Common Terms of the California Missions

Many words and phrases used during the California mission era are still in use . These include architectural and military terms, religious words and phrases, Native American terms and place names, and of course, the Spanish words for many aspects of everyday life. This glossary provides a handy single reference of these California Mission terms.

 

A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | V | W | Y | Z
Padre

A Roman Catholic priest.

Padrino

Godfather.

Padrón

A mission register of neophyte families which was like a census.

Paje

An Indian house-servant for the mission fathers

Panadero

A baker or bread-maker.

Paqwot

Chumash term referring to the leader of several villages.

Pathfinder

An early explorer who established trails in un-charted territory.

Plaza

A rectangular central public area. All of the Spanish pueblos (towns) and most of the missions included a plaza.

Poblador

Original Hispanic settler.

Polychrome

Decorated with several colors.

Portal

A gate or doorway.

Pozole

A porridge or thick soup of wheat, corn, beans or horse beans and meat.

President

Chief Religious Official in the mission territory, appointed by the apostolic college of which he was a member. After 1812, some of the responsibilities were taken over by a Commisary Prefect.

Presidio

Fortified military outpost or fort. The Spanish presidios in Alta California included barracks, workshops, stables and a chapel.

Privateer

A privately owned vessel armed and equipped at the owner’s expense, for the purpose of carrying on a maritime war by the authority of one of the belligerent parties. The privateer was authorized to appropriate captured property. The men who sailed on one of the vessels were also called privateers.

Procurator

Friar appointed to take care of business matters. The procurator of San Fernando College purchased supplies for the California missions.

Pueblo

The non-Indian towns established to help colonize Alta California.

Pulpit

Raised platform in a church used for preaching. The sounding board or canopy over the pulpit is called the tornavoz in Spanish.

Pulpito

Spanish for Puppit, a raised platform in a church used for preaching. The sounding board or canopy over the pulpit is called the tornavoz in Spanish.