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Cocaine - Cocaína


Spanish word:


English word:


Etymology :

The history of this word for an addictive stimulant derived from the coca plant shows the complicated route words can take to become part of language. The word's origins can be traced back to Quechua, an indigenous language of the Andes, where the kúka plant had strong cultural and medicinal significance. The word for the plant became known as coca in Spanish during the colonial era, and it still has that name today in many languages.

A coined word:

A German pharmacist and chemist, Albert Niemann, in the mid-1800s became the first to derive the crystalline form of the drug from the coca plant. He arbitrarily added the Latin noun ending -ina to the plant's name for the drug, and the drug's name was adopted into French, the most common international language at the time, as cocaïna. The drug quickly became popular for use as a stimulant and local anesthetic, and both English and Spanish adopted the word from French with little change.


Travel note:

If you travel to South America, particularly Peru, don't be surprised to see té de coca or mate de coca on a restaurant menu. Yes, that refers to coca tea, which is freely sold in some areas and is said to be helpful for people suffering from altitude sickness. If there is any druglike effect it is minimal; drinking the tea doesn't have the same effect as chewing the coca leaf and is not addictive. Bringing mate de coca, unless decocainized, back to the United States is not recommended.

Street terms:

Spanish slang terms for cocaine, of which there are many, include crack, charlie, nieve (snow), C, piedra (rock), wash, basuco, pasta and base libre (freebase).


In some areas, the word coca also is used to refer to Coca-Cola or even carbonated soft drinks in general.
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