Spanish Language Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for students, teachers, and linguists wanting to discuss the finer points of the Spanish language. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

Why and how has the word llama(s) 3 meanings?

  • (you) call
  • llama (the animal)
  • flame
share|improve this question
English is just a bad. How about "pine" the tree and "pine" the verb? – Walter Mitty Jul 16 '14 at 9:31

As to why, quite simple: three different etymological origins have resulted in the same word:

  1. The verb llamar comes from latin clamare
  2. The animal llama comes directly from a quechua word
  3. The flame llama comes from latin flamma

Latin consonant groups -cl-, -fl- and others (such as -pl-) have frequently evolved into -ll- in Spanish, so these evolutions are quite normal.

As for confusing, I don't think so. It is not easy to construct a sentence where a verb and a noun could be confused. The two nouns (the flame and the animal) might be confused, but their meanings are so different that, aside from jokes or especially constructed sentences, I don't think it is very likely to happen because the context would give away the real meaning.

share|improve this answer
Llama «llama» la llama a la llama. :) – guifa Jul 15 '14 at 13:11
In voseo-speaking countries like Argentina is even less confusing since the first case (you call) is pronounced "llamás" (different accent). – Carlos Ferreyra Jul 15 '14 at 17:15
As a side note, this can be used for puns. There was a series of ads for a phone company in the late 90's, called "la llama que llama" (it was about a llama that made prank calls, using equally bad puns) – Diego Mijelshon Jul 22 '14 at 1:50
Actually even better. A la llama la llama la llama «la llama» – guifa Apr 19 at 21:20

When the Moores ruled in Spain, they had lookout posts on hilltops and it is said that in times of trouble they could call aid from Africa in a matter of hours by lighting the flames on top of the lookout towers, hence the connection between flame and call in Spanish.

share|improve this answer
Roger still does that. – B. Clay Shannon Apr 19 at 20:38
"it is said..." sounds very questionable. Do you have a citation to back it up? – Paul Apr 20 at 4:34
Absolutely not. As stated in other answers, they just come from similar unrelated latin words (flamma and clamare). – Gorpik Apr 20 at 7:32

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.