Monday, June 18, 2018

Spanish Language in the Old West and a giveaway



With Nancy J. Farrier

Have you ever wondered where our western terminology comes from? I was surprised to learn that many of our familiar words in the west originate from Spanish and the early Spanish and Mexican people. I wanted to share a few of those words with you.


Rancho is the origin of our word for ranch. The Spanish rancho was a large holding of land where cattle and horses were raised. The Ranchero or rancher was the owner. The ranchos in California were land grants generally made up of 14 square miles.



Vaquero, one who takes care of the cattle, became Cowboy in English. The literal translation of vaquero is cow and man. The vaquero, like the cowboy, was a rough, hard-working man who endured hardship to do his job. They hired on for trail drives or to work the ranch.



Corral is spelled the same in both Spanish and English but the pronunciation is different. Both refer to a pen or enclosure for animals.


Cañón is where we get the English word, Canyon. Cañón is a tube or pipe. If you


visit some of the canyons in the west, you can understand the how that word came to mean the landform. There are many beautiful canyons in the west.



Vigilante is another word spelled the same in Spanish and English but the pronunciation is different. In Spanish, a vigilante is a watchman or guard. In English, the word has come to mean anything from someone who protects or guards to someone who seeks out vengeance. 


Mostrenco is thought to be the origin of the word Mustang. The original use of the word referred to roaming cattle that were unclaimed, but came to mean

horses that roamed free.


Bronco, the same in Spanish and English, means rough or coarse in Spanish. When we think of the bucking bronco, we understand how the term relates to horses before they are broken to saddle. A horse that’s never been ridden before certainly is rough when a cowboy tries to ride them.



Lazo means bow, knot or tie in Spanish. Lazo changed to lasso in English. The lasso is a versatile tool used by the cowboy in a variety of ways. To rope a cow
or horse. To tied up an animal. To lead an animal. The lazo or lasso was also used to entertain.



Rodear in Spanish means to go around. Rodear became rodeo in English. At fiestas, the rodeo was a way for the vaqueros to show off their skills and challenge one another. The modern day rodeo is still a way for the cowboy to demonstrate the skills he is adept at performing. The arena is the perfect place to show off the meaning of “to go around.”



Estampida became Stampede in English. In the old west, on trail rides, a stampede was something to inspire fear. Crazed animals running flat out would trample anything in their path.



There are many more terms we borrowed from the Spanish language, but these are a few that are common in western historical fiction. Which ones were new to you? Do you have any others to add to the list? I am doing a giveaway of my newest release, The Ranchero’s Love. Leave a comment and include your email address to be entered in the giveaway.




Rosalinda knows she will never escape her past, both the choices forced on her

and the mistakes she’s made. She longs to find a place to live in peace—where she can learn to mother her children and where Lucio Armenta won’t be a constant reminder of the love she can never have. Lucio wants to marry. However, Rosalinda, the only woman he’s ever been attracted to, doesn’t meet the ideals he’s set for his future wife. When he discovers she, and her adorable brood, are accompanying him to his sister and brother-in-law’s, he objects. An objection that is overruled. When secrets from Lucio’s past are exposed, and Rosalinda faces choices no woman should have to make, will their growing love, and their faith, survive? 



Nancy J Farrier is an award winning author who lives in Southern Arizona in the Sonoran Desert. She loves the Southwest with its interesting historical past.

Nancy and her husband have five children and two grandsons. When Nancy isn’t writing, she loves to read, do needlecraft, play with her cats, and spend time with her family. Nancy is represented by Tamela Hancock Murray of The Steve Laube Literary Agency. You can read more about Nancy and her books on her website: nancyjfarrier.com.

12 comments:

  1. What a fun post! I didn't realize our English words for stampede and rodeo came from Spanish. lindasmatchett(at)yahoo(dot)com

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    1. I didn't realize that either until doing some research. Thanks for stopping by, Linda.

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  2. Great post! Thank you for sharing, Nancy. mauback55 at gmail dot com

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    1. Thank you, Melanie. I'm glad you enjoyed the post.

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  3. Good post. cheetahthecat1986@gmail.com

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  4. Enjoyable post about Spanish words in the old west. Thank you for sharing.
    marilynridgway78[at]gmail[dot]com

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    1. Thank you, Marilyn. I'm glad you enjoyed it.

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  5. Mostrenco for mustang...that was new for me. I'm so NOT inquisitive, I take words and their use and origins for granted. I'm grateful that writers are so curious! bcrug(at)twc(dot)com

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    1. That was a new one for me too, Connie. I do love learning new things. Thanks for commenting.

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  6. Interesting! I'd heard of some of these but not all of them.

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  7. One word that I think most English speakers would know and understand, and I assume comes from Spanish is ‘loco’ as in crazy! We might not use it regularly but understand it.

    pattymh2000(at)yahoo(dot)com

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