Vocabulario Californio

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Vocabulario Californio

This glossary includes many of the words found in documents written in Alta California 
before 1848 and defines such words as they were used at that time. Note that although 
accent marks (diacritical marks) are used in this list, such marks were sometimes omitted 
in the handwritten documents. The following rules/explanations should be kept in mind.

  • Spanish words ending with 'a' are feminine, with 'o' are masculine. 

  • The initial 'h' may be omitted.

  • The following letter pairs are interchangeable: 
    'b' = 'v'; 'i' = 'y'; 'x' = 'j'; 'f' = 'ph'; 's' = 'z'; 'ze' = 'ce'. 

  • The letter "ñ" is a separate letter of the alphabet which follows "n".

  • At one time "ch" and "ll" were also separate letters of the alphabet, but 
    we are using the modern Spanish alphabet for this list.

abajo/a = under, below, lower.
abilitado - see habilitado. 
abordo = aboard. 
abuelo/a = grandparent .
abuelos maternos = mother's parents. 
abuelos paternos = father's parents. 
adoptivo/a  = adoptive, adopted. 
afinidad = relationship, usually a relationship by marriage or an illicit sexual 
    relationship which required a dispensation to be married. 
agregado = gathered together, included. 
ahorcado (orcado)= hanged. 
ajusticiado = executed. 
alajas = valuables. 
a la mañanita = at day break. 
al anochecer = at nightfall. 
alamito = small cottonwood.
álamo = cottonwood. 
albañil = mason, usually a stonemason. 
alcalde = official of a community; head of the local council, having both executive 
    and judicial, as well as some legislative powers. Appointed or elected for one year. 
alférez = lowest rank of army officer, corresponding to ensign in the U.S. Navy, 
    or second lieutenant in the U.S. Army. Not to be confused with the Spanish term 
    "teniente", which was a much higher rank. 
alférez de defensores = public defender, defense attorney. 
aliso = alder tree, the native alder is the white alder. 
alto/a = high, tall; upper. 
Alta California = "Upper" California, roughly what is now the current states of 
    California, Nevada, Utah, and Arizona north of the Gila river. 
amansebados (amancebados) = living in concubinage; unmarried. 
ambos = both. 
anclado = anchored. 
antes = before. 
Antigua California = Baja California
Antigua España = Spain (in Europe). 
año = year. 
armada = navy. 
arreglo = government regulation. 
arribo/a = above, higher. 
arriero = muleteer. 
articulo de la muerte = at the point of death. 
asesor = a legally trained person who served as a consultant to a lay judge, 
    governor, or a legislative body. (California had very few of these.) 
asistencia = a chapel in an outlying area where services were held by mission
     priests at irregular intervals. 
aspirante = candidate for military or public office. 
avecinado = residing. 
averiguación = investigation.
ayudante = assistant, aide. 
ayuntamiento = governing body, usually the city council of a pueblo. 

baile = dance, ball. 
Baja California = "Lower" California, the peninsula comprising the current Mexican 
    states of Baja California and Baja California Sur. In this time period, the religious,
    military, and civil center was Loreto. 
balazo = gunshot. 
bandido = bandit, outlaw. 
bastante = sufficient. 
bautismo = baptism. 
bautizar = to baptize. 
bautize = I baptized. 
boca = mouth. In place names, the mouth of a stream or river. 
bolsa = pocket, neck of land between water or swamp. 
borregas = lambs. 
brea = tar, used as a roofing material. 
buque = ship. 

