While studying the etymology of the word, I found that it comes from gryphus, the Latin for griffin. In fact griffin also happens to be one meaning of grifo. And as we all know, griffin is a mythical beast with the body of a lion and the head of an eagle. Griffin is also the name of a species of vultures.

What I don't understand then is how grifo became the Spanish for a water faucet. It seems random but I am sure there's some logic behind it. Anyone got any idea?

  • 2
    Nice question. A note: griffins have upper half of an eagle (with claws, not paws) and lower half of a lion.
    – Lucas
    Oct 16, 2014 at 16:46

2 Answers 2


The most probable cause is that drains in antique buildings, especially churches had different forms of fantastic animals, people or normal animals, and here is where griffins appears. In Italian there is rubinetto and French has robinet. Both with faucet meaning because of the same origin, fonts had sheep sculptures.

You can see this site:


  • 1
    Great answer. I was just about to share the same reference when I saw your answer.
    – Diego
    Oct 16, 2014 at 13:14

The term grifo is relatively new regarding faucets. It looks like it started to be called like this when faucet makers started to build them representing a griffin, in the 18th century.

  • 3
    You can turn a good answer into a great one by sharing your references. That way other users would know that you are not just saying it, but that there's evidence of it.
    – Diego
    Oct 16, 2014 at 13:15
  • Thanks for your comment. unfortunately I can't remember where did I learn this as this was long time ago. that's why I put "It looks like" as I can't name my sources
    – Roberto
    Oct 20, 2014 at 11:59
  • etimologias.dechile.net/?grifo en su segundo apartado lo menciona: " En España, antiguamente no se usaba la palabra grifo para referirse a la llave del agua. Antes del siglo XVIII, se usaba la palabra canilla (del latín canícula, o pequeña caña) para referirse a la boca de la cañería donde sale el agua y todavía se usa en ese sentido en Argentina. La palabra grifo substituyó la palabra canilla, por el cambio de tecnología, cuando la boca de la fuente de agua se empezó a construir en forma de esta ave."
    – user13560
    Oct 15, 2016 at 16:11
  • El "Manual pràctico de agricultura y economía rural: escrito por un labrador ..." (1822) books.google.es/… recoge: "...introduciéndolo como si fuera un grifo o canilla ...."
    – user13560
    Oct 15, 2016 at 16:15

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