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Arabic influence on the Spanish language


If you speak Spanish, you probably speak more Arabic than you think you do. It's not "real" Arabic you're speaking, but rather words that come from Arabic. After Latin, Arabic is probably the biggest contributor of words to the Spanish language.

The Arabic influence on the Spanish language has been significant due to the Islamic presence in the Iberian Peninsula (Al-Andalus) between 711 and 1492 A.D.

Modern Spanish (also called Castellano in Spanish) first appeared in the small Christian Kingdom of Castile in northern Spain during this period of Islamic domination over most of the Iberian Peninsula. As a result, the language was influenced by Andalusi Arabic practically from its inception. The Arabic influence on the language increased as the interaction with Muslims extended, Castilian had never been spoken in the southern area, while Arabic was the dominant language. Although the degree to which Arabic percolated the peninsula varied enormously from one area to another, it is generally agreed that Arabic was used among the local elites (both Muslims and Christians) as the language of science.

Most of the Arabic influence upon Spanish came through the Arabized Latin dialects that were spoken in areas under Muslim rule, known today as Mozarabic. This resulted in Spanish often having both Latin and Arabic derived words with the same meaning.

For example:

Aceituna: الزيتونة

Ajarafe: الشرف

Alacena: الخزانة

Acatar: قدر

Abatanar: بطن

The imprint of Mozarabic and Arabic is evidently more noticeable in the southern dialects of Peninsular Spanish than in the northern ones.


Maysa  Wassouf