c.c. (casado con) = married to. 
cemo. (cementerio) = cemetery. 
comande. (comandante) = commandant.
comde. (comandante) = commandant.
compa. (compañía) = company. 
corl. (coronel) = colonel. 
caballería = cavalry. 
caballero = cavalryman, gentleman .
cabo = corporal (military). 
cadete = cadet (military). 
cajón = box canyon, place boxed in by hills. 
calesa = two or four wheeled carriage. 
calofate del buque = ship's caulker. 
Californiano = a resident of either Alta or Baja California.
Californias = term referring to both Alta and Baja California. In earlier documents, 
    Nueva and Antigua California. 
Californio = a resident of either Alta or Baja California. Neophytes from Baja 
    were referred to as Californios. 
Cámara de Diputados = Mexican House of Representatives, in Mexico City. 
Campo Santo = holy ground, a cemetery consecrated by the Catholic Church. 
canales (Canales) = canals, the name of a presidio in Durango; channels, the Santa 
    Barbara area (Channel Islands). Sometimes the Santa Barbara presidio was 
    called Presidio de Canales. 
cantero = stonecutter. 
cañada = glen or dale. 
capellán = chaplain 
capitán = captain, a high military rank, approximately equal to colonel in the 
    U.S. Army. Also used to refer to the Indian chief of a ranchería. 
carnal = closely related by blood. 
carta = letter, chart, document 
casado con (c.c.) = married to
casta = a term referring to non "Españoles". 
Catalonian Volunteers = see Voluntarios de Cataluña. 
Cataluña, Cathaluña = Catalonia Spain. 
cementerio (cemo., zemo.) = cemetery. 
cepo (zepo) = stocks. 
cerca = near. 
cerrito = small hill. 
chanter = (an English word) one who chants. In this period, one who 
    chanted Gregorian chants, which was a prominent part of Catholic masses; 
    also one who led the padre into the church at the beginning of mass. 
chico/a = small. 
chiquito/a = very small. 
ciego = blind. 
ciénega = marsh, swamp. 
cinco = five.
cirujano = surgeon. 
cocina = kitchen. 
cocinero = cook. 
comandante (comande.,  comde.) = commandant.
comisionado = those empowered by the government to perform some official function. Comisionado de Policia = police inspector. Usually the head of a civil body charged 
    with enforcing the laws. 
como = about, approximately. 
compañía (compa.) = company. 
complir con = comply with. 
conjuges = married couple. 
conquistadores = conquerors; the very early Spanish soldiers in New Spain. For services 
    to church and crown, they and their descendents were given special privileges. consanguinidad = relationship by blood. 
consorte = husband/wife, spouse. 
conste lo firme = that it be so, I signed it. 
contramaestre = boatswain. 
contrayento = betrothed. 
convinado = belonging. 
coronel (corl.) = colonel. 
costura = seamstress. 
coyote = a person of mixed race: Español, Indian, and Negro. 
criado = manservant. 
cual = which. 
cuatro = four 
cundado/a = sister/brother in law. 

d. (día) = day. 
dfto/a. (difunto/a) = deceased person.
dho/a. (dicho/a) = aforesaid.
Dn. (Don) = mister, sir.
Dna. (Doña) = lady.
de la mañana = in the morning. 
de la tarde = in the afternoon. 
desfiliado/a = neophyte removed from the rolls of a mission.
desgraciado = unfortunate.
día (d.) = day.
día antecedente = the day before.
día anterior = the day before.
diablo = devil.
días tras días = day after day.
dicho/a (dho/a.) = aforesaid.
Diegueños = early Spanish name for San Diego Indian tribes, now called Kumya'ay.
diez = ten.
difunto/a (dfto/a.) = deceased person.
diligencias matrimonial - see informaciones.
diputación = council, usually elected.
diseño = map, sketch attached to land claims.
di sepultura eclesiática = gave ecclesiastical burial.
doce = twelve.
domiciliados = residing.
Domingo de Ramos = Palm Sunday (used as a name).
Don (Dn.) = mister, sir.
doncella = young lady, unmarried.
Doña (Dna.) = lady.
duda = doubt.

ECN (en casu necessitatis) = in case of necessity.
EPM (en peligro de muerte, en periculo mortis) = in peril of death
ebrio = drunk, inebriated.
edad = age.
ejército = army.
encargado de justicia = a judge similar to juez de paz.
en casu necessitatis (ECN) = in case of necessity.
encinitos = small live oaks.
encinos = live oaks, evergreen as opposed to "robles" which were deciduous oaks.
enfermero = nurse. 
en la mar = at sea.
en peligro de muerte (EPM) = in peril of death.
en periculo mortis (EPM) = in peril of death.
entonce = formerly, then.
entrada = entrance, entry.
enyervado = poisoned.
errero see herrero.
escándalo = scandal.
escolta = the squad of soldiers assigned to protect a mission or a pueblo
    (normally 5 soldiers and one corporal).
escuadra = squadron (military). 
español = a person of primarily Spanish ancestry. In practice in California, 
    sometimes applied to anyone who had fully assimilated into the Hispanic 
    culture including Indian, mestizo, mulatto and coyote.
esperanza = hope.
espiritual = related spiritually through the godparent relationship.
esposo/a = spouse.
estero = tidal creek, salt marsh.
expósito/a = foundling, abandoned child.

