Forgotten Spanish words that are no longer used

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typewriter for old words in sepia tone

Spanish, like other living languages that constantly transform, has evolved throughout its history, leading inevitably to the disappearance of certain words that once had a prominent place in everyday speech. Currently, there are approximately 580 million Spanish speakers across Spain and Latin America, and Spanish is an officially spoken language in 21 countries.

The Real Academia Española (RAE), the institution responsible for overseeing the proper use and preservation of the Spanish language, has witnessed this linguistic evolution and has removed terms from the official dictionary that have fallen into disuse or have been replaced by more modern ones.

Removing words from the dictionary is not a common or drastic process. When terms that have fallen into disuse are identified, they are carefully evaluated and it is determined whether they should be removed from the current edition of the dictionary or retained with an annotation. In the first case, these obsolete words are often archived in previous editions.

Terms may fall into disuse due to social changes, technological advances, or linguistic evolution and, in this process, they are replaced by new terms that reflect the new realities and needs of everyday speech.

In this article, we have chosen 25 obsolete terms removed from the RAE, briefly explaining their meaning.

Words withdrawn by the RAE

By regularly updating its dictionary, the RAE has so far eliminated 2,793 words that have fallen out of use in the last 100 years. Each removed term is a relic of an era, custom, or concept that was once relevant to Spanish speakers.

25 obsolete terms that defined an era

  1. Aborrecedero: something causing rejection or aversion.
  2. Adéfago: a person who eats excessively.
  3. Ahogaviejas: a thin-stemmed plant.
  4. Almazuela: a type of quilt or blanket made from scraps of fabric.
  5. Bajotraer: a synonym of dejection or humiliation.
  6. Camasquince: said of a nosy person.
  7. Chicuelo: diminutive of ‘chico’ (boy or small).
  8. Cocadriz: the name for a female crocodile.
  9. Demoranza: delay, tardiness, prolongation.
  10. Desarrebozadamente: frankly, clearly, and openly.
  11. Durindaina: a synonym of justice.
  12. Enclarar: to clarify.
  13. Ergullir: to become proud or vain, to instill pride.
  14. Fabulizar: to invent fictitious things.
  15. Gallinoso: someone shy, faint-hearted, cowardly.
  16. Manaza: feminine augmentative of ‘mano’ (hand).
  17. Minguado: previous version of ‘menguado’ (cowardly).
  18. Neoplasma: newly-formed abnormal cell tissue.
  19. Ochentañal: said of a person in their eighties.
  20. Palacra: a nugget of gold.
  21. Pilluelo: the diminutive of ‘pillo’, a person who is mischievous and skillful at deceiving others.
  22. Porfijar: to adopt someone as your child.
  23. Quizabes: denotes possibility, perhaps.
  24. Vosco: a previous way of saying ‘con vos’ or ‘con vosotros’ (with you).
  25. Zozobrante: in danger of being shipwrecked or sinking.

How vocabulary reflects the evolution of Spanish

The fact that these words have been struck out by the RAE does not mean that they should be forgotten; on the contrary, each term reflects culture, technology, and society at different historical points. Knowledge of these words helps us to understand the evolution of language over time. It also allows us to understand how certain objects, concepts, or practices have changed or disappeared over time and how they have been replaced with new forms of communication or more advanced technologies. Therefore, even if these words are removed from dictionaries through lack of use, their meaning and historical relevance can remain in our collective memory.

Marta P. Campos, in her project ‘1914-2014’, has compiled forgotten Spanish words, paying tribute to the linguistic and cultural richness of our language. By rescuing words such as ‘aborrecedero’ or ‘adéfago’, she reminds us of the importance of preserving our linguistic legacy.

Disuse and irrelevance of these words in the present day is the main reason why they have lost their entries in the dictionary. Each word that fades from memory is a piece of the puzzle making up the identity of the Spanish language. Although many of these terms no longer hold a place in the current edition of the official dictionary, they still bear witness to the evolution of our language and the society that speaks it. By rescuing and remembering these words, we not only expand our vocabulary, but also honor our history and culture.

Languages are alive and they gradually change as societies advance; how do you think we will speak in 100 years’ time?

We hope you found this information interesting. Don’t hesitate to contact us or visit our blog to find more articles with fun facts about languages and technology.

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