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What's the difference between latón and azófar? Both are given by Google as the Spanish for brass. Is there any regional variation in usage? What's the preferred word in daily speech if at all they are exactly the same thing? What would be the word of preference in Mexico?

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    Is the first time I hear the word azófar. In Spain latón is used as far as I know. – itziki Oct 28 '14 at 8:26
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    But note that when brass is used not for the specific metal, but for a yellowish shiny thing, even if it is made of plastic, then in Spanish you ususally say bronce instead of latón, at least in Spain (it may depend on the country). – rodrigo Oct 28 '14 at 10:31
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In Spain, I've never heard azófar, but DRAE says both have the same meaning, just different origins, both from Arabic.

On the Internet it seems latón is by far the most used: 1180k hits against 29k for azófar.

From DRAE:

latón.
(Del ár. lāṭūn, y este del turco altɩn, oro).
1. m. Aleación de cobre y cinc, de color amarillo pálido y susceptible de gran brillo y pulimento.

azófar.
(Del ár. hisp. aṣṣúfr, y este del ár. clás. ṣufr).
1. m. latón.

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    This means that RAE recommends latón rather than azófar. Which is, indeed, a word I'd never heard before. I wouldn't use azófar if I wanted to be understood. – Gorpik Oct 28 '14 at 11:08
  • latón is the most popular according to Google ngrams as well. – Flimzy Oct 29 '14 at 1:09
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Latón is an alloy of copper and zinc. As in any alloy the proportion of the components can vary, giving many different metals with slightly different properties. These alloys would all be known as latón, even if they are different metals used for different things.

A quick search in wikipedia explains that there are 3 main kinds of latón, according to the percentage of zinc used (First, second and third order), but potentially there are many others. For example, similor designates an alloy with proportion 80/20 copper/Zinc, metal del príncipe Alberto an allowy in porportion 84/16 and crisocola an alloy that has 82 parts of copper, 6 of zinc and 6 of tin (according to wikipedia, but those numbers don't add well...). Those names would be then different forms to refer specific variations of latón.

The latón has many different uses, from jewelry to soldering to make wires and coins, etc. Mostly depending on the proportion of zinc they have. The word latón can sometimes be used to refer to something as cheap metal.

Azófar is the same thing, an alloy of copper and zinc. The word comes from arabic, and means copper.

So both words mean the same and refer to the same metal. The just have different etymologies.

It is the same case as with the words azogue and mercurio (think as using the words quicksilver and mercury to refer to them. Two words, same element), one comes from the vocabulary of the muslim scientists that once lived in Spain.

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It appears to me, from a Google image search, that azófar refers to something made with brass and not entirely of brass, while latón seems to be just a pure untainted pile of raw brass, ready to be melted without having to remove other solids.

http://www.google.com/search?q=lat%C3%B3n&tbm=isch

http://www.google.com/search?q=az%C3%B3far&tbm=isch

http://etimologias.dechile.net/?azo.far

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