Spanish: etymology of gazpacho

Discussion in 'Etymology, History of languages, and Linguistics (EHL)' started by buczale, Jan 12, 2007.

  1. buczale Member

    Katowice, Poland
    Polish, Poland
    I have a question on the etymology of the Spanish word 'gazpacho'. I've heard it derives from the Arabic language, but I can't find any reliable reference anywhere in the Internet. The sources that I used suggest it originally meant torn/soaked bread, but I'm sure those people don't know Arabic nor, presumably, Spanish. So my request would be: could anyone tell me the Arabic word/phrase from which the Spanish 'gazpacho' derives? Since I learn Arabic it can be written in the Arabic alphabet but I would like you to write a transliteration as well, as I'm a beginner and not having the vowels could be a problem for me...

    Thank you in advance, cheers from Poland!
  2. CarlosPerezMartinez Senior Member

    Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
    Spain, Spanish
    According to the Real Academia de la Lengua Española ("Royal Academy of the Spanish Language") gazpacho could come (they are not sure) from the same word in the Arabic dialect spoken in Spain before who took it from the Greek word "γαζοφυλάκιον" which refers to the collection box in old churches where people used to donate different things: coins of different shapes, bread, whatever. It is explained in Spanish below:

    gazpacho. (Quizá del ár. hisp. *gazpáčo, y este del gr. γαζοφυλάκιον, cepillo de la iglesia, por alus. a la diversidad de su contenido, ya que en él se depositaban como limosna monedas, mendrugos y otros objetos). m. Género de sopa fría que se hace regularmente con pedazos de pan y con aceite, vinagre, sal, ajo, cebolla y otros aditamentos. || 2. Especie de migas que las gentes del campo hacen de la torta cocida en el rescoldo o entre las brasas. || ~s manchegos. m. pl. galianos
  3. buczale Member

    Katowice, Poland
    Polish, Poland
    Thank you for your reply. It left me with more doubts than before, though. I'm not going to argue with the etimologists, I just wasn't prepared that it could come from the Arabic in this form, since they don't have the sounds g, p, ch as such. But I only know the basics of the Modern Standard Arabic, maybe it was different in that dialect (which is quite probable)...

    I guess there's no greater authority in Spanish than the Real Academia de la Lengua Española so I should accept it, thank you.
  4. Nikola Senior Member

    English - American
    You're right those three sounds don't exist in MSA. When words are borrowed from one language to another,they sometimes make a change from the original word. So far no one has said that this is a current word in Arabic.
  5. CarlosPerezMartinez Senior Member

    Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
    Spain, Spanish
    That's the point, the word (according to the Academia) comes from a Greek word through the Arabic dialect spoken in Spain. On the other hand, even the Academia says that they are not completely sure about the origin of the word.
  6. Beate Senior Member


    I also heard that the origin of gazpacho is an arabic expression which means pieces of soaked bread.

    It was introduced to Spain via the islamic Andalusia. The arabic letter qaf is spelled like g in Tunisia at least.
    As one example let me quote the name of the first president Bourgiba. And in the spanish word Alcazar the z stands for the arabic letter of sad.
    Taking this into consideration one could say that the first part of gazpacho "gaz" could stand for "qass" (qaf sad sad) which means "to cut" (cut pieces of bread for example).
    This is the only part of the word one could connect to arabic. The rest could stand for pa=bi and cho=shorba .
    Then you would have the arabic expression "bischschorba"
    which means "with soup" but this is really mere speculation and a very vague analysis.

    Bye Beate
  7. MarcB Senior Member

    US English
    qaf is spelled like g in Tunisia at least - only part of Tunisia.Also g is used in Bedouin speech in several countries.Your guess is as good as anybody's.
  8. CarlosPerezMartinez Senior Member

    Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
    Spain, Spanish
    Trying to find the correct etymology of Spanish words coming from Arabic is a difficult task that is subject to the opinion of anybody. I have heard many funny etymologies from people with little knowledge of lingüistic rules. (For example, in Saudi Arabia any educated Saudi will tell you that the Spanish dish paella comes from the Arabic baqaya, leftovers instead of the original latin word: patella pan). The fact is that even the wise guys of the Real Academia are not sure of the origin of gazpacho. They just think in a possible origin. But Arabic words in current Spanish have changed a lot during the centuries and sometimes it is really difficult to guess the possible origin. In some occassions the analogy with current words seems to be clear but proves wrong. Imagine the name of the city of Guadalajara (pronounced Guadalakhara); the origin is واد الحجارة the valley (wadi) of rocks. I can assure you that many people will find a less beautiful origin for it.
  9. Beate Senior Member


    well, let me go a little more into details.
    After the reconquista some of the muslim andalusis flew to Tunisia. There is still the old village of Sidi bu Said near Tunis which was built by people who left Andalusia.
    The tunisian dialect was partly influenced by the dialect which was spoken in Andalucia.
    You find other ancient tunisian words where you have g for a qaf: merguez, Belgacem, Gabès, Gnawiya.
    And in the name of the italian island Pantelleria you have p for ba as Pantelleria is the italian version of bintur-riyah (the daughter of the winds).
    The retracing of the words is very interesting because it shows all the deficiencies and misunderstandings that can occur when man acts. One will find peculiar phenomenas:

    Gibraltar: Where does the r come from and where is the qaf of Tariq?

    Alhambra: where does the b come from?

    Algarve: why a v instead of a b?

    Mezquita: masdjid, gim becomes qu and dal becomes t

    I read in several german cooking books that Gazpacho is an hispanized version of an arabic expression meaning "soaked bread". So, I think it is possible to assume that Gazpacho comes form "qass bisch-schorba". It is possible. It is not proven.

    The version which says that Gazpacho is the hispanized version of an arabic word that first came to Greece and then to Spain seems to me rather unlogic as the Arabs where part of Spain for 700 years and it is rather strange that arab words came to the spanish language via Greece, especially words that deal with daily stuff like food.

    But I admit, I don' t know
    bye Beate

    I just want to add that at least in Tunisia dishes with soaked bread are very very popular and common.
    You prepare a thick soup at the basis of tomatoes, put vegetables and meat in it and eat it with pieces of bread that you put into the soup in order to absorb the liquid.

  10. CarlosPerezMartinez Senior Member

    Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
    Spain, Spanish
    I am not saying that your version is wrong. What I say is that even the wise guys of the Academia are not sure about the origin of the word and I am not better than them in that.
    The conversion of P into B is very common considering the absence o P in Arabic but not viceversa. It is very strange to see Arabic words with B converting into P. The P in gazpacho is therefore somehow suspicious of its Arabic origin. I am sure the experts of the Academia could have come with a plausible Arabic version if they were aware of it.
  11. CarlosPerezMartinez Senior Member

    Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
    Spain, Spanish
    One final question. Gazpacho is a cold soup made of tomato. Have you noticed that tomato was introduced to Spain from America in 16th Century? The chance of an Arab origin of a tomato soup is, at least, slim.
  12. cherine

    cherine Moderator

    Alexandria, Egypt
    Arabic (Egypt).
    And one more note: We don't use the verb "qaSS" قص with "cutting bread".
  13. Qcumber Senior Member

    UK English
    Beate, a serious study of Arabic loan words in Spanish requires:

    1) that you write the Arabic words in a phonetic transcription that represents the Medieval pronunciation of Arabic

    2) that you write the corresponding Spanish words in a phonetic transcription of the Medieval pronunciation of Spanish.

    Once you have mastered these, you can start comparing. :)
  14. savasorda New Member

    Dutch/French/English and some German/Castillan
    I found this interesting forum while searching for the origin of that word that a very unrealiable source stated as being from Arabic origin (as many more words in his books)

    I found somewhere in dutch
    "gazpacho is afkomstig van het Latijnse woord caspa wat staat voor restant of kleinigheid.Al voor de Romeinse tijd maakten Spaanse herders een soort gazpacho, want gazpacho stilt de
    honger, lest de dorst en voorziet het lichaam van de nodige vitamines en zout."

    It states: coming from latin caspa, meaning rests or pieces.
    It existed already before the Romans.
    So it could be a very old iberian dish that was "upgraded" by american tomatoes.

