The Hispanic legacy in ranching, cattle driving and the Old West in general is readily apparent in many of its words and terms.
The word ranch is familiar to everyone these days as a word for a large stock-farm and herding establishment. This meaning only emerged in the early 1830’s and its origin, strangely, is in the Spanish for a group of people eating together, a ‘rancho’, used also for mess-room. It began to be used for a country house, and from there proceeded to its modern-day meaning. The word used in Spanish for the same thing is ‘hacienda’.
An alternative word for cowboy, buckaroo, used especially in the California and Great Basin regions, would appear to come from a corruption of the Spanish ‘vaquero’, meaning cowboy, which in turn derives from ‘vaca’, the Spanish for cow.
The name mustang, for feral horse, is from a blend of two Spanish words which both mean wild or masterless referring to horses or cattle: ‘mestengo’ and ‘mostrenco’.
The remuda, the herd of horses from which a cowboy chooses his mount for the day’s work, is a word meaning exchange or replacement in Spanish.
Stampede comes from the Spanish ‘estampida’ – crash or uproar.
The word rodeo has a very specific and well-established meaning nowadays, but in Spanish, as a noun, it simply means a round-up.
‘Bronco’ signifies wild or rough in Mexican Spanish.
The names used for the equipment and working methods of cowboys is especially subject to borrowing from Spanish.
Lariat which basically just means a rope as used by cowboys, comes from the Spanish ‘la reata’, the definite article having been incorporated into the word. The noun ‘reata’ itself comes from ‘reatar’ which means to tie again.
The honda knot, ‘honda’ being the Spanish for sling, is the small loop at the end of the lariat.
A dally is the wrap made round high saddle horns for leverage when roping cattle. It comes from the Spanish phrase ‘dar la vuelta’ which just means to wrap around.
Chaps (usually pronounced shaps) are leggings worn for protection when riding through brush. The word obviously comes from their Spanish name ‘chaparejos’ or ‘chaparreras’. Those words in turn appear to derive from the Spanish for low-growing thicket – ‘chaparro’.
A hackamore, a looped bridle, is a corruption of the Spanish word for halter, ‘jaquima’.
There are a number of words which are used unchanged from the Spanish and with the same meaning: sombrero, bandanna, poncho, mestizo, corral, are a few.
The name Texas itself comes from the Indian word ‘teyshas’ (variously spelt) meaning friends. This was called out in greeting by the natives to a Spanish expedition when they landed, to show they meant no harm. The Spanish adopted it and wrote it down as ‘tejas’, using it as a name for the inhabitants. From there it became the name of the region itself, and was finally anglicised to Texas.