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Our five favorite words in Spanish of Arabic origin

Arabic influence on Spanish language

The other day Twitter reminded us that it was the anniversary of the registration of our school in that social network. When we decided to open this school, one issue that took us a while was the name. We all know that parents think a lot about what to name their children and for us this project looks a lot like a baby. The champion was Jaleo, but “algarabía” and “ojalá” also reached the final.


These three words have in common their sonority and their Arabic origin. In Spanish we have a large number of terms with these roots and that are difficult to recognize by our students who do not have Arabic as their mother tongue. Today we bring you our five favorite words in Spanish that come from this language.


  1. Jaleo: Our favourite, obviously. This word comes from the action of “jalear” which is synonymous with cheering. It comes from the word “hala”, whose origin is obviously Allah. The rest of the meanings of “jaleo” come from that noise that is produced when cheering.
  2. Algarabía: We came very close to calling the school with this name with a meaning very similar to “jaleo”, although its origin is very different. Indeed, “algarabía” contains “arábe”, because that is how the language was called in old Spanish. Little by little its sound went from the sound of birds or something incomprehensible to the similar meaning of “jaleo”.
  3. Ojalá: We also love this word. It comes from Arabic “si Dios quiere” (if God wants) and so we can find it in this language today – “inshallah” – or in Portuguese – “oxalá” -. We use it a lot to express our good wishes and it always appears in our classes during the first steps of the subjunctive, to which it is often linked.
  4. Aceite: No, we weren’t going to call the school that. However, we love this word because it takes us a bit away from Latin, which is the main mother tongue of Spanish. Thus, our neighbors say “óleo”, “olio” or “huile”, while we look towards the Mediterranean and we are left with its Arabic version.
  5. Almohada: We end with a vital word for the members of Jaleo. This term is also of Arabic origin, as shown by its sound and that “al” at its beginning. There where we rest our ideas and our head comes from the “almuhádda”. Like oil, we like it for that difference that separates us from other romance languages.


If you want to practice these Spanish words of Arabic origin, improve their pronunciation or practice your conversation, don’t forget to visit one of our Spanish classes. We are waiting here.

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