falleció = died.
feligrés = parishioner. 
fiscal = prosecuting attorney, specially appointed to handle a particular case 
    on behalf of the public interest. 
fondo piadoso = the Pious Fund, a benevolent fund of the Catholic Church 
    to promulgate the faith and care for the needy. 
fragata = frigate. 

gobr. (gobernador)  = governor.
govr. (gobernador) = governor.
gemelo/a = twin. 
gente de razón = "people of reason", non-Indian; a member of the established Christian 
    community. This sometimes included second generation Indians, as well as some 
    neophytes who had assimilated into the community. 
gentile = in this period, applied to Indians who had not been baptized. 
gobernador (gobr., govr.)  = governor. 
golpe = a blow. 
Guatmotal = place name, probably near Capistrano. 

h.l. (hijo/a legitimo/a) = legitimate child.
habilitado = paymaster, quartermaster. 
hacienda = large home. 
hechar el agua = sprinkle water (baptize). 
hermano/a = sister/brother. 
herrero = blacksmith. 
hijo/a = son, daughter. 

from Diccionario de la Real Academia
~ = hijo
~ espurio, ria.
1. m. y f.
hijo bastardo.
2. m. y f. hijo ilegítimo de padre desconocido.
~ habido, da, en buena guerra.
1. m. y f. hijo habido fuera del matrimonio.
~ ilegítimo, ma.
1. m. y f. hijo de padre y madre no unidos entre sí por matrimonio.
~ incestuoso, sa.
1. m. y f. hijo habido por incesto.
~ legitimado, da.
1. m. y f. hijo natural que se equipara en todo al legítimo por subsiguiente matrimonio de los padres o parcialmente por concesión real.
~ legítimo, ma.
1. m. y f. hijo nacido de legítimo matrimonio
~ mancillado, da.
1. m. y f.
hijo espurio.
~ natural.
1. m. y f. hijo habido de mujer soltera y padre libre, que podían casarse al tiempo de tenerlo.
2. m. y f. Corrientemente se toma por hijo ilegítimo

hijo/a espurio = illegitimate children of parents who could not marry, where one 
    or both parents were currently married to someone else. The term appears 
    infrequently, when the padre was annoyed with one or both of the parents. 
hijo/a legitimo/a (h.l.) = legitimate child. 
hijo/a natural = properly, illegitimate son or daughter of parents who could marry.         
    Actually used generally for illegitimate children. 
hoy (oi) = today. 
huérfano/a = orphan. 
huerta = garden, orchard. 
huesos = bones. 

indio/a = Indian. 
informaciones = documents establishing that a couple were eligible to marry 
    under the rules set up by the Council of Trent. They were required for all marriages. 
ingle = groin .
inominado/a = unnamed. 
in periculo mortis = in peril of death. 
inválido = retired soldier. 
item = ditto. 

jacalón = hut made of branches. 
jarazo = wound with a dart. 
juez de campo = acted as judge and jury at a rodeo to decide the ownership of 
    disputed animals. His decision was final. 
juez de paz = justice of the peace, who handled local disputes, primarily civil. 
junta = a group joined together to pursue a cause. Sometimes applied to 
    governing councils. 

leguas = leagues (about 3.5 miles).
legitimate = make legitimate by subsequent marriage previous hijos naturales. 
    Theoretically hijos espurios could not be legitimatized, however, it is clear 
    that this occurred.
Libro de Bautizados = Book of Baptisms, where all baptisms were recorded, 
    includes the full names of both parents, sometimes with all grandparents, 
    occupation of the father, and always the padrinos. 
Libro de Confirmaciones = Book of Confirmations, where all confirmations were 
    recorded, included the name of the confirmed, parents of children, madrino 
    or padrino, and sometimes the age. (Boys had padrinos, girls madrinas, which 
    is helpful to determine the sex of the child.) 
Libro de Difuntos = Book of Deaths, where all deaths were recorded, usually 
    the parents were named, or spouse for adults, and sometimes the baptismal 
    number for Indian deaths. 
Libro de Matrimonios = Book of Marriages, where all marriages were recorded, 
    included the names of bride and groom, whether they were single, widow or 
    widower, usually the names of their parents, dispensations if any, and the 
    names of witnesses. 
line = one twelfth of an inch. 
llamada = named.
lugar = place. 

