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bar·ri·o (bärē-ō, băr-)
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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.
 

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