Spanish Names Indicate the Language’s Depth in U.S. Society

On last month’s Spanish Language Day, Google Doodle celebrated the letter Ñ (pronounced “enye”), which is the only letter in the Spanish alphabet that originated in Spain.

The letter Ñ was created in the 12th century by Spanish scribes who came up with a way to save time and parchment when hand-copying Latin manuscripts. They decided to shorten words with double letters, combining the two letters into one with a tiny n on top to signify the change—this tiny n symbol is called a tilde.

For example, the Latin word for “year” is annus which became año in Spanish. Today, the letter Ñ appears in more than 17,700 Spanish words.

Newly released data from the U.S. 2020 census reveals the growth of the Hispanic population in the U.S., which is reflected by the country’s most common surnames, which are increasingly Spanish in origin, while the number of Spanish speakers also continues to rise. Already common family names such as García, currently in sixth place according to census data, and Rodríguez, taking the ninth spot, are expected to rise even further up the rankings last released in 2010.

The Queen Sofia Spanish Institute, a non-profit organization that promotes Spanish art and culture around the world, issued a report for Spanish Language Day, showing that the U.S. population of Hispanic origin represents 18.3% of those counted in the census, two thirds of whom are under 35. It is estimated that by 2060 this population will amount to almost 111 million people.

By that year, the US will be the second most populous country of Spanish speakers in the world after Mexico. That will put it ahead of Colombia (48 million) and Spain (46 million). In fact, according to Spain’s Cervantes Institute, by 2060 an estimated 27.5% of Americans will be of Hispanic origin – one in three citizens. Currently, Spanish is the second most spoken language in 43 of the country’s 50 states and 13.5% of Americans speak Spanish at home. This percentage is significantly higher in Texas (29.4%), California (29%), New Mexico (26.1%), Florida (21.8%), and Nevada (21.8%). Spanish is also by far the second most studied language at all education levels in the U.S. The Hispanic community has the lowest average age within the census, and 71% of Hispanic people speak Spanish at home.

Globally, more than 585 million people in the world speak Spanish, of whom 41.1 million (7%) are from the U.S. The history of Spanish in the U.S. dates back around 500 years. According to the cultural organization The Hispanic Council, “Since then, countless milestones illustrate [the importance of Spanish] in the country, such as the fact that 15% of its states and cities have names of Hispanic origin, that the first Californian Constitution was published in Spanish and English, and that the first election advertisement in Spanish was produced 61 years ago and starred the iconic Jackie Kennedy.”

“The fact that the United States is seeing a predominance of Hispanic surnames is a reminder of the great past, present and cultural importance of the Hispanic community in the country,” the statement added.

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