M-R (Monte-Rey) = Monterey
Misn. = Mission.
madre = mother. 
madrina = godmother. 
madrugada = dawn. 
maestre = mate of a merchant ship. 
maestro = master, highly skilled artisan. 
mala vida = "bad life", a euphemism for prostitute; also applied to women of 
    notoriously bad moral character. 
mallorquín = of or from Majorca.
mañana = tomorrow, later, never; morning. 
marido/a = spouse. 
marinero = mariner, sailor. 
mayordomo = steward, overseer. 
media- = half- (as media hermana = half-sister) 
media noche = midnight. 
medio día = noon. 
mes = month. 
mestizo = of mixed Spanish-Indian blood. 
mismo = same. 
modo = manner. 
monte = mountain, hill; back country. 
Monte-Rey (M-R) = Monterey
morador = resident. 
morba = disease. 
mozo = young man, man-servant, bachelor. 
mucho/a = much, many. 
muchacho/a = girl/boy. 
muger = wife, woman. 
mulato/a = person of mixed Black and European ancestry. 

n. = no name. 
n.n. (notario nombrado) = notary.
N.S. (Nuestra Señora) = Our Lady.
natl. (natural) = native of.
no. (nuevo) = new.
nacer = to be born. 
nacido/a = born. 
natural (natl.) = native of. 
neofito/a = local Indian, baptized, but not fully assimilated into the Hispanic 
    society, a neophyte. 
nieto/a = grandchild. 
nino/a = girl/boy. 
notario nombrado (n.n.) = notary. 
noche = night. 
noche antes = the night before. 
novio/a = fiancée, fiancé, sweetheart. 
nuevo/a (no.) = new. 
Nueva California = Alta California
nueve = nine.
Nuestra Señora (N.S.) = Our Lady.
nutria = otter. 

ocho = eight. 
oi - see hoy
once = eleven. 
orcado - see ahorcado
orejano = unbranded calf or colt of uncertain parentage. 
originario = originally a resident of. 
orilla = edge, shore,
p. (padre) = father; priest.
p.n.c. (padre no conocido) = father unknown.
pdo = presidio.
pps. (padres) = parents.
privadmte. (privadmente)  = privately. 
prova. (provincia) = province. 
padrasto = step-father. 
padre (p.) = father; priest .
padre no conocido (p.n.c.) = father unknown.
padres (pps.) = parents.
padrino = godfather. 
padrinos = godparents, with the obligation to ensure the proper spiritual 
    upbringing of a child and also to provide support and care in case of death 
    or disability of the parents. Also, the sponsor at confirmation. 
padrón = census, also the ongoing record of all Indian neophytes and families 
    belonging to a mission. 
palo = tree.
playa = beach. 
paquebot = packet (ship). 
párroco (parroquia) = parish 
parto = childbirth. 
párvulo/a = young child. 
perteneciente = pertaining, belonging. 
pila = font (baptismal).
piquete = picket, a small body of troops. 
plantar = establish, settle. 
plaza = place, position. 
pluma = quill, writer, scribe. 
poblador = settler. Usually applied to the first settlers of a pueblo. 
poco = little, few. 
poniendome = placing on me. 
por la tarde = in the afternoon. 
por necesidad = of necessity. 
prefect = local official. 
pregunta = question.
presbitero = priest. 
presidario = convict, prisoner. 
presidio = garrisoned fort. There were 5 in the Californias: Loreto, San Diego, 
    Monterey, San Francisco, and Santa Barbara. A fully manned garrison was 55, 
    including officers, although it was frequently less, from which the escoltas were 
    drawn for each mission and pueblo. 
preso = prisoner. 
primo/a = cousin. 
primer (o) = first, chief, leading. 
privadmente (privadmte.)  = privately. 
propio = proper, one's own.
provincia (prova.) = province. 
pueblo = specifically, chartered town, i.e., San Jose, Los Angeles, and Branciforte. 
    After secularization, there were others. 
puente = bridge. 
puerto = seaport. 
punta = point of land. 

quince = fifteen.

r.n. (recién nacido) = recently born.
rancha. (ranchería) = Indian village. 
rl. (real) = royal.
rn (recién nacido) = recently born.
rana = frog. 
ranchería (rancha.) = Indian village. 
rancho = large land holding with cattle. 
real (rl.) = royal. 
reales = Spanish coins, 1/8 of a peso, about 12.5 cents, a "bit".
recién nacido (r.n./rn) = recently born.
refugio (Refugio) = refuge. (Also, a given name.) 
regidor = councilman (lower than alcalde). 
reino = kingdom. 
repentimente = suddenly. 
respuesta = reply, answer. 
retirado = retired. 
rey (rei) = king. 
rico = rich. 
rincón = nook, small piece of land. 
rodeo = round up of stock. 

