11

I've seen it spelled "Hierba" most of the time; occasionally spelled "Yerba".

2

6 Answers 6

16

I don't agree with the other answers. "Yerba" is not an alternative spelling for "hierba." In the Southern cone of South America we use "hierba" to mean "fine grass" and reserve the term "yerba" to refer to a special plant (yerba mate) whose leaves we use to prepare a special, typical tea.

The etymological origin may be the same and "hierba" is certainly a hyperonym, but "yerba" is a distinctly differentiated hyponym.

To endorse my point that, at least in the Southern cone of South America, "yerba" is NOT another spelling for "hierba", in ASALE's Diccionario de Americanismos we can read that "yerba" is a specific plant, not just a variant of "hierba":

yerba.

I. 1. f. Ch, Py, Ar, Ur. Hojas deshidratadas y trituradas del árbol yerba mate que se utilizan para preparar el mate, infusión.

  1. Py, Ar. yerba mate.

I found Gorpik's answer particularly interesting in that it mentions the famous song by Serrat (those of us who love "mate" would not object to the metaphor of the loved one's name tasting like "yerba mate"). My impression is that the spelling of "hierba" with "y" is infrequent (and nonexistent in these countries). Here's a RAE tweet I found which refers to its minority usage:

Yerba

11
  • Maybe the term "South America" is too wide: I am not sure if this is the only meaning in Colombia or Venezuela (for instance), where mate infusion is not so common. Commented Mar 13, 2023 at 13:54
  • 2
    What is wrong to me is this assertion, even if taken from a dictionary: La palabra hierba, escrita "yerba" en los países de Sur América (Argentina, Chile, Paraguay y Uruguay), viene del latín herba. We don't write "yerba" to mean "hierba."
    – Gustavson
    Commented Mar 13, 2023 at 14:48
  • As another inhabitant of the Southern Cone, on the Chilean side, I confirm that this is, indeed, the common use here; although I always thought that the "Y" spelling is simply a variation on the "Hi-" spelling.
    – Conrado
    Commented Mar 14, 2023 at 14:25
  • 1
    I don't know if "I don't agree with the other answers" is the way to go unless you have reliable sources outside your anecdotal evidence. The actual RAE dictionary shows "yerba" as an alternate spelling of "hierba", the "diccionario breve de mexicanismos" shows yerba as an alternate term for marujiana or used for cooking herbs, etc. This means that different countries MAY have different ADDITIONAL uses for "yerba" but, in general, it's an alternate spelling of hierba.
    – kirgod
    Commented Mar 14, 2023 at 14:50
  • @terdon I edited my answer to reply to the comments above.
    – Gustavson
    Commented Mar 14, 2023 at 17:46
3

Ambas son validas / Both are valid


Algunas respuestas generales;

  • La grafía hierba es la más generalizada en la lengua culta; pero también es válida la variante yerba: «Descalzos sus pies para recibir el rocío que todavía impregnaba la yerba»

Diccionario panhispánico de dudas

https://www.rae.es/dpd/hierba

  • ¿Por qué entonces se escribe yerba? La palabra hierba, escrita "yerba" en los países de Sur América (Argentina, Chile, Paraguay y Uruguay), viene del latín herba. Muchas palabras latinas que tienen una e en la primera sílaba, transforman esa e en ie cuando pasan al español.

Por ejemplo;

ferrum -> hierro // servus -> siervo // tempus -> tiempo.

Etimología de yerba

http://etimologias.dechile.net/?yerba

1
  • 1
    the e > ie shift isn't to do with the first syllable, but to do with the stressed syllable
    – Tristan
    Commented Mar 14, 2023 at 9:13
3

The current entry in the DLE spells the difference: yerba is an alternate spelling for hierba and, additionally, the name of the yerba mate.

We can find an example for the alternate spelling in Tu nombre me sabe a yerba, a well known song by Joan Manuel Serrat. But, even if that is the original title, it is so unusual that many people write Tu nombre me sabe a hierba and there are several covers of the song which use that spelling.

In summary: the yerba mate is almost always written yerba, and yerba can also be used as an alternate spelling for hierba, even though it is not so usual.

1

Se nota que no hay una página separada en Spanishdict para ''yerba'', pero dice que se puede escribir ''yerba'' en lugar de ''hierba''.

Mi impresión es que la hierba es la que crece en un césped o un prado mientras que la yerba es ''herb'', pero podría depender de la región.

1
  • 1
    El lenguaje español tiene 23 academias reguladoras del lenguaje. Spanishdict no es una de ellas. Es más confiable utilizar diccionarios de estas academias (el más conocido siendo el de la RAE) para ver sobre ortografías alternas y regionalismos.
    – kirgod
    Commented Mar 14, 2023 at 14:52
1

hierba= grass, plant, pasture.

yerba= a specific tea from South America

1
  • 1
    That seems to duplicate information already in other answers. Can you edit and expand it to give sources?
    – mdewey
    Commented Mar 14, 2023 at 13:26
0

Hierba is a vegetal phytogeny (not herbs but exactly weeds) while Yerba is the processed product of the Mate plant which are actually bushes not a tree or weeds.

1
  • 1
    It is quite hard to understand this. I do not think phytogeny is the right word at all. Why do you think grass is a weed (=plant in the place where the gardener did not want it.) And finally the yerba plant is technically a tree although its growth starts of rather shrub-like.
    – mdewey
    Commented Mar 17, 2023 at 13:34

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

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