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I know equipo also means equipment which is pretty straightforward. But how did the word come to mean team? Team and equipment seem to be two entirely different concepts with nothing in common between them!

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  • 'ship team' = crew. Anyway, the relation between what the Brits call 'kit' and personnel is paralleled by 'outfit' referring to ground units (NAmE; out of use; usage peaked in WWII through Việt Nam eras). Famously, "I want out of this chickenshit outfit."
    – John D
    Aug 21 '18 at 19:02
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The explanation according to Etimologias.net

La palabra equipo y sus varios derivados, que el castellano adoptó del francés 'equipe' [leer: ekip], tenían en la Edad Media una relación con las actividades marítimas. 'Équiper' era 'embarcar' y luego 'proveer una nave de todo lo necesario' antes de zarpar del puerto, ya que la voz procedía del germánico 'skip' (barco) (alemán: 'Schiff'; inglés: 'ship'), a través de una forma existente en zonas del norte de Francia.

Bottom line: the identification of "equipo" with "team" happened in the French, the identification "equipe" = "ship team" being very natural, and thence to "team" in general.

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  • This explains its meaning as "equipment" but doesn't say anything about how it became the word for "team", even in French.
    – TheLearner
    Nov 7 '14 at 11:37
  • The identification equipe = ship team is very natural. Nov 7 '14 at 11:41
  • But how does it relate to team?
    – TheLearner
    Nov 7 '14 at 12:24
  • 1
    Team of the ship, extended to any team. Nov 7 '14 at 13:53
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The word equipo is indeed a recent one. It appears in the RAE's dictionary starting from 1843 with the meaning of "the act and effect of equipar", and it continues carrying this meaning until 1925, when the meaning as team was added.

If you take examples from CORDE from the XIX century, every example of equipo carries the meaning of equipment:

  • [El Rey] fijó el equipo militar de cada uno...
  • [...] la adquisición de los efectos destinados a la alimentación y equipo de los alumnos internos...
  • [...] y si le caía el encargo de bordar un equipo de novia lo aprovechaba para pagar algún mes atrasado de casa...
  • Mi equipo consistía en un vestido de cotín azul con vivos blancos, blusa de botones de hueso con sus dos bolsas pecheras...

But starting the XX century something happened. In 1896 the modern Olympic games started, and the team sports also started to get attention. The first cases in Spanish literature of equipo as team are in these contexts:

Y de buenas a primeras, me se ponen los mantones, me se van de casa.... y ahí las tienes de tiradoras en el segundo equipo del Club Bullanga, pa lo que gustes apostar.

Carlos Arniches, "Los tiros", 1917 (Spain).

This seems logical if you think of a team as the equipment of a sports club (what is needed to make the sports club work). Some earlier examples can be found in press:

[...] los organizadores encontraron medio de verificar [la carrera], corriéndola por equipos, es decir, que cada equipo, compuesto de dos corredores, correría los seis días alternando, ó sea cada corredor, corría dooe horas y descansaba otras doce, que era las que corría su compañero de equipo.

El Globo. 7/1/1900, n.º 8.801, página 3.

So based on this we can see how the use of the word equipo started to rise shyly about 1900, and finally exploded around 1930.

Use of "equipo"

Nevertheless, in 1925 three meanings were added to equipo in the dictionary. One related to team:

Cada uno de los grupos que se disputan el triunfo en ciertos deportes.

But also another one related to work:

Grupo de operarios organizado para un fin o servicio determinado.

And a final one related to clothes as some of the first examples in this post revealed:

Conjunto de ropas y otras cosas para uso particular de una persona; en especial, ropas, muebles, alhajas, etc., que se dan a una mujer cuando se casa.

Although these meanings were added at the same time to RAE's dictionary, it is difficult to know which one was used first in the oral expression. It may well be that a equipo was first the group of people in charge of equipping a ship or whatever. Or it may be that a equipo was a group of people in a sports club all wearing the same equipo. But indeed the first cases in the written expression of the word equipo as team (and its subsequent boom) were influenced by the team sports.

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