I see a little silhouetto of a man
Scaramouche, Scaramouche, will you do the Fandango?

Anyone who's over 30 years should recognize the lyrics of Queen's epic song Bohemian Rhapsody

A fandango is an intimate dance for two people that starts slowly and increases tempo. It originated in Spain, probably in the 18th century. But there is a second meaning of fandango

2. an elaborate or complicated process or activity.
"the Washington inaugural fandango"

Perhaps this explains the appearance of fandangle, which Oxford Living Dictionaries tell us is an archaic term.

A useless or purely ornamental thing:
a solo with no end of shakes and trills and fandangles
Mid 19th century

Now perhaps some of you are saying "so"? Wait, I have not finished. There is the adjective newfangled which means

Different from what one is used to; objectionably new:
‘I've no time for such newfangled nonsense’

Which you might think is a recent coinage but you would be sorely mistaken, according to Oxford Dictionaries, its origin is Middle English.

Middle English: from newfangle (now dialect) liking what is new, from the adverb new + a second element related to an Old English word meaning to take.

Relations and political alliances between Spain and England were consolidated by the time Henry VIII married his brother's widow, the Spanish princess Catherine of Aragon, in 1509. Interestingly, she was named after her British great grandmother Catherine of Lancaster (1373–1418). During this period, was it possible that the English language adopted, and anglicized Spanish terms? Today fandango in Spanish means foolishness, or confusion., but Etymonline says its origin is unknown.

mid-18c., lively Spanish dance, the word of unknown etymology [OED says "alleged to be of negro origin"], of uncertain origin.

  • Could fandango have been a corruption of the Middle English term newfangled?
  • In light of its history, could newfangled have been a Spanish loanword?
  • Could someone provide a more detailed evolution of these three related terms?
  • 1
    I think we'd need a Spanish "OED" (that is, an etymological/historical dictionary of Spanish) to gauge fandango. OED does have information on newfangled.
    – Andrew Leach
    Dec 21, 2016 at 20:34
  • 1
    According to French etymology resources, the word "fandango" appeared in 1705, 2 centuries after Henry VIII reign.
    – Graffito
    Dec 21, 2016 at 21:59
  • 1
    According to dictionary.com, the origin of "newfangled" is : 1425-75; late Middle English, equivalent to newefangel fond of or taken by what is new ( newe new + -fangel, Old English *fangol inclined to take, equivalent to fang-, stem of fōn to take (cf. fang2) + -ol adj. suffix) + -ed.
    – Graffito
    Dec 21, 2016 at 22:04
  • @AndrewLeach spanishetym.com can be useful as well as the official dictionary, the DRAE Dec 21, 2016 at 22:08
  • 1
    I too had thought newfangled was a recent word, but I heard it in some Shakespeare today, and because of this question knew that it's actually an oldfangled word!
    – Hugo
    Dec 24, 2016 at 18:12

2 Answers 2


The following extract from Grammarphobia traces the origin and earliest usages of "newfangled" and its components: "fang" and "fangled". There is really no hint at a possible Spanish origin:

Question 2):

  • This adjective is probably a lot older than you think. “Newfangled” has been around since the late 1400s, according to the Oxford English Dictionary.

  • It developed from an even earlier adjective, “newfangle,” which may have been recorded as early as 1250. Originally, both “newfangle” and “newfangled” referred to people who were eager for novelty, though later both could refer to new and novel things.

  • The OED says “newfangled” originally meant “very (esp. excessively or immoderately) fond of novelty or new things; keen to take up new fashions or ideas; easily carried away by whatever is new.” It was first recorded in about 1496 in a book of sermons by Bishop John Alcock: “Boyes of fyfty yere of age are as newe fangled as ony yonge men be.”

  • The OED says this use of “newfangled” to describe novelty-loving people is “now rare.” The dictionary’s most recent citation is from Dorothy L. Sayers’s novel Clouds of Witness (1926):

    • All these new-fangled doctors went out of their way to invent subconsciousness and kleptomania, and complexes and other fancy descriptions to explain away when people had done naughty things.”
  • In the mid- to late 1500s, the OED says, people began using “newfangled” to describe things, not people: something “newly or recently invented or existent,” as well as something “gratuitously or objectionably modern or different from what one is used to.” It’s still used in those senses today.

