It’s a word that most of us learned from western movies. ‘Gringo’ is used by the Spanish speakers of Mexico and Latin America to contemptuously describe foreigners, especially the citizens of the United States. But do you ever wonder what’s the origin of this indeed weird word?
Well, as it turns out, there are two main theories for the etymology of gringo.
Let’s see both of them. (the article continues after the ad)
The first theory is that gringo comes from the song “Green Grow the Lilacs” that American soldiers were constantly singing during the Mexican-American war. According to this theory, because of the continuous repeat of the words “Green Grow”, Mexicans allegedly started referring to the Americans as gringo. The problem for this theory is that the word gringo was being used by Mexicans before the Mexican-American war. According to the 1787 Diccionario Castellano, “foreigners who have a certain type of accent which keeps them from speaking Spanish easily and naturally” were referred to as “gringos”.
The theory that is most probably true is that gringo comes from griego, the Spanish word for “Greek”. During the 15th century, similar to the English speaker’s “it’s all Greek to me”, Spanish speakers were using the expression “hablar en griego” (It’s Greek to me). Over time, “griego” became “grigo”, and then “gringo”.