The etymology is uncertain, but the most plausible source on the basis of both semantics and historical phonology appears to be unattested Vulgar Latin *c(h)araculum, which would have been a Latinized diminutive of Ancient Greek χάραξ (khárax, “stick”), from χαρακτήρ (kharaktḗr).
Certain cognates include Portuguese caralho, Galician carallo and Catalan carall. Attempts to attribute Italian cazzo, with the same meaning, to the same etymon fail on phonological grounds, as the /r/ of carajo (or its absence in cazzo) remains unexplained, and no Latin phonological sequence develops as both /x/ in Spanish and /tts/ in Italian.
carajo m (plural carajos)
- (Spain) penis
- (un carajo) shit (US), jackshit (US), sod all (UK), bugger all (UK)
- [No] me importa un carajo. — I don't give a fuck. ("No" is optional)
- (al carajo) hell
- (South America, Northwestern Spain, vulgar) shit!
- (slang, vulgar) used as an intensifier, similar to the fuck
- ¿Qué carajo quieres? — What the fuck do you want?
This is considered to be a taboo word by many in South America and is replaced by the euphemistic forms caramba or carrizo depending on the context and in which country the term is used. Caras may have been used as a euphemism for carajo in the historical account of José Antonio Páez's battle order, "¡Vuelvan Caras!", at the Battle of Las Queseras del Medio, an important battle of the Venezuelan War of Independence in 1819.
- Portuguese: carago