origen de palabra España

The origin of the word España (Spain)

The origin of the word Spain is Phoenician and dates from the second millennium BC. Its meaning has several hypotheses.

The word Spain comes from the Phoenician « i-spn-ya », a term whose use is documented from the second millennium BC, in Ugaritic inscriptions.

The Phoenician civilization was strongly established in the Iberian Peninsula in the 5th century BC.

Later, the Romans called the Iberian Peninsula Hispania.

However, the Greeks called the same space with the name of Iberia.


But what does i-spn-ya ” mean in Phoenician?

The Romans understood that, in its Phoenician origin, Hispania meant “land with an abundance of rabbits”.

There are no sources that explain the meaning of i-spn-ya “, however, through philological studies different theories have been developed.

Arte fenicio. Dama de Galera
Phoenician art. Galley Lady, 7th century BC. c.

Today, there are several more hypotheses that could explain the meaning of the Phoenician word.

For example, Isidore of Seville, in the sixth century, thought that the name of Spain had its origin in Ispani”, the Phoenician-Punic name of the city of Seville, which the Romans called Hispalis.

«I -spn-ya » could also mean the « land of the north », since for the Phoenicians the coast of the Iberian peninsula was to the north of their route on the African coast.


Arte fenicio. Jarro de boca de seta
Phoenician art. mushroom mouth jug

Antonio de Nebrija proposed that the origin could be the deviation of the word Hispalis, meaning“the city of the west” becauseHispalis is the main city of the peninsula. The Phoenicians and the Romans gave that name to the entire territory.

Another hypothesis supposes that Hispalis and Hispania come from the names of two legendary kings of Spain, Hispalo and his son Hispan, son and grandson of Hercules.

On the other hand, “I-span-ya” could also mean ” land where metals are forged “, since the root of “span” means to beat metals.

Over time, Hispania became Spania” and from there, to the name we know today as Spain.

In the fifteenth century, the Catholic Monarchs began to call the Iberian Peninsula by the name of España (Spain).

The origin of the word España (Spain)


Silla mudéjar
Mudejar chair, XV century

More information and references:

  • es.wikipedia.org-Spain. Available Here
  • en.wikipedia.org-Spain. Available Here
  • es.wikipedia.org-Hispania-wikipedia Here
  • en.wikipedia.org-Hispania-wikipedia Available Here
  • en.wikipedia.org-Lady Galera. Available Here
  • abc.es-ABC Spain. «I-span-ya», the mysterious origin of the word Spain. Available Here
  • creativecommons.org-Ángel M. Happy. Galley Lady. Original image available here
  • flickr.com-Ángel M. Happy. Mushroom mouth jug. Cádiz, 8th century BC Original image available here
  • flickr.com-santiago lopez-pastor. Mudejar hip chair (National Archaeological Museum) Burgos s.XV. Original image available here

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