousands of Mexicans living in the region suddenly became Americans, but they spoke Spanish. And the names of the cities remained. Also earlier, in 1819, Spain ceded their Florida colony to the United States.

  • Los Ángeles (The angels)
  • Colorado (Red colored)
  • Nevada (Snowed)

And there are many Spanish words in English, many of them coming from Latin or Spanish foods or culture. 

Tortilla, quesadilla, tequila, tapas, fiesta, siesta, matador, burrito, cilantro, orégano, vanilla (which comes from vainilla), and taco – which by the way in Spain is also a slang word that means “bad word.”

No digas tacos (Don’t say bad words, don’t curse)

Other words you might hear are:

Aficionado, amigo (friend),  barrio, guerrilla (small independent group taking part in irregular fighting), patio, suave (in Spanish suave means soft), macho, maestro, cafetería, bravo, gusto, adiós (bye), lolita, jade, nada (nothing), plaza, galleon (galeón, large sailing ship, and mosquito. Mosquito in Spanish comes from mosca (fly), adding the diminutive -ito because it is smaller than a fly. Mosquito – “little fly.” And there are more, but you get it.

We also have a few Spanish loanwords in Greek.

For example:

Παρέα – Parea – from the Spanish ''pareja.'. In Greek it means ''company,', but in Spanish it means “partner, romantic partner.”

Ίντριγκα – Intriga – from the Spanish ''intriga.” It means ''intrigue.”

Μουντιάλ – Mundial – from the Spanish ''mundial.” In Greek it's only used to refer to the World Cup, because in Spanish we call it “El Mundial,” from “La copa mundial.” But “mundial” in Spanish means “worldwide.”

Τσικό – Tsiko – from the Spanish ''chico.” In Greek it is used to refer to a young football player from a club's academy. But “chico” in Spanish just means “boy.”

In Spanish, around 10% of our language derives from Ancient Greek. 

You can also hear many of those words in other languages, like French, German, Dutch…

Let’s keep on with Spanish in other languages.

In French you can also see in the dictionary:

  • Sangria (Sangría, Spanish drink)
  • Hacienda (Big property)
  • Arroyo (Stream)
  • Bolero (A kind of Spanish music originating in Cuba)
  • Cacique (Chief)
  • Hidalgo (Gentleman) This word is more known in France because the last name of the mayor of Paris was Hidalgo (Anne Hidalgo), and a coach of the French national team was also named Hidalgo (Michel François Hidalgo). They come from Spanish families.
  • Salsa (Sauce)

In German:

  • Fandango (A type of flamenco music and dance)
  • Liberal (Liberal) Well, this one is in English too.
  • Embargo (A kind of forbiddance) You also can hear this one in other languages.

We can also find Spanish now in Quechua, a language from the ancient Incan Empire that is still spoken in different places in Latin America, mostly around Cuzco, in Perú. As it is surrounded by Spanish speakers, it is normal that they mix in some Spanish vocabulary. Mostly for new words that come with modernization, it is normal that they assimilate the word that already exists in other languages. Did you know that poncho, which was spread to other languages through Spanish, comes from Quechua?


Language is in constant evolution as long as people speak it, so probably the list will go further in both directions. Let’s look forward to it. If you would like to know something specific about Spain or Spanish, please leave a comment below. ¡Adiós!

About the author 

Lucía is a native Spanish teacher from Sevilla, in the South of Spain. She loves languages and has experience learning various of them. She graduated from the bachelor "Film and TV studies" in Carlos III University in Madrid and enjoys making and editing videos for social media.

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