Msn Record Glossary

This glossary includes many of the words found in documents written in Alta California before 1848 and defines such words as they were used at that time. Note that although accent marks (diacritical marks) are used in this list, such marks were sometimes omitted in the handwritten documents.


A   B   C   D   E   F   G   H   I   J   K   L   M   N   O   P   Q   R   S   T   U   V   W   X   Y   Z


The following rules/explanations should be kept in mind.

--  Spanish words ending with   a   are feminine, with   o   are masculine.
--  The initial   h   may be omitted.
--  The following letter pairs are interchangeable:     b  =  v       i  =  y       x  =  j       s  =  z       f  =  ph       ze  =  ce
--  The letter   ñ   is a separate letter of the alphabet which follows   n  .
--  At one time   ch   and   ll   were also separate letters of the alphabet, but we are using the modern Spanish alphabet for this list.

A

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abajo/a = under, below, lower
abilitado - see habilitado
abordo = aboard
abuelo/a = grandparent
abuelos maternos = mother's parents
abuelos paternos = father's parents
adoptivo/a  = adoptive, adopted
afinidad = relationship, usually a relationship by marriage or an illicit sexual relationship which required a dispensation to be married
agregado = gathered together, included
ahorcado (orcado)= hanged
ajusticiado = executed
alajas = valuables
a la mañanita = at day break
al anochecer = at nightfall
alamito = small cottonwood álamo = cottonwood
albañil = mason, usually a stonemason
alcalde = official of a community; head of the local council, having both executive and judicial, as well as some legislative powers. Appointed or elected for one year.
alférez = lowest rank of army officer, corresponding to ensign in the U.S. Navy, or second lieutenant in the U.S. Army. Not to be confused with the Spanish term "teniente", which was a much higher rank
alférez de defensores = public defender, defense attorney
aliso = alder tree, the native alder is the white alder
alto/a = high, tall; upper
Alta California = "Upper" California, roughly what is now the current states of California, Nevada, Utah, and Arizona north of the Gila river.
amansebados (amancebados) = living in concubinage; unmarried
ambos = both
anclado = anchored
antes = before
Antigua California = Baja California
Antigua España = Spain (in Europe)
año = year
armada = navy
arreglo = government regulation
arribo/a = above, higher
arriero = muleteer
articulo de la muerte = at the point of death
asesor = a legally trained person who served as a consultant to a lay judge, governor, or a legislative body. (California had very few of these)
asistencia = a chapel in an outlying area where services were held by mission priests at irregular intervals
aspirante = candidate for military or public office
avecinado = residing
averiguación = investigation
ayudante = assistant, aide
ayuntamiento = governing body, usually the city council of a pueblo

B

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baile = dance, ball
Baja California = "Lower" California, the peninsula comprising the current Mexican states of Baja California and Baja California Sur. In this time period, the religious, military, and civil center was Loreto.
balazo = gunshot
bandido = bandit, outlaw
bastante = sufficient
bautismo = baptism
bautizar = to baptize
bautize = I baptized
boca = mouth. In placenames, the mouth of a stream or river.
bolsa = pocket, neck of land between water or swamp
borregas = lambs
brea = tar, used as a roofing material
buque = ship

C

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c.c. (casado con) = married to
cemo. (cementerio) = cemetery
comande. (comandante) = commandant
comde. (comandante) = commandant
compa. (compañía) = company
corl. (coronel) = colonel

