Entender and Extend

Entender (Spanish for, “to understand”; and much more common than the other word for the same, comprender) comes from the Latin tendere, “to stretch out.”

From this root, we get the English extend — which is just a form of stretching.

We can also see how stretching became understanding if we remember that, to really understand something, you need to stretch your brain and creativity to the limits.

The t-n-d root is clear in both words as well. From the same root, we get other similar words that are metaphors for stretching out: intend, to tender, and even tentative

Hierro and Ferrari

Hierro ferrari english spanish

Hierro is just Spanish for “iron.”

Here’s where it gets interesting: the Latin words beginning with f- generally turned into the silent h- in Spanish but not in the other Romantic languages, and thus hierro (from the Latin ferrum) is related to:

  • Ferrocarril — Spanish for railroad, and it maps almost perfectly to the English: ferro for ferrum, “iron”; and carril for road, way, or path (think of the common Spanish word for path or way, carrera
  • Ferrari — the luxury sports car from Italy, is named after their founding family’s last name. And that last name, in Italian, originally meant… iron-worker.

Enviar and Envoy

Enviar (Spanish for “To send”) comes from the Latin for the same, inviare. From that same root, we get the English… envoy. An envoy just sends a message, after all!

The e-n-v root is self-evident in both words. And the Latin inviare comes from the root via for “road”, from which we get endless English words, including… via!

Parto and Post-Partum Depression

Parto (Spanish for “birth”) comes from the Latin partus, “brought forth.” That makes sense: a baby is just brought forth into the world.

From the same Latin root, we get the English partum for “birth” — but that word is really only used in one contemporary word today: post-partum depression, the depression a woman gets after childbirth. Yes, post-partum is merely, “after-birth.”

The p-r-t root is clearly visible in both words.

Tener – Tenet, -tain

Hold tener spanish english

The Spanish tener (to hold) comes from the Latin tenere for the same.

From the same root tenere, we get the English tenet — think about it, you hold your beliefs.

And it gets even better: from tenere, we also get the English suffix -tain, as in maintain, sustain, contain, detain, obtain, and entertain. And the -tain words map almost identically to the Spanish suffix of the same, the same -tener!

For example, mano, the Spanish for hand, is the same mano in maintain (or mantener, in Spanish) — which thus literally means, “to hold in your hand”!

Catarata and “Cats and Dogs”

It is unknown where the English phrase “it’s raining cats and dogs” comes from. But there’s one likely etymology that it is a corruption of the Latin catadupa for “waterfall.” From that same Latin root catadupa, we get the Spanish for waterfall…. catarata.

The c-t root that begins both catarata and “cats and dogs” does make this etymology plausible. But is it real? I just don’t know.

It does, however, make it easy to remember: a waterfall has the intensity of rain showers even stronger than with “cats and dogs”!

Chicle and Chiclets

Chicle (Spanish for “gum”) gives us the English chiclets, the gum brand. Through a funny story: when Mexican general Santa Anna lost Texas, he fled — dressed up in drag, actually (true story!) — to Staten Island. There, he stayed with an inventor Thomas Adams, with whom he stayed. And telling the inventor about the Mexican love of chewing chicle… the rest is history.

Mirar and Admire, Mirror, Miracle

The Spanish mirar, “to look at,” has two curious cousins in English: admire, mirror and miracle.

All come from the same Latin root, mirari, which meant, “to wonder at.” We can see how they are all related to this same sentiment of awe and wonder:

  • Mirar is now just to look at someone but originally meant, to look at with wonder. Looking at someone is a form of wondering about about them.
  • Admire is really a form of wonderment as well. The ad- prefix means “at”, so admiration is always wonder that is directed at someone.
  • Mirror too comes from the same root: and looking in the mirror is thus the most conceited act of being in awe of yourself!
  • Miracle, as well as its Spanish version milagro, also comes from the same root: a Miracle is really just something that causes intense wonder!

The m-r root is present in all versions, in English and Spanish, so the pattern is easy to spot.

Hilo and File

The Spanish hilo (cord; thread; string) comes from the Latin for the same, filum. The words sound very different, until we remember that, words in Latin that began with a f- tended to change to h- in Spanish: hijo/filium, and hoja/foliage, for example. Now the hilo/filum make sense!

Interestingly, however, from that same Latin root filum, we get various English words that also quietly show they are descendants of the word for cord or thread. Including:

  • File (as a verb; to file your nails or papers) — what is filing if not, using a thread to shorten or separate different items?
  • Profile — With the Latin root pro- (put forth!), what is profiling it not, drawing out, dragging out information about someone?

Desayuno, Ayuno and Breakfast, Fast

Desayuno breakfast

This is one of my all-time favorite Spanish-English parallel etymologies.

The Spanish word desayuno, meaning breakfast, comes from the prefix des– meaning not– and ayuno, meaning fast (in the sense of a religious fast, during which you don’t eat). Thus, literally desayuno (breakfast) is “the break – fast” !