Different Sets of Words for Olives and Olive Trees Across Andalucía

The other day I was in one of my 3rd grade science classes and we were talking about reproduction in plants and animals. The teacher I help as a language assistant used olive trees as an example of asexual reproduction in plants, and as an aside, told me that there are two different words for the tree and the fruit in different parts of Andalucía, the southern region in Spain.

He told me that here in Jaén province and the east (the green highlighted region below) they use one set of words, but closer to Córdoba and Sevilla in the west of Andalucía (the gray part to the left of the green shape), they use another. I thought that was really interesting so I decided to do some brief research and summarize the findings here. Enjoy!

Region of East Andalucía, Spain
Source: Wikipedia

Olive trees

Olive tree in a field
Olive tree field by Hervé Blondeau on Flickr
East Andalucía
Here in the eastern half of Andalucía—where the province of Jaén alone accounts for approximately a tenth of global olive oil production—the word la oliva means “olive tree.” This word comes from the Latin OLĪVA, “olive.”

West Andalucía
To the western half, el olivo is used for the same plant. It comes from the Latin OLĪVUM, “oil.”


Unripe olives
East Andalucía
Perhaps owing to a longer history under Arabic-speaking Muslims from North Africa, folks in Jaén and Granada use la aceituna for the fruit of the olive tree, the olive. This word comes from Hispanic Arabic azzaytúna, from Classical Arabic al-zaytūnah.

West Andalucía
Here they retain the Latin-based word, la oliva, for the olive fruit.

If you’ve lived in western Andalucía, does this post accurately reflect the words you use for olive trees and olives? For those of you outside the region, what words do Spanish-speakers in Madrid, Barcelona, or hey, even Mexico use for these things? Discuss it below!

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