caballería = cavalry
caballero = cavalryman, gentleman
cabo = corporal (military)
cadete = cadet (military)
cajón = box canyon, place boxed in by hills
calesa = two or four wheeled carriage
calofate del buque = ship's caulker
Californiano = a resident of either Alta or Baja California
Californias = term referring to both Alta and Baja California. In earlier documents, Nueva and Antigua California.
Californio = a resident of either Alta or Baja California. Neophytes from Baja were referred to as Californios.
Cámara de Diputados = Mexican House of Representatives, in Mexico City
Campo Santo = holy ground, a cemetery consecrated by the Catholic Church
canales (Canales) = canals, the name of a presidio in Durango; channels, the Santa Barbara area (Channel Islands). Sometimes the Santa Barbara presidio was called Presidio de Canales.
cantero = stonecutter
cañada = glen or dale
capellán = chaplain
capitán = captain, a high military rank, approximately equal to colonel in the U.S. Army. Also used to refer to the Indian chief of a ranchería.
carnal = closely related by blood
carta = letter, chart, document
casado con (c.c.) = married to
casta = a term referring to non "Españoles"
Catalonian Volunteers = see Voluntarios de Cataluña
Cataluña, Cathaluña = Catalonia Spain
cementerio (cemo., zemo.) = cemetery
cepo (zepo) = stocks
cerca = near
cerrito = small hill  chanter = (an English word) one who chants. In this period, one who chanted Gregorian chants, which was a prominent part of Catholic masses; also one who led the padre into the church at the beginning of mass.
chico/a = small
chiquito/a = very small
ciego = blind
ciénega = marsh, swamp
cinco = five
cirujano = surgeon
cocina = kitchen
cocinero = cook
comandante (comande.,  comde.) = commandant
comisionado = those empowered by the government to perform some official function. Comisionado de Policia = police inspector. Usually the head of a civil body charged with enforcing the laws.
como = about, approximately
compañía (compa.) = company
complir con = comply with
conjuges = married couple
conquistadores = conquerors; the very early Spanish soldiers in New Spain. For services  to church and crown, they and their descendents were given special privileges. consanguinidad = relationship by blood
consorte = husband/wife, spouse
conste lo firme = that it be so, I signed it
contramaestre = boatswain
contrayento = betrothed
convinado = belonging
coronel (corl.) = colonel
costura = seamstress
coyote = a person of mixed race: Español, Indian, and Negro
criado = manservant
cual = which
cuatro = four
cundado/a = sister/brother in law

D

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d. (día) = day
dfto/a. (difunto/a) = deceased person
dho/a. (dicho/a) = aforesaid
Dn. (Don) = mister, sir
Dna. (Doña) = lady

de la mañana = in the morning
de la tarde = in the afternoon
desfiliado/a = neophyte removed from the rolls of a mission
desgraciado = unfortunate
día (d.) = day
día antecedente = the day before
día anterior = the day before
diablo = devil
días tras días = day after day
dicho/a (dho/a.) = aforesaid
Diegueños = early Spanish name for San Diego Indian tribes, now called Kumya'ay
diez = ten
difunto/a (dfto/a.) = deceased person
diligencias matrimonial - see informaciones
diputación = council, usually elected
diseño = map, sketch attached to land claims
di sepultura eclesiática = gave ecclesiastical burial
doce = twelve
domiciliados = residing
Domingo de Ramos = Palm Sunday (used as a name)
Don (Dn.) = mister, sir
doncella = young lady, unmarried
Doña (Dna.) = lady
duda = doubt

E

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ECN (en casu necessitatis) = in case of necessity
EPM (en peligro de muerte, en periculo mortis) = in peril of death

ebrio = drunk, inebriated
edad = age
ejército = army
encargado de justicia = a judge similar to juez de paz
en casu necessitatis (ECN) = in case of necessity
encinitos = small live oaks
encinos = live oaks, evergreen as opposed to "robles" which were deciduous oaks
enfermero = nurse
en la mar = at sea
en peligro de muerte (EPM) = in peril of death
en periculo mortis (EPM) = in peril of death
entonce = formerly, then
entrada = entrance, entry
enyervado = poisoned
errero see herrero
escándalo = scandal
escolta = the squad of soldiers assigned to protect a mission or a pueblo (normally 5 soldiers and one corporal)
escuadra = squadron (military)
español = a person of primarily Spanish ancestry. In practice in California, sometimes applied to anyone who had fully assimilated into the Hispanic culture including Indian, mestizo, mulatto and coyote.
esperanza = hope
espiritual = related spiritually through the godparent relationship
esposo/a = spouse
estero = tidal creek, salt marsh
expósito/a = foundling, abandoned child