s. (soldado) = soldier.
s.c. (soldado de cuera) = leather jacket soldier.
s.v. (soldado voluntario = volunteer soldier, Catalonian volunteer 
sargto. (sargento) = sergeant (military).
sirvte. (sirviente) = servant, employee. 
Sn., S. = San (as in San Carlos). 
sacó de pila = to stand sponsor, to be godparent.
sangrador = bloodletter. 
sanja (Zanja Santiago!) = war-cry of the Spanish, used also as the starting signal 
    for a horse race. 
santo = holy.
sarampión = measles. 
sargento (sargto.) = sergeant (military). 
secularización = secularization; the conversion of all Mission properties to civilian use, 
    begun in the 1830s. 
seguridad = security, certainty. 
sentó plaza = enlisted. 
sien = temple, head. 
seis = six. 
semana = week. 
serbiente = servant. Frequently also applied to artisan employees. 
siete = seven. 
síndico = town attorney concerned with pueblo ordinances, permits for dances, 
    fairs, etc. However, it has a broader meaning of trustee, receiver, overseeing 
    officials of some sort or another. 
sirviente (sirvte.) = servant, employee. 
sitio = small farm. 
sobre = about .
sobrino/a = niece/nephew. 
soldado (s.) = soldier. 
soldado de cuera (s.c.) = leather jacket soldier. The common soldier of the 
    Southwest, usually mounted. The jacket was a knee length coat of seven 
    layers of deer hide, effective against arrows, but not bullets. 
soldado distinguido = soldier given extra privileges, usually due to belonging to 
    a ranking family, i.e. he did not perform K.P. or latrine duty. 
soldado voluntero (s.v.) = volunteer soldier, Catalonian volunteer. 
soltero/a = single person, never married. 
sordo = deaf. 
sor (sur) = south. 
supercargo = (an English word) a ship's officer in charge of cargo. Usually 
    responsible for sales and purchase of hides and tallow. 

t. (téstigo) = witness.
tene. (teniente) = lieutenant (military).
thene. (teniente) = lieutenant (military).
tt. (téstigos) = witnesses.
también = also. 
teja = roof tile. 
teniente (tene., thene.) = lieutenant (military).
téstigo (t.) = witness.
téstigos (tt.) = witnesses. 
téstigos de asista = witnesses to marriage ceremony. 
téstigos prior = those who testified to the marriageability of the couple.
tiempo = time. 
tonelero = cooper.
trajo (traxo) = brought .
trece = thirteen.
tres = three. 
tule = tule, reed, rush. 
tutor = teacher, guardian of a minor. 

uno = one 

v. (voluntario) = volunteer (military), usually used for the Catalonian volunteers.
vol. (voluntario) = volunteer (military), usually used for the Catalonian volunteers.
vara = measure of length about a yard. 
voluntario (v., vol.) = volunteer (military) usually used for the Catalonian volunteers 
valle = valley. 
vecindad = vicinity, inhabitants of a place. 
vecino (s) = resident (s), neighbor (s).
velación = literally, the blessing of a marriage. Although couples could be 
    married at any time, the velación could not be performed during certain periods 
    such as Lent and Advent, so that this final sacrament of marriage could occur
    considerably after the marriage. Normally both ceremonies were performed together. 
víbora = rattlesnake. 
viejo/a = old person. 
vigilante = member of a vigilance committee, an unauthorized committee 
    organized for the maintenance of order and summary punishment of crime 
    in the absence of regular or efficient courts. 
visitador general = ecclesiastical inspector of missions and parishes. 
vino = came. 
viruelas = smallpox. 
viudo/a = widow/widower. 
vocal = member of a committee or governing body. 
voluntario (v., vol.) = volunteer (military), usually used for the Catalonian volunteers.
Voluntarios de Cataluña = Catalonian Volunteers, a group of about 100 soldiers 
    recruited in Catalonia Spain in the late 1700s for service on the frontier of New 
    Spain. As time passed, recruits came from Mexico, but their ancestry were 
    supposed to be from Catalonia. 

ygla. (yglesia) = church.
yglesia (ygla.) = church.

zemo. (zementerio) = cemetery.
zaguán = entrance. 
zanja = ditch.
Zanja Santiago! - see sanja.
zementerio (zemo.) = cemetery.
zepo (cepo) = stocks. 

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