Where does the word “Gringo” come from?

People always wonder where the word “Gringo“came from, or if it was or is, an insult to offend our American neighbors, but ultimately… it is not!

Some Mexicans say that the word was generated when the U.S. invaded Mexico in the year 1846, wearing green uniforms, and people used to yell at them: “Green Go Home!“, but now we know this information is totally inaccurate (how could Mexicans yelled “Green Go Home!” when they did not speak any English absolutely whatsoever, it’s not logical).

The word “Gringo” has actually a Spanish origin and has been documented since the 18th century, many years before the war in which it was supposedly born.

The term appears in the “Castilian Dictionary”, with the voices of science and arts, compiled by Father Esteban de Terreros y Pando back in 1787. It literally says:

Gringos: In Málaga, foreigners who have a certain kind of accent, particularity the Irish”.(sic)

So, basically, “Gringo” is a deformation of the word “Greek” (Greek = Griego in Spanish = Gringo). Evidence of this hypothesis was found in the “Universal Vocabulary”  in Latin and Romance, written by Alfonso Palencia in 1490.

On the other hand, to refer to something incomprehensible, it was indistinctly said that it was in Greek (“Esto está en Griego“)…  Which in time, was transformed to” Gringo” meaning literally that something was in Greek.

From there the old Latin proverb “graecum esta non potest legi”, which means ” It is in Greek and can not be read ”.

So, unlike people think, the word” Gringo” was NOT invented by the Mexican popular folklore. It came up centuries ago in Spain, and it was basically applied to those who spoke an incomprehensible lenguage, such as English, for example.

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (Google)

And when the United States invaded Mexico in the mid XIX Century, the word sprang from the popular memory and the invaders who spoke a “strange” language, were once again called “Gringos“.

So if you ever hear Mexican people refering to an American as a “Gringo”, now you know this is a non-derogatory term.

People from the USA are not referred to as “Americans”, mostly because the term “American” does not make sense to the rest of the Americanos (all those people who live in the continent named “America” which for Mexicans, Central and South Americans means everybody from Alaska to The Patagonia), and since the word “Estadounidense” (UnitedStatean) is too long, then they just go with “Gringo”.


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