F

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falleció = died
feligrés = parishioner
fiscal = prosecuting attorney, specially appointed to handle a particular case on behalf of the public interest
fondo piadoso = the Pious Fund, a benevolent fund of the Catholic Church to promulgate the faith and care for the needy
fragata = frigate

G

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gobr. (gobernador)  = governor
govr. (gobernador) = governor

gemelo/a = twin
gente de razón = "people of reason", non-Indian; a member of the established Christian community. This sometimes included second generation Indians, as well as some neophytes who had assimilated into the community
gentile = in this period, applied to Indians who had not been baptized
gobernador (gobr., govr.)  = governor
golpe = a blow
Guatmotal = placename, probably near Capistrano

H

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h.l. (hijo/a legitimo/a) = legitimate child

habilitado = paymaster, quartermaster
hacienda = large home
hechar el agua = sprinkle water (baptize)
hermano/a = sister/brother
herrero = blacksmith
hijo/a = son, daughter
hijo/a espurio = illegitimate children of parents who could not marry, where one or both parents were currently married to someone else. The term appears infrequently, when the padre was annoyed with one or both of the parents.
hijo/a legitimo/a (h.l.) = legitimate child
hijo/a natural = properly, illegitimate son or daughter of parents who could marry. Actually used generally for illegitimate children.
hoy (oi) = today
huérfano/a = orphan
huerta = garden, orchard
huesos = bones

I

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indio/a = Indian
informaciones = documents establishing that a couple were eligible to marry under the rules set up by the Council of Trent. They were required for all marriages.
ingle = groin
inominado/a = unnamed
in periculo mortis = in peril of death
inválido = retired soldier
item = ditto

J

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jacalón = hut made of branches
jarazo = wound with a dart
juez de campo = acted as judge and jury at a rodeo to decide the ownership of disputed animals. His decision was final.
juez de paz = justice of the peace, who handled local disputes, primarily civil
junta = a group joined together to pursue a cause. Sometimes applied to governing councils.

K

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L

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leguas = leagues (about 3.5 miles)
legitimate = make legitimate by subsequent marriage previous hijos naturales. Theoretically hijos espurios could not be legitimatized, however, it is clear that this occurred.
Libro de Bautizados = Book of Baptisms, where all baptisms were recorded, includes the full names of both parents, sometimes with all grandparents, occupation of the father, and always the padrinos.
Libro de Confirmaciones = Book of Confirmations, where all confirmations were recorded, included the name of the confirmed, parents of children, madrino or padrino, and sometimes the age. (Boys had padrinos, girls madrinas, which is helpful to determine the sex of the child.)
Libro de Difuntos = Book of Deaths, where all deaths were recorded, usually the parents were named, or spouse for adults, and sometimes the baptismal number for Indian deaths.
Libro de Matrimonios = Book of Marriages, where all marriages were recorded, included the names of bride and groom, whether they were single, widow or widower, usually the names of their parents, dispensations if any, and the names of witnesses.
line = one twelfth of an inch
llamada = named
lugar = place

M

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M-R (Monte-Rey) = Monterey
Misn. = Mission

madre = mother
madrina = godmother
madrugada = dawn
maestre = mate of a merchant ship
maestro = master, highly skilled artisan
mala vida = "bad life", a euphemism for prostitute; also applied to women of notoriously bad moral character
mallorquín = of or from Majorca
mañana = tomorrow, later, never; morning
marido/a = spouse
marinero = mariner, sailor
mayordomo = steward, overseer
media- = half- (as media hermana = half-sister)
media noche = midnight
medio día = noon
mes = month
mestizo = of mixed Spanish-Indian blood
mismo = same
modo = manner
monte = mountain, hill; back country
Monte-Rey (M-R) = Monterey
morador = resident
morba = disease
mozo = young man, man-servant, bachelor
mucho/a = much, many
muchacho/a = girl/boy
muger = wife, woman
mulato/a = person of mixed Black and European ancestry

