It may be a Spanish word, but "derecho," the name for the type of long-lived and violent storm that streaked through the region Friday night, was actually coined by the decidedly non-Spanish Gustavus Hinrichs, a Danish chemist. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association, Hinrichs was a physics professor at the University of Iowa and was the first to use the word in his 1888 paper in the American Meteorological Journal.
"Hinrichs chose this terminology for thunderstorm-induced straight-line winds as an analog to the word tornado," NOAA says. "'Derecho' is a Spanish word that can be defined as 'direct' or 'straight ahead.' In contrast, the word 'tornado' is thought by some, including Hinrichs, to have been derived from the Spanish word 'tornar,' which means 'to turn.'"
The term derecho, however, didn't become part of the mainstream meteorological community's verbiage until the 1980s. It was then that Robert Johns, a forecaster from the National Weather Service's Storm Prediction Center revived it to distinguish the storms from tornados.