The Definition of "Llano Estacado" in the U.S. and Around the World

'Unter Geiern - Der Geist des Llano Estacado' Photo Rehearsal
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Llano Estacado literally translated from Spanish-to-English means "Staked Plain," and it is a region at the southern end of the American Great Plains in the southwestern United States.

The Geographical Region

The Llano Estacado region encompasses parts of eastern New Mexico and northwestern Texas. It is marked by large mesas at elevations of 3,000 to 5,000 feet. One of its most popular landmarks is the Caprock Escarpment in Texas.

Possible Historical Reference

The settling of the western United States in the 1800s was known for its land runs with settlers on foot and horseback racing to claim lands by driving a stake into the ground. Llano Estacado may be a historical nod to the stakes or posts driven into the ground in this region that were used as landmarks delineating property.

Some suggest the plain was called Llano Estacado because it is surrounded by cliffs resembling palisades or stockades, which explains the definitions of "palisaded plain" or "stockaded plain." The Caprock Escarpment is a 200-mile long cliff or palisade that delineates the border of the Llano Estacado region from the high plains. 

Spanish Translation 

Llano Estacado can be translated to mean "palisaded plain," "stockaded plain," or "staked plain." Llano is a direct translation for the word "plain or prairie." Estacado is the past participle of estacar. Estacar is the verb meaning "to tie to a post."

Of the three possible translations, the three have very similar meanings.

Many words in English are derived from Spanish words. The English word "stockade" comes from the Spanish word estaca, so originally "stockade" and "staked" meant basically the same thing. The same can be said for "palisade," it comes from the French word palissade, meaning "stake." The word palisade is related to the Spanish word palo, meaning "stick," which may be a close relation to the word "stake."

Non-American Spanish Speakers

What does a native Spanish speaker not from the United States assume as the meaning for the term Llano Estacado?

A native Spanish speaker would approach the term in the same way an English speaker would understand "staked plain." As in English, it is not a common term, but it does evoke a certain meaning when you give the term some thought. The understanding of the term would likely be different for someone living in suburban Madrid than it would be for someone living on the plains of Argentina.

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Erichsen, Gerald. "The Definition of "Llano Estacado" in the U.S. and Around the World." ThoughtCo, Sep. 16, 2020, Erichsen, Gerald. (2020, September 16). The Definition of "Llano Estacado" in the U.S. and Around the World. Retrieved from Erichsen, Gerald. "The Definition of "Llano Estacado" in the U.S. and Around the World." ThoughtCo. (accessed June 1, 2023).