The word ‘resiliencia’ came to Spanish via English

Until today I didn’t know that the word ‘resiliencia’ was used in Spanish. I have always used resilience or resilient as terms fully associated with the English language. Then today I received in my mailbox an email from ‘La Palabra del Día’ (, in which as usual for this excellent service, it provides a very thorough explanation about the etymology of this word.

According to La Palabra del Día, the word resiliencia is not listed in Spanish dictionaries but it says that it’s a term widely used in physics and the social sciences. All of these aspects are new to me!

A big surprise was to find out – although I suspected it – that the word resiliencia and its English cousins (i.e. cognates) like resilience or resilient all originated from Latin. However, the biggest surprise was to know that the word in reference here came to Spanish via the English language.

It was very interesting to know that resiliencia didn’t arrive into Spanish from Latin; that it wasn’t a vernacular Spanish term as I’d expected it to be, if I followed the logic that Spanish is a language almost completely derived from Latin. The analysis of this word explains that resiliencia in its English equivalents was first used in this tongue before being transferred to Spanish, a language derived from the source that gave origin to this term!

The people behind La Palabra del Día at must be congratulated for maintaining this very excellent service for the study of Spanish, which makes the understanding of the deeper meanings of words a fascinating and intellectually challenging task.

It’s also important to note here, that this word in spite of its etymological roots – i.e. that of being so closely associated with the intrinsic nature of Spanish – and of its practical usage in contributing to the enrichment of this language, has not yet been incorporated into the dictionaries as pointed out by La Palabra del Día.

The word resiliencia is not an isolated case, there are thousands and thousands of words, especially of Americanisms (words vernacular to Hispanic America) which for very convoluted reasoning from language academies, find their particular paths of inclusion into Spanish language dictionaries, to be a very difficult and bureaucratic process. But enough of this, I’ll add more to this subject in a future post.

Below I reproduce the text found in La Palabra del Día.


Esta palabra no se encuentra en los diccionarios castellanos, aunque es muy usada en la Física y en las ciencias sociales. El vocablo nos llegó desde el inglés resilience para expresar la capacidad de un material de recuperar su forma original después de haber sido sometido a altas presiones; en esa acepción, equivale a la cantidad energía que un material es capaz de almacenar cuando la presión lo obliga a reducir su volumen, y se expresa en julios por metro cúbico.

El psiquiatra infantil Michael Rutter (1970) y el neurólogo, psiquiatra y etólogo francés contemporáneo Boris Cyrulnik, inspirados en el concepto físico, introdujeron el término a la Psicología para denominar la capacidad de las personas de superar tragedias o acontecimientos fuertemente traumáticos.

Cyrulnik, cuyos padres judíos fueron asesinados por los nazis, estudió la capacidad de recuperación de los sobrevivientes de los campos de concentración y de niños criados en orfanatos. Resiliencia es una de esas palabras de origen latín que, curiosamente, nos han llegado a través del inglés, en este caso, del vocablo resilience, que a su vez se derivó del latín resilio, -ire, (saltar hacia atrás, volver de un salto) compuesta a su vez por el prefijo re- y el verbo salire (saltar).

About L. A. Pinel

I'm the founder and Director of Tres Culturas Spanish Language Studio, a specialist Spanish language school in Melbourne, Australia. As a teacher of Spanish I view the study of issues about the nature of the Spanish language in particular and of applied linguistics in general with great passion. I’m also an avid language learner, my other languages are Italian, Portuguese and French; at the moment I'm studying Latin and Mandarin Chinese.

Posted on December 15, 2007, in etymology, Foreign Language Learning, Language, Language learning, Second Language Learning, Spanish, Spanish Language Learning. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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