Spic is an ethnic slur used in English speaking countries for a person of Hispanic descent. "Spic" can be used both as a noun and an adjective, and is even used at times as a name for the Spanish language.

Early usage

The term was apparently initially used by Vianel Espinal of King's College during the 1904 U.S. construction of the Panama Canal.

In American literature, the word has been dated to around 1916, when its first known written usage was by Ernest Peixotto in "Our Hispanic Southwest", page 102. One of the first recorded usages of the word was in "Ladies' Home Journal," on September 17 1919, when it wrote: "The Marines had been [...] silencing the elusive 'spick' bandit in Santo Domingo". Its history before that time, however, is less certain. It was also used by William Faulkner in "Knight's Gambit" (1946), page 137, when he said: "I don't intend that a fortune-hunting "Spick" shall marry my mother." It was later used by F. Scott Fitzgerald in "Tender Is the Night" (1934), page 275, although in dialog: "'He's a spic!' he said. He was frantic with jealousy."


While the exact origin of the word isn't known, some Latin Americans in the United States believe that some of the Ethnic groups referred to Hispanic Americans using the word as play on their accented pronunciation of the English word "speak" (as in "No spic English"). [http://kpearson.faculty.tcnj.edu/Dictionary/spic.htm Interactive Dictionary of Racial Language] Accessed April 12 2007] [http://www.bartleby.com/61/53/S0635300.html The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language] Accessed April 12 2007] [Santiago, Esmeralda. When I Was Puerto Rican. New York: Vintage Books, 1993.] ]

It may also derive from "spig", which was originally used to refer to Italians, in turn from "spiggoty" (sometimes spelled "spiggity", "spigotti", or "spigoty") which may derive from "spaghetti" or "no spika de Ingles". The oldest known use of "spiggoty" is in 1910 by Wilbur Lawton in "Boy Aviators in Nicaragua, or, In League with the Insurgents", page 331. Stuart Berg Flexner in "I hear America Talking" (1976), favored the explanation that it derives from "no spik Ingles" (or "no spika de Ingles").. These theories follow standard naming practices, which include attacking people according to the foods they eat (see Kraut and Frog) and for their failure to speak a language (see Barbarian and Gringo). A popular theory is that the word "spic" derives from the shortening of the word "Hispanic".

A slur derived from "spic" is "spic and span" (first used in the African-American community in the 1950s) meaning a mixed Puerto Rican and African-American couple. [Jonathon Green, "Spic and span", "The Cassell Dictionary of Slang" (1998) p. 390.] The phrase had legitimate currency at the time as the name of a cleaning product, "Spic and Span", before it was applied to mixed-heritage couples. This product is still sold under the same name. [http://www.spicnspan.com/ Spic n Span official website.] Accessed January 16 2007.]

The product took the name from a common phrase meaning extremely clean, "spick and span", which was a British idiom first recorded in 1579, and used in Samuel Pepys's diary. A spick was a spike or nail, a span was a very fresh wood chip, and thus the phrase meant clean and neat and all in place, as in being nailed down. The "span" in the idiom also is part of "brand span new", now more commonly rendered "brand spanking new", and has nothing to do with the words "Spanish" or "Hispanic". [http://takeourword.com/Issue045.html Take Our Word for It] June 21 1999, Issue 45 of etymology webzine. Accessed January 16 2007.] [http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?l=s&p=35 Online Etymology Dictionary] detailing British phrase evolving from Dutch "spiksplinter nieuw", "spike-splinter new". Accessed January 16 2007.]



Other works consulted

*Hugh Rawson, "spic(k)" "Wicked Words," (1989) p. 19.
*John A. Simpson and Edmund S.C. Weiner, edd, "spic", "The Oxford English Dictionary," 2nd ed. (1989)

ee also

*Anchor baby
* Banana
* Beaner
* Chicano
* Cholo
* Hispanic
* Panchito
* List of ethnic slurs
* Mestizo
* Nuyorican
* Pachuco
* Pink Panthers
* Sudacas(Racist term in Spain (Europe).
* Vato
* Wetback

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • spic — SPIC, spice, s.n. 1. Inflorescenţă caracteristică plantelor graminee, alcătuită din mai multe flori mici cu peduncul scurt, dispuse pe o axă centrală lungă. ♢ expr. A da în spic sau a i da spicul, a face spic = (despre plante) a se apropia de… …   Dicționar Român

  • spic — [ spik ] n. m. • XIIIe; espic XIIe; lat. spicus « épi, herbe odoriférante » en lat. médiév. ♦ Lavande dont on extrait une essence odorante, dite huile de spic (ou d aspic). ● spic nom masculin (latin spica, épi) Nom usuel com …   Encyclopédie Universelle

  • spic|y — «SPY see», adjective, spic|i|er, spic|i|est. 1. flavored with spice: »The cookies were rich and spicy. 2. like spice; sharp and fragrant: »Those apples have a spicy smel …   Useful english dictionary

  • spic — spik [spık] n AmE taboo [Date: 1900 2000; Origin: spigotty spic (1900 2000), probably from no speaka de English, a form of I do not speak English supposedly used by Spanish Americans] a very offensive word for a Spanish speaking person. Do not… …   Dictionary of contemporary English

  • spic|u|la — spic|u|la1 «SPIHK yuh luh», noun, plural lae « lee». 1. = spicule. (Cf. ↑spicule) 2. a sharp pointed crystal, especially of frost or ice. ╂[< New Latin spicula, variant of Latin spīculum (diminutive) < spīca; see etym. under spica (Cf. ↑ …   Useful english dictionary

  • Spič — Spič, Ort in Dalmatien, s. Spizza …   Meyers Großes Konversations-Lexikon

  • Spic — Spic, Spicanarde, S. Spiek …   Grammatisch-kritisches Wörterbuch der Hochdeutschen Mundart

  • şpic — s. v. lavandă, levănţică. Trimis de siveco, 13.09.2007. Sursa: Sinonime …   Dicționar Român

  • spic — derogatory for Latino person, 1913, from cliche protestation, No spick English. Earlier spiggoty (1910); the term is said to have originated in Panama during the canal construction. But it also was applied from an early date to Italians, and some …   Etymology dictionary

  • spic — ► NOUN US informal, offensive ▪ a Spanish speaking person from Central or South America or the Caribbean, especially a Mexican. ORIGIN perhaps from speak the in «no speak the English» …   English terms dictionary

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.