In recent decades in Israel, the United States and Spain, the language has come to be referred to as Ladino (לאדינו), literally meaning "Latin". However, some of its speakers consider that term to be incorrect. The language is also called judeo-espagnol,[note 1] judeo-español, Sefardí, Judío, and Espanyol or Español sefardita; Haquetía (from the Arabic ħaka حكى, "tell") refers to the dialect of North Africa, especially Morocco. Spoken Ladino may also be referred to as Djudesmo. The dialect of the Oran area of Algeria was called Tetuani, after the Moroccan city of Tétouan since many Orani Jews came from there. In Hebrew, the language is called Spanyolit.
An entry in Ethnologue claims, "The name 'Judesmo' is used by Jewish linguists and Turkish Jews and American Jews; 'Judeo-Spanish' by Romance philologists; 'Ladino' by laymen, especially in Israel; 'Haketia' by Moroccan Jews; 'Spanyol' by some others." That does not reflect the historical usage. In the Judeo-Spanish press of the 19th and 20th centuries the native authors referred to the language exclusively as Espanyol, which was also the name that its native speakers spontaneously gave to it for as long as it was their primary spoken language. More rarely, the bookish Judeo-Espanyol has also been used since the late 19th century. The term Judezmo is unknown and offensive to most native speakers, and it has never been used in print in the native press. However, in limited parts of Macedonia, its former use in the past as a low-register designation in informal speech by unschooled people has been documented.
The derivation of the name Ladino is complicated. Before the Expulsion of Jews from Spain, the word meant literary Spanish, as opposed to other dialects or Romance in general, as distinct from Arabic. (The first European language grammar and dictionary, of Spanish, referred to it as ladino or ladina. In the Middle Ages, the word Latin was frequently used to mean simply "language", particularly one understood: a latiner or latimer meant a translator.) Following the Expulsion, Jews spoke of "the Ladino" to mean the traditional oral translation of the Bible into Old Spanish. By extension, it came to mean that style of Spanish generally in the same way that (among Kurdish Jews) Targum has come to mean Judeo-Aramaic and (among Jews of Arabic-speaking background) sharħ has come to mean Judeo-Arabic.
Informally, especially in modern Israel, many speakers use Ladino to mean Judaeo-Spanish as a whole. The language used to be regulated by a body called the Autoridad Nasionala del Ladino in Israel. More strictly, however, the term is confined to the style used in translation. According to the website of the Jewish Museum of Thessaloniki,
Ladino is not spoken, rather, it is the product of a word-for-word translation of Hebrew or Aramaic biblical or liturgical texts made by rabbis in the Jewish schools of Spain. In these translations, a specific Hebrew or Aramaic word always corresponded to the same Spanish word, as long as no exegetical considerations prevented this. In short, Ladino is only Hebrew clothed in Spanish, or Spanish with Hebrew syntax. The famous Ladino translation of the Bible, the Biblia de Ferrara (1553), provided inspiration for the translation of numerous Spanish Christian Bibles."
That Judaeo-Spanish ladino should not be confused with the ladino or Ladin language spoken in part of Northeastern Italy, which is closely related to the Romansh language of Swiss Grisons (it is disputed whether or not they form a common Rhaeto-Romance language) and has nothing to do with either Jews or Spanish beyond being a Romance language, a property that they share with French, Italian, Portuguese and Romanian.
In modern Spanish, the Royal Spanish Academy gives "Ladino" nine meanings, including five as an adjective and four as a noun, but two are obsolete:
1. Adj. Astute, sagacious, cunning
2. Adj. Pertaining or relating to the Ladin language.
3. Adj. In El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Panama, describing a mestizo person who speaks only Spanish.
4. Adj. In El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Panama, a Mestizo person.
5. Adj. Obsolete: A person with facility in languages other than his/her own.
6. Noun. The Ladin language spoken in South Tyrol.
7. Noun. The religious language of Sephardic Jews.
8. Noun. Judeo-Spanish.
9. Noun. Obsolete: The archaic literary form of Spanish called "romance" or "romantic Spanish".