Where did “newfangle” and the later “newfangled” come from?

  • The source, according to Oxford, is an archaic Old English verb, “fang,” which was recorded as long ago as the year 855 and is still alive in some dialects of English.

  • Originally, to “fang” meant to grasp, seize, take, catch, attack, embrace, or simply to commence. But over the centuries it has had many associated meanings: to obtain, collect, get at, receive, earn, welcome, and others.

  • So etymologically, “newfangled” might be described as newly seized, newly begun, and so forth.

So where do the sharp teeth come in?

  • The verb “fang” gave rise to a noun, first recorded in 1016, meaning the thing caught or taken—the prey or the plunder. And it soon came to mean a capture or a catch, the OED says, and “also a tight grasp, a grip.”

  • The noun “fang” acquired another meaning in the mid-1500s: “a canine tooth; a tusk.” And the plural “fangs” was used generally to mean “the teeth of dogs, wolves, or other animals remarkable for strength of jaw.”

  • The connection is easy to imagine—from the verb that means to seize to the noun for prey and finally to the “fang” that means the predator’s tooth. “Although the broad semantic connection between ‘seizing’ and ‘sharp canine teeth’ is clear,” John Ayto writes in his Dictionary of Word Origins, “the precise mechanism behind the development is not known.”

  • At any rate, “newfangled” was in use well before “fang” meant an animal’s tooth, so there’s no direct line of descent though there is a connection.

But wait a minute. We haven’t discussed the word “fangled,” which you suspect must be in there somewhere.

  • Well, there was such an adjective. It was first recorded in 1587 and meant “characterized by crotchets or fopperies” (a “crotchet” is a whimsical notion).

  • But “fangled” came about in error, the OED says, through “a mistaken analysis of newfangled.” Writers in the 16th century erroneously assumed the existence of “fangle” as a noun and a verb, and consequently as an adjective, “fangled.”'

  • The assumption was wrong of course because “newfangled” is derived from the ancient verb “fang,” not from “fangle” and “fangled.” The OED says “fangled” is obsolete now. It’s immortal, though, thanks to Shakespeare, one of those confused writers we mentioned.

  • We know he was familiar with “newfangled” because he used it three times in his plays and sonnets. And in Cymbeline, first produced in 1611, he too assumed there was a shorter adjective: “Be not, as is our fangled world, a garment / Nobler than that it covers.” So if Shakespeare and his contemporaries could make that mistaken leap, perhaps it’s not surprising that you did too.

Also according to The Phrase Finder there is no hint at a possible Spanish origin:

  • The Oxford English Dictionary reports the etymology of newfangle (adj.) as: new + "an otherwise unattested adjective (prob. with the sense 'inclined to take')". Newfangle has been used as an adjective from the 12th century on, first with the sense "caught up with a new experience" or inclined to be so caught up. Later it came to mean keen on new things or novelty, carried away by whatever is new. From about the 15th century on it alternates with newfangled, meaning the same thing.

  • Nowadays it is often used humorously to mean "Newly or recently invented or existent, novel; gratuitously or objectionably modern or different from what one is used to" (OED).

Question 1):

The origin of Fandango is still unclear, but there is no evidence of a possible derivation from the earlier term "newfangled":

  • The earliest fandango melody is found in the anonymous "Libro de diferentes cifras de guitarra" from 1705, and the earliest description of the dance itself is found in a 1712 letter by Martín Martí, a Spanish priest. The fandango's first sighting in a theatrical work was in Francisco de Leefadeal's entremés "El novio de la aldeana" staged in Seville, ca. 1720. By the late 18th century it had become fashionable among the aristocracy and was often included in tonadillas, zarzuelas, ballets and operas, not only in Spain, but also elsewhere in Europe.

