Al-Andalus and Arabisms in Spanish

31 Agosto 2017

Azotea, alcohol, azúcar, jarra, jabón, almohada, berenjena... All these Spanish words have something in common.... Do you know what?


As you know, Moors governed some parts of the Iberian Peninsula (Spain and Portugal) for more than seven centuries. As a result of this, there are many Arabisms in Spanish, words that have their origins in the Arabic language. Let's learn a little more about this part of our history and its heritage!


Moors conquered the Iberian Peninsula at different times between 711 and 1492. Although it was an invasion, there were almost no battles, because local people didn't show much resistance. Moors brought culture and knowledge, founded libraries and schools, and bet on the cohabitation. Thanks to them, Spain developed very quickly.

Frontiers were changing during those 7 centuries. If you look on a map of Spain, you'll see that many towns are called “de la frontera” (frontera = frontier). Frontera is not an Arabic word but it historically indicates the frontier between the conquered and free lands.


Spanish and Arabic cohabitated for hundreds of years, and gave us their own words for agriculture (zanahoria = carrot, azúcar = sugar), occupations (alfombra = rug, albañil = builder), architecture, war (atalaya = tower, jinete = horseman), politics (alcalde = mayor, aduana = customs), and many more.


Water has always been a sacred symbol in the Arabic culture. Many of our rivers, such as Guadalén, Guadalorza, Guadalete, Guadalquivir contain the Arabic word “Guada” which means river.


The Reconquist of the Iberian Peninsula started in the north and advanced slowly to the south. Moors weren't totally expelled from the Iberian Peninsula until 1492. From the mid 13th to the late 15th century, the only remaining domain of al-Andalus was the Emirate of Granada. After a long war between the Catholic Monarchs and the Emirate, Muhammad XII surrendered the city and the fortress palace, the famous Alhambra.


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