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Always wanted a clear explanation as to why these animals had double letters at the beginning of the spelling. What’s up with that?

marked as duplicate by Mari-Lou A, Community May 5 at 14:28

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  • 1
    Have a look here. – Brian Hooper May 5 at 12:24
  • They're loanwords, just like sumo, paparazzi, hummus, fjord... – Mari-Lou A May 5 at 13:45
  • @BrianHooper thanks but that was no help at all – Joe Blow May 10 at 2:12

Both terms are from foreign languages which used the double letters:


wooly-haired South American ruminant, relative of the Old World camels, c. 1600, from Spanish llama (1535), from Quechua (Inca) llama.


also aard-vark, South African groundhog, 1833 (in German from 1824), from Afrikaans Dutch aardvark, literally "earth-pig" (it burrows), from aard "earth."


  • 2
    Presumably Quechua did not have spelling, so Spanish scholars used the "ll" from Spanish when writing it. – GEdgar May 5 at 12:40
  • L isn't a vowel in English; if L/LL is considered a vowel in Spanish/Quechua as this answer implies, that could use clarification. – goldPseudo May 5 at 13:45
  • 2
    It's not considered a vowel in Spanish. L is a regular consonant, and LL varies in pronunciation over the world. In Spain it's often pronounced as a sound that doesn't exist in English, but in Mexico and many other places it's pronounced like the semivowel Y, as in "yes". That's sort of vocalic, but not really, because it contrasts with the full, syllabic vowel I. In English the /i/ vowel of we /wi/ and the /y/ semivowel of you /yu/, while similar, are rarely confused. – John Lawler May 5 at 15:40

LLama is Peruvian in origin, transmitted via Spanish
Aardvark is a name from Afrikaans, a language derived from Dutch.
In both cases, words are allowed to start with double letters.

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