  • Widely varying claims have been made about the origin of fandango: its relation to the soleá, jabera and petenera; to the Andalusian malagueña, granadina, murciana and rondeña; to the canario and gitano; to the jota aragonesa.


Question 3):

Fandangle appears to be the only term whose origin is derived from the the Spanish Fandango:

  • a) fandangle - An ornamental object; gewgaw (1835+)

  • b) fandangle - A confused profusion; generous lively miscellany : cranes, firebirds, foxes, flamingos, a fauna fandangle hard to believe

  • [mid-1800s+; fr eastern US dialect fandango, ''a boisterous assembly,'' fr the Spanish dance]

(The Dictionary of American Slang, Fourth Edition by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD. and Robert L. Chapman, Ph.D.)

  • 2
    I'm confused by the formatting here. Are these all verbatim quotes from the linked references?
    – Mitch
    Dec 22, 2016 at 3:15
  • 2
    I think this is an excellent answer because it is well organised, I have only one criticism to make, there's a little too much bold. Bold works well if used sparingly. It's unfortunate, we cannot use different colours, or underline texts. P.S it's absolutely clear otherwise.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Dec 22, 2016 at 8:15
  • If the earlier meaning of newfangled described people interested in what's new, rather than things that are new, then maybe the etymology from "fang" should be more "seized by the new" than "newly seized"? That boyes and men alike were "newe fangled" can easily read as the novel has [fang]-ed them.
    – aschepler
    Dec 23, 2020 at 4:58

Q. Could fandango have been a corruption of the Middle English term newfangled?

The OED thinks not, saying fandango (1766) from "Spanish fandango; alleged to be of African origin".

Q. In light of its history, could newfangled have been a Spanish loanword?

It doesn't look like it, as it has a long history back to Old English with many Germanic cognates.

The OED says newfangled (c1496) is from newfangle adj. + -ed suffix 1; and newfangle adj. (?a1300) is from:

new adj. + an otherwise unattested adjective (probably with the sense ‘inclined to take’) < the base of fang v.1 + -le suffix 1.

Middle Dutch nieuvingel , nieuvingelheit has a different stem vowel, and so is difficult to relate directly to the English word. Perhaps compare also Faroese fangla to try to catch hold of (compare -le suffix 3).

They say this fang v.1 (?c1200) means "To lay hold of, grasp, hold, seize; to clasp, embrace" and etymologically:

Common Germanic: Old English fón, redupl. strong verb corresponding to Old Frisian fâ, Old Saxon fâhan, Old High German fâhan (Middle High German vâhen, modern German (poet) fahen), Old Norse fá (Danish faae, Swedish få), Gothic fāhan < Old Germanic *fanhan, preterite fefang-, past participle fangano-. About 1200 the stem fang- of the past participle appears as a present-stem (infinitive fangen), and gradually supersedes the older form; a similar change has taken place independently in the other Germanic languages: compare Dutch vangen, modern High German fangen, late Icelandic fanga (Danish fange, Swedish fånga). The weak past tense and past participle, which are peculiar to English, appear first in 14th cent.; the original strong forms seldom occur after the 15th cent.

Q. Could someone provide a more detailed evolution of these three related terms?

See above for newfangled and fandango. As for fandangle (1835), the OED doesn't seem certain, saying it's a "fantastic ornament; nonsense, tomfoolery" and etymologically "An arbitrary formation; perhaps suggested by fandango n."

  • 1
    This 1763 dictionary says "fandango" is "a dance used in the West-Indies" books.google.com/…
    – DavePhD
    Dec 21, 2016 at 21:23
  • 1
    And this 1764 book says "Fandango" is danced in the Canary Islands books.google.com/… (seems to be translated from an even older Spanish manuscript).
    – DavePhD
    Dec 21, 2016 at 21:28
  • 2
    @DavePhD Good finds! Send 'em in to the OED!
    – Hugo
    Dec 22, 2016 at 7:17
  • Is it something to do with changing hats?
    – Hugo
    Dec 25, 2016 at 21:44

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.