N

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n. = no name
n.n. (notario nombrado) = notary
N.S. (Nuestra Señora) = Our Lady
natl. (natural) = native of
no. (nuevo) = new

nacer = to be born
nacido/a = born
natural (natl.) = native of
neofito/a = local Indian, baptized, but not fully assimilated into the Hispanic society, a neophyte
nieto/a = grandchild
nino/a = girl/boy
notario nombrado (n.n.) = notary
noche = night
noche antes = the night before
novio/a = fiancée, fiancé, sweetheart
nuevo/a (no.) = new
Nueva California = Alta California
nueve = nine
Nuestra Señora (N.S.) = Our Lady
nutria = otter

O

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ocho = eight
oi - see hoy
once = eleven
orcado - see ahorcado
orejano = unbranded calf or colt of uncertain parentage
originario = originally a resident of
orilla = edge, shore

P

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p. (padre) = father; priest
p.n.c. (padre no conocido) = father unknown
pdo = presidio
pps. (padres) = parentsbr> privadmte. (privadmente)  = privately
prova. (provincia) = province

padrasto = step-father
padre (p.) = father; priest
padre no conocido (p.n.c.) = father unknown
padres (pps.) = parents
padrino = godfather
padrinos = godparents, with the obligation to ensure the proper spiritual upbringing of a child and also to provide support and care in case of death or disability of the parents. Also, the sponsor at confirmation.
padrón = census, also the ongoing record of all Indian neophytes and families belonging to a mission
palo = tree
playa = beach
paquebot = packet (ship)
párroco (parroquia) = parish
parto = childbirth
párvulo/a = young child
perteneciente = pertaining, belonging
pila = font (baptismal)
piquete = picket, a small body of troops
plantar = establish, settle
plaza = place, position
pluma = quill, writer, scribe
poblador = settler. Usually applied to the first settlers of a pueblo.
poco = little, few
poniendome = placing on me
por la tarde = in the afternoon
por necesidad = of necessity
prefect = local official
pregunta = question
presbitero = priest
presidario = convict, prisoner
presidio = garrisoned fort. There were 5 in the Californias: Loreto, San Diego, Monterey, San Francisco, and Santa Barbara. A fully manned garrison was 55,  including officers, although it was frequently less, from which the escoltas were drawn for each mission and pueblo.
preso = prisoner
primo/a = cousin
primer (o) = first, chief, leading
privadmente (privadmte.)  = privately
propio = proper, one's own
provincia (prova.) = province
pueblo = specifically, chartered town, i.e., San Jose, Los Angeles, and Branciforte. After secularization, there were others
puente = bridge
puerto = seaport
punta = point of land

Q

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quince = fifteen

R

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r.n. (recién nacido) = recently born
rancha. (ranchería) = Indian village
rl. (real) = royal
rn (recién nacido) = recently born

rana = frog
ranchería (rancha.) = Indian village
rancho = large land holding with cattle
real (rl.) = royal
reales = Spanish coins, 1/8 of a peso, about 12.5 cents, a "bit"
recién nacido (r.n./rn) = recently born
refugio (Refugio) = refuge. (Also, a given name.)
regidor = councilman (lower than alcalde)
reino = kingdom
repentimente = suddenly
respuesta = reply, answer
retirado = retired
rey (rei) = king
rico = rich
rincón = nook, small piece of land
rodeo = round up of stock

