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What Does Spain Mean?

There’s More to it than “What Does Spain Mean”?

To answer the question, “What does Spain mean?“, we must look into several realms of discovery. Starting with history, we need to know who named Spain. When we look at the etymology of the word, we need to know why the name was chosen. Finally, linguistically, we need to know the cause of the evolution of the name to what we know it as today, Spain.

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So, let’s get to it. What does Spain mean?  How did the name originate?

Phoenician Roots and a Latin Twist

Spain has been renamed many times since its discovery by the Phoenicians in approximately 800 BC[1].

Rock Hyrax
Rock Hylax – Native to African countries.

The local rabbits the Phoenicians found so closely resembled their native hyraxes that they named the country ‘Isle of Hyraxes’.  When the Romans translated this name to Latin it became known as Hispania. Hispania was then translated into English with the evolution of the romance languages. Hispania became known as Spagne, borrowed from the Normans. To the ear the pronunciation of Spagne quickly became Spain.

The origins of the various names Spain has fallen under have been consistently disputed. Hispania, for instance, is based upon etymological similarities to the word Hispan, son of Hercules.

Alternatively, the origins may stem from Canaanite linguistics to include Hebrew cognates, variations of “Isle of Hyrax”, and translations of the Phoenician word span, meaning hidden or remote.

Likewise, etymologist, Eric Partridge, attributes the origins to an Iberian root word, Hispa, whose meaning is now unknown.  He also believes it could have derived from Roman and Greek translations that described the land itself. Hesperia Ultima and Hesperia meaning, “the last western land” and an indicating an Italian peninsula.

True Origins Still Remain Unclear

The exact origin of the name Spain is unknown. Theorists through the years provide evidence to support various theories, but no historical evidence has ever been found to conclusively support them.

Fortunately, the theories are ever evolving as new discoveries are made. The hope that the rich histories of Spain will be continually discovered is ever abundant.

Are you interested in learning more about Spain’s history and the evolution of its language and culture? Check out the video.

Literary References

  1. Anderson, James   Spain: 1001 Sights Calgary 1991
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