Glossary of historical and geographic names and some linguistic explanations

Historical and geographic name referred to in the Pedro Fernandes de Queirós memorials in the Library's collections.

(by Dolores Turró, translator of Quieros presentation memorials held in Mitchell & Dixson Libraries)

Accents, use of (´): Accents indicate a stressed syllable in Spanish. They have phonemic value, in other words, there are examples of words that are spelt the same, but that change their meaning depending on whether there is an accent or not. Example: duro (= hard) and duró (= he/she/it lasted). In the translated memorials, geographic and family names in modern Spanish have been kept with their graphic accents.

Adelantado: According to the Collins English Dictionary, Adelantado is a a military title given to Spanish Conquistadors allowing the bearer the right to become governor or justice of a region. The word Adelantado was explained or translated as “pioneer” in the Memorials.

America / América: Name used in Spanish to refer to the Americas. The New World where Christopher Columbus arrived in his first discovery voyage was named after Amerigo Vespucci (in Spanish, Américo Vespucio, 1454-1512). Columbus died believing he had found a new route to Asia, when he had actually arrived at a new, uncharted continent. The word “America” has been kept in the translation because that was the name effectively used when Quirós wrote his memorials.

Aniam or Anian (in Spanish Anián) Strait: In the Memorials, the spelling is as inconsistent as that of other geographic names. In any case, it still refers to the Northwestern Passage, as first mentioned in a 1562 pamphlet published by the Venetian cartographer Giacomo Gastaldi (1500-1566).

Bay of St Philip (San Felipe) and St James (Santiago) / St Philip and St James Harbour: both the Spanish and the English name were used interchangeably in the translation. The Spanish word bahía means both bay and harbour. In Quirós’s times, geographic names were translated, as well as explorers’ full names.

Cabildo: Town council and town hall in Spanish colonies.

Columbus, Christopher (1451-1506): Known as Cristoforo Colombo in his native Italian and as Cristóbal Colón in Spanish, he was a famed Italian explorer who discovered the "New World" of América or the Americas on an expedition sponsored by King Ferdinand of Spain in 1492.

Cortés, Hernán (1485-1547): Spanish Conquistador who overthrew the Aztec empire and won México for the crown of Spain.

da Gama, Vasco (1460/1469-1524): Portuguese explorer who was the first person to sail directly from Europe to India.

Ducat: Gold coin that was used for trade all over Europe from the year 1284 until the First World War. It was introduced by Venetian Doge Giovanni Dandolo.

Encomienda: It is a Spanish word that can be literally translated as entrustment, but it refers to a grant by the crown to a Conquistador, soldier, official, or others, of a specified number of Indians living in a particular area. Encomenderos were the receivers of such grants and could exact tribute from the Indians in gold, in kind, or in labour and were required to protect them and instruct them in the Christian faith. Encomiendas did not include a land grant, but in practice encomenderos gained control of the Indians’ lands. In the translated Memorials, the word encomienda is used sparingly, but its meaning is explained within a given context.

On Fernández de Quirós, Pedro (1565-1614): modern Spanish spelling of Pedro Fernandes de Queiros (in Portuguese).

Indians: In the same way as the word América, the word Indio – translated as Indian – takes up another meaning in Spanish and it is used with reference to the indigenous populations in the New World under Spanish rule.

Lima: Also referred to as “City of Kings” in the Quirós Memorials, was founded by Spanish Conquistador Francisco de Pizarro in 1535. El Callao, located west of Lima, was founded in 1537 and became the main port for Spanish commerce in the Pacific at that time.

Magellan, Ferdinand (1480-1521): Portuguese explorer known as Fernão de Magalhães in his native language and as Fernando de Magallanes in Spanish. While in the service of Spain, he led the first European voyage of discovery to circumnavigate the globe.

Maravedí: Name of various Iberian gold (and later silver) coins issued between the eleventh and fourteenth centuries, as well as the name of different Iberian accounting units between the eleventh and nineteenth centuries.

New Spain or Viceroyalty of New Spain: It was established after Hernán Cortés conquered the Aztec Empire (from 1519 to 1521). Its greatest extension included much of North America, south of Canada, present-day Mexico and Central America (excluding Panama), and most of the US west of the Mississippi River and the Floridas. New Spain also included the Spanish East Indies (the Philippine Islands, the Mariana Islands, the Caroline Islands, Taiwan and part of the Maluku Islands) and the Spanish West Indies (Cuba, Hispaniola – present-day Haiti and the Dominican Republic), Puerto Rico, Jamaica, the Cayman Islands, Trinidad and the Bay Islands).

Pizarro, Francisco de (1476-1541): Spanish explorer and conquistador who helped Vasco Núñez de Balboa (1475-1519) discover the Pacific Ocean, and after conquering Perú, founded its capital city, Lima, the “City of Kings”.

Plaza: All through Spanish America and the Spanish East Indies, the plaza mayor used to hold three closely related institutions: the cathedral, the above-mentioned Cabildo and Audiencia or law court.

Potosí: Capital of the Department of Potosí in Bolivia. It is one of the highest cities in the world and was founded in 1545 as a mining town, at the foot of Cerro del Potosí (Mount Potosí in the translated Memorials). In the sixteenth century, this area was regarded as the world’s largest industrial complex, where the extraction of silver ore relied on a series of hydraulic mills.

Real (currency): Literally meaning "royal" in Spanish (plural: reales), it was a unit of currency in Spain since after the mid-fourteenth century, but changed in value relative to other units introduced. In 1864, the real was replaced the escudo, then by the peseta in 1868, when a real became equivalent to a quarter of a peseta.

Santacruz is a portmanteau made of the words santa and cruz. The literal translation “Holy Cross” has been often used in the translation of the Quirós Memorials.

Váez (Báez) de Torres, Luis (1565-1607): the present-day Spanish name of Luís Vaez de Torres (Galician) and Luís Vaz de Torres (Portuguese), first navigator in history to have navigated the strait that separates Australia from New Guinea.


Diccionario del Castellano del Siglo XV en la Corona de Aragón,, published by Servei de Tecnologia Lingüística (STeL), Universitat de Barcelona.

On the Anian Strait:

On the definition of “encomienda”:

On the City of Potosí: