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Glossary of common colonial Spanish terms and phrases

Module by: Lorena Gauthereau-Bryson. E-mail the author

Summary: This is a glossary of obsolete and colonial Spanish terms, as well as common idiomatic expressions compiled from historical documents.

Introduction

This glossary of terms and phrases is compiled from many of the historical Spanish documents included in the ‘Our Americas’ Archive Partnership.

Glossary

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

Figure 1: 1823 map by Henry S. Tanner
Map of the American Hemisphere
tanner.jpg

Glossary

A:
a la par:
like, on par (al igual)
a saber:
namely
a cuenta del cupo:
for this purpose
a fé:
in truth
a fin de hacer algo:
in order to do something
a fin de que:
so that; in order to
a flor de agua:
just under the surface of the water
a la diabla:
carelessly
a la sazón:
at that time, then
a las mil maravillas:
wonderfully, wonderfully well, marvellously
a más de que:
additionally
a renglón seguido:
immediately afterward, in the same breath, right after
a todo trance:
at all costs
aeta:
indigenous people of the Philippene mountains
aherrojar:
to shackle, to put in irons, fetter, oppress
ahora bien:
now; now then
al grueso de:
the bulk, most of, the majority of
Alcalde del crimen:
Ordinary judge in criminal cases
Alcalde mayor:
deputy governor
alfileres(con todos sus alfileres, de veinte y cinco alfileres) :
in full dress, dressed in style, to be as well dressed as possible
algunos años/algún tiempo a esta parte:
up to this point in time, recently, lately, for some time now
ama de gobierno :
housekeeper
antes bien:
on the contrary, but rather
apología :
defense
Audiencia Real:
Royal Court of Spain (often translated as "Royal Audience")
Auditor de la Guerra:
Judge-Advocate of the Army
Ayudante Comandante general del Estado Mayor:
Deputy Commander Chief of Staff of the Army
B:
baldía:
vacant or uncultivated (used in reference to land; see also: "solar")
baxo:
lower ("bajo")
bien que:
although
C:
cabezera :
capital
cabildo :
chapter (of persons), chapter meeting, town council, religious council
cabo :
corporal (military rank)
caer a plomo :
to fall heavily, flat
Caja real:
Royal Treasury
capa y espada:
[to fight] tooth and nail (claw)
Capitán a guerra:
War Captain; civil authority authorized in affairs related to war; the head of a military operation (usually on a frontier)
cédula:
decree, order, bill
Concilio Constancience:
Constantine Council
congrega:
In the Colonial period, Spaniards would concentrate the Indians into villages called congregas, and then use these Indians for labor.
cuartillo:
one-fourth of a real
curato :
parish administered or managed by the secular clergy
parish administered or managed by the secular clergy :
a group of Franciscan Indian missions dependent upon a province
D:
dar a ententer; dar algo a entender :
to imply
dar lugar :
to cause, give rise
de claro en claro :
to not get a wink of sleep [all night]
definidor :
religious order Councilor
de suerte de/que:
in such a way that
derecho de conquista:
Right of conquest
desengañar:
disabuse, enlighten
desmentir:
deny, refute, contradict
docto:
learned, erudite, scholar, learned person
doctrina:
a parish composed of recently-converted Indians, rather than a mission settlement
dormir a pierna suelta:
to sleep like a log; to sleep like a baby
E:
erario:
treasury, public funds, public finance
erogación:
distribution, expenditure, outlay
estancia:
landed property for grazing cattle
F:
Fiscal de lo Civil:
Crown Prosecuting Attorney in Civil Matters
flor y nata:
cream, cream of the crop
fundo:
landed property, estate farm
G:
gobernación:
Area administered by a governor (gobernador)
H:
I:
intendente:
Intendant, governor, manager, mayor, provincial governor
intendente del ejercito:
Quarter-master general; Intendent of the Army
J:
juez y parte:
Judge and jury
K:
L:
lego :
layman
Leyes de Indias :
Laws of the Indies
M:
marrullería :
smoothness, glibness, cunning, craft, artful tricks
mediquillo :
An Indian of the Philippine Islands with medical experience, but no title
meridional :
southern
meter a alguien la uña :
to exceed in price, to defraud in quantities or portions
meterse entre pecho y espalda :
to eat or drink a lot; to consume something in excess
mezquindad :
meanness; stinginess
mitra :
miter
N:
O:
oída :
hearsay
Oídor :
Judge (in the Royal Audience/Real Audiencia)
otrosí :
furthermore
P:
pagar derechos :
to pay taxes
pasar a cuchillo :
to put to the sword;to kill with the sword; slay
pasar al largo :
to get straight to the point
pasar la vista :
to look over; to glance quickly at something
pasarse de la raya :
to overstep one's mark; to go too far
pechos de camisa:
in shirtsleeves (not wearing a jacket/informally dressed)
pelos y señales:
details
perder el norte:
to lose one's bearing; to be at a loss
perdonar el boyo por el coscorrón:
some things cost more than they are worth
perentoriedad:
urgency
perjudicar:
to be detrimental to; to damage; to harm
plaza:
an open square in the center of a Spanish town
por cuanto:
in that; in as much as
por lo demás:
otherwise; apart from that
presbitero:
priest
preservativo:
protective; a document that defends or protects against some harm; prophylactic document; document or pamphlet written in defense of something harmful
presidio:
a garrison; fort; military post
presupuesto:
budget
procurador:
attorney; an untitled lawyer; attorney who defended the rights of religious orders, cities, and cabildos (See also: cabildo)
providencias:
measures; steps; precautions; ruling; decision
próximo anterior :
last (month, year, etc.)
Q:
quitrín:
two-wheeled open carriage (called a trap)
R:
recaudar :
to collect, raise funds, take, or recover funds
reconocimiento:
reconnaissance, exploration, inspection
reducción:
religious conversion
rentas:
income; interest; returns
riqueza del suelo:
richness of the soil
ría:
the mouth of a river; long, narrow sea inlet
romper fuego:
to open fire
ruin:
contemptible, vicious
S:
saca de agua :
weir; small dam built to divert a portion of the river’s water into an irrigation canal
Sagrada Compañía de Jesus :
Jesuit Church; lit. "Sacred Company of Jesus"
Santo Concilio Tridentino :
Holy Council of Trent
seguir su bandera:
to toe the [party] line
Seno Mexicano:
Gulf Coast, Gulf of Mexico
sentar los reales:
to set up camp, to install oneself (somewhere)
si bien:
although
Silla Apostólica:
Apostolic See
sínodo :
mission or missionary stipend
situado :
subsities that were sent to the the less wealthy Spanish possessions or provinces
solar:
undeveloped plot of land (see also: "baldía")
subalterno :
auxiliary; subaltern; subordinate; secondary
Sumo Pontifice :
Supreme Pontiff, the Pope
suplente :
deputy; substitute; alternate
suertes de huerta :
garden plots for growing fruits and/or vegetables
T:
tener a bien :
to see fit; to deign to
tomar carta de la naturaleza:
to come to be like one of the natives; be thoroughly accepted 
tomo:
volume (of a book)
tuición:
custody, protection
U:
usía:
Your lordship or your ladyship, a contraction of "vuestra señoría"
V:
vómito, vómito prieto, vómito negro:
yellow fever
W:
X:
Y:
Z:

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What are tags? tag icon

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