Spain is an European country and the Arab nations are situated in Asian continent. Miles apart, yet Spanish vocabulary shows a great influence of Arabic language.
You will be amazed to know that Muslims ruled the Iberian Peninsula (Spain and Portugal now) from 711 to 1492. Hence, Spanish vocabulary depicts a greater influence of Arabic language.
In fact, Spanish has the largest Arabic influenced vocabulary, outside the Islamic nations.
Even today, in the 21st century, one can observe the bonding between the Spanish and Arabic culture. The Mosque of Cordoba, Granada’s Alhambra and Seville Giralda are some examples of Arabic architecture in Spain and how the Spanish people still cherish them.
How did Arabic influence the Spanish language?
It is a fundamental law of civilizations that people migrate from their abode to explore new lands. So did the Arabs, and their drift towards the Iberian Peninsula influenced two unlikely civilizations.
During the 8th century, a group of Arabs started crossing the strait of Gibraltar to reach the Iberian Peninsula. The region around developed as independent Muslim kingdoms and this laid the foundation of the Muslim rule in parts of Europe.
Andalucía, which is located in the Southern Spain was prominently invaded by the Muslim Moors including other regions like Seville, Málaga, Jaén, Huelva, Granada, Córdoba, and Almería. The Arabs not only ruled these regions for about nine centuries, but also left a great impact on their language, culture, and lifestyle.
Arabic influence on Spanish culture
The Arabs introduced alchemy- the origin of chemistry, algebra, the game of chess (ajedrez in Spanish), Arabic numbers, the number zero, and the philosophy of Aristotle in Spain.
Before the Arab invasion, people in Spain followed Roman numbers, but it suffered a shift because of Arab culture.
Arabic influence on Spanish music
During the Arab reign in the region, new sounds and instruments like flamenco and guitar made their way to Spain.
Arabic influence on Spanish cooking
Spanish cooking depicts a great influence of Arabic culinary style. For example, garbanzo beans, which is rarely used in European kitchens, is a main element of Spanish cuisine. Many herbs and spices used in the Spanish cooking also originated from the Arab countries.
Arabic influence on Spanish architecture
The Mosque of Cordoba, Granada’s Alhambra and Seville Giralda are some examples of Arabic architecture in Spain.
Arabic Influence on Spanish Words
Isn’t it amazing that about 4000 words of Arabic origin are present in the regional and global versions of Spanish?
Before the Moors (or hispanos musulmanes) arrived in the Iberian Peninsula, people spoke Iberian or Peninsular Spanish, also known as Castilian. When the Moors conquered the region, they introduced their language, art, and architecture.
Linguistically, Arabic influence on Spanish can be observed more on nouns (names, surnames, and places) and less on verbs and adjectives. Many Spanish words begin with ‘a’ and ‘al’. In Arabic, the letter ‘l’ becomes silent when followed by a consonant. ‘Al’ in arabic is similar to ‘the’ in English.
The suffix ‘i’ after the word is used to denote relationship in Spanish. This also comes from the Arabic language. For example, Andalusí means the person is from Andalucía.
20 common Arabic-Spanish Words are as listed
|Asesino||ḥaššāšīn||Assassin / murderer|
|Jarra||ǧarrah||Mug or Jar|
|Máscara||masẖarah||Mascara / mask|
Places in Spain with Arabic names
The Arab conquerors ruled Spain for 9 centuries. So, the architectural development under their influence cannot be overseen.
10 places in Spain with Arabic names
|Guadalquivir River||It means the great river. This name originates from the arabic word wadi al-kabir.|
|Mulhacén||It is the highest mountain in the Iberian Peninsula. It is named after Ali Muley Hacén Abu al-Hasan, the Sultan of Granada during the 15th century|
|Pico Almanzor||It is a mountain peak in the Central Spain. It is named after Almanzor’ Al-Mansur Ibn Abi Amir, the ruler of Al-Andalus in the 10th century.|
|Cape Trafalgar||This place is popular because in 1805, a naval battle between Spain and Britain was fought here. The place has it’s name originated from the Arabic word Taraf-al-ghar|
|Albufera||It means a small sea or lagoon and comes from the Arabic word al-buhayrah|
|Gibraltar||This name comes from the Arabic word Jabal Tariq, which means mountain of Tariq. The Rock of Gibraltar was named after Tariq ibn-Ziyad- the first Moor general to land in Iberia.|
|La Mancha||It means ‘no water’ and comes from the Arabic word la’a Ma-anxa|
|Axarquía||It means eastern region and originates from the Arabic word Ash-sharquía|
|Albacete||It means a plain. The name originates from the word al-basit in Arabic.|
|Úbeda||It is a town in Spain. It come from the Arabic word Ubadat el Arab.|
In the late 15th century, even after the Catholic Kings expelled the Moors from Spain, Spanish language retained the Arabic words, which are still in use today.
Hence, we can say, Arabic is one of the oldest languages in the world and its influence can be seen in the arts, architecture, culture, science, mathematics, culinary, music, in fact, in all arenas of life.
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