The letter "k" is rarely seen in Spanish. What is the origin of Spanish words containing a k? Are most recent loanwords from modern languages, influences from older languages (Latin or Greek), or of an even earlier origin?

  • 1
    Ketchup is a trademark of a brand of catsup made by Heinz company. Commented Aug 19, 2017 at 13:52

4 Answers 4


According to the Wikipedia page for the Spanish language, under "Writing system", they are all loanwords (directly integrated or words "adapted" to the Spanish writing system):

The letters "k" and "w" are used only in words and names coming from foreign languages (kilo, folklore, whiskey, William, etc.

The single origin for each word is obviously different, and I think we should go singularly. But the main point is that I don't think there are "native" Spanish words with a "K". I say "native", because after a while, any loanword (if used by people) becomes a legitimate word in a given language.


Most of the words containing a k come from foreign languages. For example:

  • Ketchup
  • Kiwi

There are, obviously some words that are names of people or places:

  • Kenia
  • Kansas

There are also words that come from names:

  • Kafkiano (from Kafka)
  • Keniata (from Kenia)

On the other hand, Spanish come from Latin and Greek and the 'k' letter comes from the 'kappa' Greek letter. So I think the words that come directly from Greek can be considered original words. For example all the words starting by kilo:

  • Kilogramo
  • Kilolitro

Some of the foreign words that contain the 'k' letter are translated using the 'qu'. For example:

  • Quiosco (From French: kiosque)
  • Chequear (From English: check)
  • Ketchup is not Spanish. There is cátsup. Commented Sep 4, 2013 at 2:33
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    Ketchup is Spanish. From the RAE dictionary: Ketchup: Salsa de tomate condimentada con vinagre, azúcar y especias.
    – J. Calleja
    Commented Sep 4, 2013 at 7:04
  • ok...........:) Commented Sep 4, 2013 at 16:15

"K" also has a seemingly widespread slang use in texting / SMSing and online chatting.

In this case it stands for the words que and qué but also any part of any word with the sound /ke/ such as porque.

Also I wouldn't be surprised if there are some words borrowed from Native American languages such as Quiche and Quechua that are spelled with "k" at least informally and regionally. I think I've seen it on signs in Chiapas and Guatemala but I can't say for sure.

  • Like the mayan god Kukulkan... Commented Sep 4, 2013 at 2:32

K in the Spanish language is always derived from outside languages, for the same reason Japanese has katakana (a separate alphabet) for words coming from other languages with a Roman alphabet. Obviously modern words for things that haven't existed for more than twenty years with globalization usually don't get their own unique word for each language, so if an earth-shaking invention is made in any country with the letter k in it, unless the company translates the name specifically for each country the k will likely remain.

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