S

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s. (soldado) = soldier
s.c. (soldado de cuera) = leather jacket soldier
s.v. (soldado voluntario = volunteer soldier, Catalonian volunteer
sargto. (sargento) = sergeant (military)
sirvte. (sirviente) = servant, employee
Sn., S. = San (as in San Carlos)

sacó de pila = to stand sponsor, to be godparent
sangrador = bloodletter. 
sanja (Zanja Santiago!) = war-cry of the Spanish, used also as the starting signal for a horse race
santo = holy
sarampión = measles
sargento (sargto.) = sergeant (military)
secularización = secularization; the conversion of all Mission properties to civilian use, begun in the 1830s
seguridad = security, certainty
sentó plaza = enlisted
sien = temple, head
seis = six
semana = week
serbiente = servant. Frequently also applied to artisan employees
siete = seven
síndico = town attorney concerned with pueblo ordinances, permits for dances, fairs, etc. However, it has a broader meaning of trustee, receiver, overseeing officials of some sort or another.
sirviente (sirvte.) = servant, employee
sitio = small farm
sobre = about .
sobrino/a = niece/nephew
soldado (s.) = soldier
soldado de cuera (s.c.) = leather jacket soldier. The common soldier of the Southwest, usually mounted. The jacket was a knee length coat of seven layers of deer hide, effective against arrows, but not bullets.
soldado distinguido = soldier given extra privileges, usually due to belonging to a ranking family, i.e. he did not perform K.P. or latrine duty
soldado voluntero (s.v.) = volunteer soldier, Catalonian volunteer
soltero/a = single person, never married
sordo = deaf
sor (sur) = south
supercargo = (an English word) a ship's officer in charge of cargo. Usually responsible for sales and purchase of hides and tallow.

T

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t. (téstigo) = witness
tene. (teniente) = lieutenant (military)
thene. (teniente) = lieutenant (military)
tt. (téstigos) = witnesses

también = also
teja = roof tile. 
teniente (tene., thene.) = lieutenant (military)
téstigo (t.) = witness
téstigos (tt.) = witnesses
téstigos de asista = witnesses to marriage ceremony
téstigos prior = those who testified to the marriageability of the couple
tiempo = time
tonelero = cooper
trajo (traxo) = brought
trece = thirteen
tres = three
tule = tule, reed, rush
tutor = teacher, guardian of a minor

U

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uno = one

V

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v. (voluntario) = volunteer (military), usually used for the Catalonian volunteers
vol. (voluntario) = volunteer (military), usually used for the Catalonian volunteers

vara = measure of length about a yard
voluntario (v., vol.) = volunteer (military) usually used for the Catalonian volunteers
valle = valley
vecindad = vicinity, inhabitants of a place
vecino (s) = resident (s), neighbor (s)
velación = literally, the blessing of a marriage. Although couples could be married at any time, the velación could not be performed during certain periods such as Lent and Advent, so that this final sacrament of marriage could occur considerably after the marriage. Normally both ceremonies were performed together.
víbora = rattlesnake
viejo/a = old person
vigilante = member of a vigilance committee, an unauthorized committee organized for the maintenance of order and summary punishment of crime in the absence of regular or efficient courts.
visitador general = ecclesiastical inspector of missions and parishes
vino = came
viruelas = smallpox
viudo/a = widow/widower
vocal = member of a committee or governing body
voluntario (v., vol.) = volunteer (military), usually used for the Catalonian volunteers
Voluntarios de Cataluña = Catalonian Volunteers, a group of about 100 soldiers recruited in Catalonia Spain in the late 1700s for service on the frontier of New Spain. As time passed, recruits came from Mexico, but their ancestry were supposed to be from Catalonia.

W

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X

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Y

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yerna/o = daughter/son-in-law

ygla. (yglesia) = church

yglesia (ygla.) = church

Z

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zemo. (zementerio) = cemetery

zaguán = entrance
zanja = ditch
Zanja Santiago! - see sanja
zementerio (zemo.) = cemetery
zepo (cepo) = stocks