bar·ri·o (bärē-ō′, băr-)
n. pl. bar·ri·os
1. An urban district or quarter in a Spanish-speaking country.
2. A chiefly Spanish-speaking community or neighborhood in a US city.
[Spanish, from Arabic barrī, of an open area, from barr, open area; see brr in the Appendix of Semitic roots.]
Word History: In Spanish, the word barrio means simply "neighborhood." In the United States, however, the word barrio is most often used to describe a Spanish-speaking neighborhood within a city and is derived from the Arabic noun barr, meaning "land, open country." The Arabic adjective corresponding to this noun is barrī, meaning "of the land, of the open country" and by extension "on the outside" (of the city walls or district limits, for example). In medieval times, when Muslim rulers governed the south of Spain, both Arabic and Old Spanish were spoken in the streets of the thriving towns in the region. During this period, the Arabic word barrī, "of the land," was applied to villages and hamlets that lay in the territory surrounding a town or city. As medieval towns outgrew their original walls and overflowed into the surrounding countryside, these villages or barrios were enveloped by the expansion and became neighborhoods of the town itself.
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2016 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
The American Heritage Dictionary Blog
Check out our blog, updated regularly, for new words and revised definitions, interesting images from the 5th edition, discussions of usage, and more.
American Heritage Dictionary Products
The American Heritage Dictionary, 5th Edition
The American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms
The American Heritage Roget's Thesaurus
Curious George's Dictionary
The American Heritage Children's Dictionary
The American Heritage Dictionary of Indo-European Roots
The American Heritage Student Grammar Dictionary
The American Heritage Desk Dictionary + Thesaurus
The American Heritage Science Dictionary
The American Heritage Dictionary of Business Terms
The American Heritage Student Dictionary
The American Heritage Essential Student Thesaurus