7 Quechua Words Commonly Used in Spanish

Monday January 22, 2024 | Culture | Posted by Team About Cusco

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7 Quechua Words Commonly Used in Spanish

There is no doubt that Peru is the “Land of the Incas”, but in spite of that fact, the reigning language in this part of the world is Spanish. Even in the more remote Andean regions of the country you can hear people speaking Spanish, but true to form, many words of the indigenous language, Quechua, have still found their way into the Peruvian lexicon. Do you know the following 7 Quechua Words commonly used in Spanish?

An onomatopoeic language, or one which phonetically resembles the sounds that it describes, Quechua is currently spoken by over 8 million people in the Americas and is the most widely spoken indigenous language between the two continents. It is no surprise that a language so established and formative in the local culture has percolated into the language of the dominant culture, so here is a list of the seven Quechua words commonly used in Spanish amongst the Spanish-speaking population in Cusco and in Peru.

Mercado Pisac papas

1. Papa

This might come as a surprise, but “la papa”, or potato, is originally from Quechua. This could be unexpected due to its similarity to a typical Spanish word, but this would certainly not come as a surprise to those familiar with agriculture. The potato or Peruvian papa is indigenous to Peru and was only brought to Europe by the Spanish in the sixteenth century.

Quechua words papas

2. Llama

The word llama or “flame” in Spanish, is not from Quechua, but the word llama used to describe the majestic animal the effortlessly roams the Andes is indeed. Another example of Quechua and Spanish exemplifying strange similarities considering their distant origins, it was only appropriate that the Spaniards maintain this word to describe our furry friends the llamas.

3. Poncho

Quechua has not only successfully infiltrated local languages that now share a similar geographical area, but also has a few words that have become universal terms! Whether you´re in Russia, Mozambique, or the beautiful Andean region, this garment will always be called a poncho.

Originally punchu in Quechua, the Spaniards came and, naturally, found the poncho to be useful enough to take back home where it began its spread across the world. Perhaps its most famous cameo came as it was draped over Clint Eastwood, or “the man with no name”, in “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly”. After that point, the poncho´s rise to stardom was unstoppable.

4. Cancha

While there a few ways to say “field of play” in Spanish, Cancha is a popular one that comes from the ancient tongue of the Incas. Sports needing a field of play go back many millennia so it is surprising that the Spanish did not already have their own word for this, but it is possible that they did and that this word has infiltrated other Spanish-speaking cultures more readily.

5 & 6. Condor, Puma

Just like llama, and for the same reasons, these two amazing animals (the condor and the puma) maintained their Quechua name and are now described as such by all Spanish speakers. Condor comes from the Quechua kuntur and puma came from the word…puma! While Condors and pumas may roam a larger area than just the Andes unlike the llama, they are central figures in this region of the world in no small part due to their importance in Incan cosmology. Along with the snake, the condor and puma represent the three different spheres in the cosmos with the condor representing the world above, the snake the world below and the puma representing this “perceptible” world.
Read: Why was Cusco shaped like a Puma?

Quechua words condor

7. Carpa

As you may have noticed, all words here describe tangible things and this final one is no exception. One of the best places in the world to camp out is the Andean region of Peru and to do so you will need a tent, or carpa. While certainly not the most famous of the words that have translated over, it could very well be the most useful object of this group of words and certainly has helped many a traveler, especially a budget traveler, while venturing through the beautiful Peru.

When traveling (or living) in Cusco, you will hear more Quechua words used in daily language, but those are the 7 Quechua words commonly used in Spanish amongst the Spanish-speaking population in Cusco – and elsewhere.

Interested in learning more Quechua?

AMAUTA Spanish School does not only offer Spanish lessons but you can also do an introduction course to Quechua, which is a great way to learn more, not only about the language of the Incas but also about their intriguing culture.

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