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In Spain, it is used as a pejorative for French people. It comes from Occitan gavach ("rude highlander", "northerner who talks the local language wrongly"). By semantic sliding, it was then applied to French people in Spain and to United States Anglo-Saxon citizens in Mexico or the United States by Mexican-Americans. The etymological origin would be a pre-Roman word for "crop" and "goitre", a condition frequent in the northern Occitan mountains. The Diccionario de Autoridades argues it comes from gaves ("torrents") in the Pyrenees, but Corominas rejects this proposal.[full citation needed]
In Mexico, gabacho refers to both the US citizens and their country ("El Gabacho"), especially as an alternative to the milder gringo. It became widely used in Mexico during the French occupation as a term to refer to the invading French.
In the United States, the word is used mainly by Chicanos (and by extension, American Hispanics) as a descriptive name for White Americans. It is not widely used or understood by Spanish-speakers in the Americas outside of the USA and Mexico. The term güero or huero is sometimes used interchangeably to describe someone who is pale skinned.
The other possible origin would be from Khawaja meaning "European" in Persian language via Moorish Arabic. The Moors occupying Spain could have referred to the white Spaniards that way and the word had found its way into Spanish and later, into the Americas.[original research?]
- Diccionario Crítico Etimológico Castellano e Hispánico, Volume III, pages 7-8, Joan Corominas and José A. Pascual, Editorial Gredos, 1989, Madrid, ISBN 84-249-1365-5.
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