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

  • (you) call
  • llama (the animal)
  • flame
  • English is just a bad. How about "pine" the tree and "pine" the verb? 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.

  • 8
    Llama «llama» la llama a la llama. :) Jul 15 '14 at 13:11
  • 1
    In voseo-speaking countries like Argentina is even less confusing since the first case (you call) is pronounced "llamás" (different accent). Jul 15 '14 at 17:15
  • 3
    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) Jul 22 '14 at 1:50
  • 2
    Actually even better. A la llama la llama la llama «la llama» Apr 19 '16 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.

  • Roger still does that. Apr 19 '16 at 20:38
  • 1
    "it is said..." sounds very questionable. Do you have a citation to back it up?
    – Paul
    Apr 20 '16 at 4:34
  • 2
    Absolutely not. As stated in other answers, they just come from similar unrelated latin words (flamma and clamare).
    – Gorpik
    Apr 20 '16 at 7:32

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