top of page

Tapa, paella, taco or cebiche: what is the origin of their names?

Do you know the origin of the names of the most famous food in the Spanish-speaking world? Spanish Millenium will give you some (curious) explanations of how words came to the Spanish language:

Tapa: In the Middle Ages, wine was served in large mugs without a lid (tapa). To be protected from bugs,innkeepers used to cover it with some slices of bread.

Another theory is that King Alfonso the XIII order to accompany wine with bread, so people will not get drunk immediately. Later, they started to put pieces of ham, smoked fish, and

other food on top of the piece of bread.

Nowadays you can put almost anything on top of a tapa: mushrooms, seafood, vegetables and more. It’s a great idea to enjoy tapas while drinking!

Paella: The word of this very famous Valencian dish passed to the Spanish language from Catalan, and it is well documented that paella derives from the Latin word patella, the name of the pan used to make this kind of food.

There are several variations of the classic recipe, but the basic ingredients are rice, tomatoes, olive oil and saffron. Now we can enjoy seafood (mariscos) or meat (carne) paellas. Most connoisseurs match the meat paella with a red wine, white for seafood and rosé for the mixed one.

Taco: All theories point to the Nahuatl origin. Nahuatl is one of the many native languages that Spaniards found in Mexico when they arrived. The word “tlahco” was hispanized as taco. Other words that come from the Nahuatl language are chocolate (txocolatl) and chipotle (chilpoctli: smoked chili).

Currently, corn tortillas can be filled with almost any ingredient: veal, chicken and vegetables. Traditionally cilantro goes on top. What is your favorite taco?

Cebiche (also written ceviche and seviche): there are several theories about the origin of the word. One of the most credible states that the origin is the word “siwichi” from Quechua (one of the many Peruvian languages) that means “fresh fish”.

Another theory says that the word comes from “cebo” or the bait on the fish hook.

It is believed that it was a very popular dish of the pre-Incan Mochica culture, that was later conquered by the Incas. Cebiche is now served almost everywhere and varies from country to country, but raw fish and lime arealways the basic ingredients.

Do you want to know more or want to share more word origins? Please email us at:

40 views0 comments


bottom of page