Open main menu
Umayyad dinar struck with bilingual Latin-Arabic inscription, minted in al-Andalus in AH 98 = AD 716/7.

The toponym al-Andalus (الأندلس) is first attested in inscriptions on coins minted by the Umayyad rulers of Iberia, from ca. 715.[1]

The etymology of the name has traditionally been derived from the name of the Vandals (who settled in Hispania in the 5th century). A number of proposals since the 1980s have contested this: Vallvé (1986) proposed derivation of the name of the Atlantic.[2] Halm (1989) derives the name from a reconstructed Gothic term *landahlauts.[3] Bossong (2002) suggests derivation from a pre-Roman substrate.[4]

The Spanish form Andalucía was introduced in the 13th century.[5] The name was adopted to refer those territories still under the Moorish rule until then, and generally south of Castilla Nueva and Valencia, and corresponding with the former Roman province hitherto called Baetica in Latin sources. This was a Castilianization of Al-Andalusiya, the adjectival form of the Arabic word al-Andalus.


Vandal theoryEdit

Tradition derives the name Andalusia or Vandalusia from the name of the Vandals, the Germanic tribe which colonized parts of Iberia from 409 to 429.

That derivation goes back to the 13th-century De rebus Hispaniae but has been viewed critically from the 18th century.[6]Reinhart Dozy (1860) recognized its shortcomings but still accepted it[7] and suggested that geographically, it originally referred only to the harbour (Iulia Traducta, probably present-day Algeciras) from which the Vandals departed Iberia in 429 for North Africa, where they would establish the Vandal Kingdom (435-534).

The first edition of the Encyclopaedia of Islam in 1913 adopted Dozy's view, and it became the mainstream account in 20th-century scholarship.[8]

Atlantic theoryEdit

Another proposal is that Andalus is an Arabic-language version of the name of the Atlantic. This idea has recently been defended by Vallvé (1986).[2]

Vallvé writes:

Arabic texts offering the first mentions of the island of Al-Andalus and the sea of Al-Andalus become extraordinarily clear if we substitute this expressions with "Atlantis" or "Atlantic". The same can be said with reference to Hercules and the Amazons whose island, according to Arabic commentaries of these Greek and Latin legends, was located in jauf Al-Andalus—that is, to the north or interior of the Atlantic Ocean.

The Island of al-Andalus is mentioned in an anonymous Arabic chronicle of the conquest of Iberia composed two to three centuries after the fact.[9][10] It is identified as the location of the landfall of the advance guard of the Moorish conquest of Iberia. The chronicle also says that "Island of al-Andalus" was subsequently renamed "Island of Tarifa". The preliminary conquest force of a few hundred, led by the Berber chief, Tarif abu Zura, seized the first bit of land they encountered after crossing the Strait of Gibraltar in 710. The main conquest force led by Tariq ibn Ziyad followed them a year later. The landfall, now known in Spain as either Punta Marroquí or Punta de Tarifa, is in fact the southern tip of an islet, presently known as Isla de Tarifa or Isla de las Palomas, just offshore of the Iberian mainland.

Gothic theoryEdit

Halm (1989) proposed a Gothic etymology. Drawing attention to the term Gothica sors, a Latin exonym of the Visigothic Kingdom, which translates to "Gothic lot", Halm reconstructs a Gothic term that would correspond to the Latin term, meaning "lot lands", as *landahlauts. The hypothetical term would have given rise both to the Latin loan translation Gothica sors and to the Arabic al-Andalus, by phonetic imitation.[3]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Classical Numismatic Group, Sale: Triton IX, Lot: 1804. Closing Date: Monday, 9 January 2006 (sold for USD 15000). Jeff Starck, "Rare Spanish Muslim coins among highlights of Morton & Eden auction", Coin World, 25 March 2014: "One of two known examples of an Umayyad dinar with the mint name al-Andalus (the Arabic name for Spain) and dated A.H. 106 (A.D. 724) highlights Morton & Eden’s April 10 auction in London."
  2. ^ a b Joaquín Vallvé (1986). La división territorial de la España musulmana. Instituto de Filología. pp. 55–59. ISBN 978-84-00-06295-8.
  3. ^ a b Halm, Heinz (1989). "Al-Andalus und Gothica Sors". Der Islam. 66 (2): 252–263. doi:10.1515/islm.1989.66.2.252.
  4. ^ Bossong, Georg (2002). Restle, David; Zaefferer, Dietmar (eds.). "Der Name al-Andalus: neue Überlegungen zu einem alten Problem" [The Name al-Andalus: Revisiting an Old Problem] (PDF). Trends in Linguistics. Studies and Monographs. Sounds and systems: studies in structure and change. (in German). Berlin: De Gruyter Mouton. 141: 149. ISSN 1861-4302. Archived from the original (PDF) on June 27, 2008. Retrieved 8 September 2013. Only a few years after the Islamic conquest of Spain, Al-Andalus appears in coin inscriptions as the Arabic equivalent of Hispania. The traditionally held view that the etymology of this name has to do with the Vandals is shown to have no serlous foundation. The phonetic, morphosyntactic, and also historical problems connected with this etymology are too numerous. Moreover, the existence of this name in various parts of central and northern Spain proves that Al-Andalus cannot be derived from this Germanic tribe. It was the original name of the Punta Marroquí cape near Tarifa; very soon, it became generalized to designate the whole Peninsula. Undoubtedly, the name is of Pre-Indo-European origin. The parts of this compound (anda and luz) are frequent in the indigenous toponymy of the Iberian Peninsula. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)
  5. ^ Manuel González Jiménez (1 January 1998). ANDALUCIA A DEBATE. Universidad de Sevilla. pp. 16–17. ISBN 978-84-472-0485-4.
  6. ^ Bibliotheca Hispana Vetus vol. 2 (1788), p. 387.
  7. ^ Reinhart Anne Pieter Dozy (1881). Recherches sur l'histoire et la littérature de l'Espagne pendant le Moyen Age. I. pp. 301–3.
  8. ^ Bossong 2002, p. 150. R. P. Dozy, Recherches sur l'histoire et la littérature des Arabes d'Espagne pendant le Moyen-Age (1881), p. 303.
  9. ^ Majmū'ah Akhbār; Emilio Lafuente y Alcántara (1867). Ajbar MachmuØa: Coleccion de tradiciones ; Crónica anónima del siglo xi, dada á luz por primera vez. M. Rivadeneyra. p. 255.
  10. ^ Bossong: The document in question is the Akhbar Majmu'a fi fath Al-Andalus, "Collection of traditions on the conquest of al-Andalus". It was published in Spanish translation in 1867 by Emilio Lafuente y Alcántara. Its subtitle indicates it dates from the 11th century, but several historians today say the 10th century instead, during the rule of caliph 'Abd al-Rahman III.