    To be complete (txs google!), I found this one also on the site of under history

    The origin of the word gazpacho is uncertain, but etymologists believe it might be derived from the Mozarab word caspa, meaning "residue" or "fragments," an allusion
    to the small pieces of bread and vegetables in a gazpacho soup. On the other hand, it may be a pre-Roman Iberian word modified by the Arabic. One will hear a lot about Mozarab when speaking of historic Andalusia. "Mozarab" is a corruption of the Arabic must'arab, "would-be Arab," those Hispano- Romans who were allowed to practice their religion on condition of owing their allegiance to the Arab caliph as opposed to the muwalladun, Hispano-Romans who converted to Islam.
    José Briz, who wrote a book on gazpacho, also suggests that the word derives from the Hebrew gazaz, meaning to break into pieces, referring to the bread base. Gazpacho was traditionally eaten by workers in the fields, whether they were vineyards, olive plantations, citrus groves, wheat fields or cork farms. Originally gazpacho was nothing but bread, water, and olive oil, all pounded in a large wooden bowl called a dornillo. It was poor people's food.
  15. yuggoth Senior Member

    It's not a fool's matter. It really could be like that. In fact, the most of the high Arabic culture at that time had been directly taken from the old Greece (don't forget it was spreaded along the Eastern Mediterranean Sea, especially Syria, where the Omeya Dinasty came from, and this was the one who came first (or second, don't remember very well).
    The fact is that it's true that many Arabic words came from Greek. You mentioned in a post "Alcázar", and it's the only word I can remember. It means "castle", and comes from Greek "kástros", latin "castrum"< "castellum". It is evident still today in the Arabic word.
    By the other hand, I really consider your teory about the origin of "gazpacho", is very logic and phonetically possible.
    I'm really impressed about your erudition too.
  16. yuggoth Senior Member

    Yes, that's right. And peppers (green and red) too. But they don't have to be the original ingredients. Those might be other kind of vegetables known by then and od course neither hard nor expensive to find.
  17. clevermizo Senior Member

    St. Louis, MO
    English (USA), Spanish
    At least a couple of these are very easy to explain. Linguistically, in the evolution of the Spanish, the sequences /m-r/ and /n-r/ and even /l-r/ very often evolved transitional intermediate consonate m-b-r and n-d-r. The pairs [m,b] and [n,d] are phonetically identical except for one feature (nasality).


    (from venir: *venré : vendré I will come)
    (from unattested premedieval *homre: hombre)

    If you pronounce the Spanish sequence m-r ten times fast you will discover a makes it a lot easier =)

    As to Algarve as a v orthographically, the orthographic b and v have been confused in Spanish for centuries. Compare modern hablaba from earlier *hablava or even *havlava. Modern and [v] are not contrastive in most dialects of modern Spanish.

    Gibraltar from jabal taariq:

    Although in modern times Gibraltar is normally جبل طارق, the more likely etymology of the modern word and orthography is جبر الطارق , or jibr aT-Taariq. I think in modern Moroccan [jib] or [jibr] means rock, but I am uncertain about this. Then the transliteration is transparent. The loss of [q] is probably due to a reduction of the sort: Taariq>Taarq. (Short vowels are particularly unstable in western dialects).

    Mezquita from Masjid.

    1) Dialect voices before voiced fricatives in most arabic dialects. Compare fusHa Saghiir to dialect Zghiir in pronunciation. So Step 1)

    /masjid/ > [maz.jid]

    2) Due to إمالة, fatHa and long alif are often raised in dialects to even /e/, compare Lebanese kteeb from fusHa kitaab, or Maltese yien from Arabic ana.

    [mazjid] > [mezjid]

    Note, that in the middle ages, Spanish orthographic z was pronounced variably as [ts], [dz], [ss] or [zz]. (In modern times it has split to th in parts of Spain and s elsewhere). Thus orthographic z is used to represent both ز and even often ص due to its "harder" pronunciation.

    3) [d] > [t] is an example of a word-final devoicing rule.

    4) The orthographic choice of qu for ج I am unsure of: your guess is as good as mine.

    5) The final -a is probably a vestige of Andalucian indefinite suffix -an.
  18. yuggoth Senior Member

    I don't find it's very obvious the relation between "gazpacho" and this word, but it makes me think of the Spanish word "bazofia" (catalan basòfia, valencian gasòfia), that designed the meal given to prisoniers in the Middle Age, which was obviously not very tasting and prepared with the worsest, cheapest and easiest to find ingredients (especially bread,some flour and some pork grease or fat), mixed not very accurately in just water and eventually (not always) boiled, without any other preparation. Still nowadays it designs in a figurative sense a not very well cooked meal.
  19. Outsider Senior Member

    Portuguese (Portugal)
    Just a note: "Algarve" is not a Spanish word.

    That's interesting. What is your source?

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