Excursion to Xochimilco

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In 711 C.E., Arab armies began the conquest of the Iberian Peninsula. With the conquest, the hispanomusulmanes, as they're called in Spanish, brought the Arabic architecture, art, and of course, the language. Over time, Arabic expressions mixed with old Spanish vocabulary to become the Spanish dialect that most Spanish-speaking countries use today: castellano (Castilian Spanish).

Even as the Spanish kingdom expelled the Arab empire from the region in 1492, Castilian Spanish retains approximately 8, 000 words with Arabic origin to this day. After Latin, Arabic has made the greatest contribution to the Spanish language.

Traveling through Spain, it is almost impossible to avoid the name of a place or region that is derived from Arabic. To name just a few:

Something interesting to note about this map is that the majority of the Spanish locations derived from Arabic are limited to the central and southern regions of the country, representative of how the empire was unsuccessful in conquering the entire peninsula. However, the Arabic influence on the Spanish language extends past the names of modern cities and regions. Perhaps the easiest way to see this influence in Spanish is in the simple words spoken every day. Here are the top 10 Spanish words with Arabic origin:

1. Ojalá

One of the words well-known to come from Arabic, ojalá means "hopefully" in English and comes from the Arabic expression: "ma sha allah" which means "should God will it."

2. Usted

This next word, usted is interesting because the word itself is derived from the Spanish expression "vuestro merced", but in fact is phonetically similar to the Arabic word for doctor/professor: ustadh.

3. Hasta

Meaning "until" in English, hasta comes from the Arabic word hata, which is a preposition with essentially the same meaning as hasta.

4. Azúcar

Definitely the sweetest word on this list, azúcar, meaning "sugar" in English followed along the silk road and originates directly from the Arabic word as-sukkar.

5. Aceite

From the Arabic word, zayt, aceite translates to "oil" in English–not the fossil fuel, but the delicious liquid that comes from olives.

6. Almohada

Meaning "pillow" in English, almohada originates from the Arabic word al-mikadda which became almuhadda in Andalusian Arabic (the Arabic of the Iberian Peninsula).

7. Barrio

Barrio, which translates to "neighborhood" in English, comes from the Arabic word for outer limits (referring to a city): barri.

8. Alfil

Chess was a game loved by the Arabic empire, and it only makes sense that the Spanish word for chess piece, alfil, is derived from the Arabic word al-fil.

9. Asesino

An interesting origin, with no direct correlation of meaning, asesino, meaning "assassin" in English, comes from the Arabic word hashashin, meaning "hashish users".

10. Adobe

One of the most popular construction materials under the Arab reign of Spain, adobe, the Spanish word for mud brick, originates from the Arabic word at-tub.

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