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Ambos and Ambition, Ambiance

The English Ambition comes from the Latin root ambi– (meaning “around”) plus the Latin verb ire (meaning “to go”): someone who goes around. Someone with ambition was, literally, someone who went around soliciting votes and support.

Ambiance also comes from the same root, ambi-: Ambiance is really what’s going around the place you’re in. That is, the environment.

The best part: the very common Spanish word meaning “both”, ambos, also comes from the same root, “around” — but only when there are two around.

Aliento and Exhale

The Spanish aliento (“breath”) comes from the Latin for anhelitus (“panting; exhalting”) which itself comes from the older Latin anhelo (“difficulty breathing”). Anhelo, in turn, comes from halo (even older Latin for breath), prefixed with the negative an- prefix and from halo which we get (via French) the English inhale and exhale.

But what’s confusing here is the Latin anhelitus transforming into the Spanish aliento . The easy way to see it is to remember that: most solo h- in Latin became silent in Spanish and then eventually, disappeared. (When ‘h’ does remain in Spanish, it is still silent!). So, (h)-l of aliento maps to the (in)-h-l of inhale and similarly (ex)-h-l of exhale.

Suelo, Subsuelo and Sole, Soil

Suelo is Spanish for “floor” although it is not too common (piso is the more common word). But, very common is subsuelo — the sub-floor, that is: the basement.

This is, unexpectedly, related to a few English words.

Suelo comes from the Latin solum, meaning “ground.”

From solum, we get two English words:

First, soil — yes, the soil is what is on the ground below you!

Second, sole — as in the sole of your shoe. This, too, is below you as you walk.

In both, we clearly see the s-l root staying consistent.

Plomo and Plumber

Plumber comes from the Latin plumbum, for “lead.” A plumber originally meant someone who works with (particularly smelts) lead. These men, over time, worked mostly with pipes (made of lead!) and eventually dealt more and more with the pipes that carry water into (or out of) homes and buildings. So leadworkers became plumbers.

Interestingly, the Spanish for “lead” (plomo) comes from the same Latin root. We can see the pl-m root in words in both languages.

Feliz and Felicity

Feliz (Spanish for “Happy”), comes from the Latin for the same, felix. From the Latin felix, we also get everyone’s favorite TV character: Felicity. Someone named Felicity must be a happy person by their very nature! As is someone named Felix!

We can see that the f-l-z of feliz maps to the f-l-c of felicity pretty clearly!

Alrededor and Round

The Spanish for “around”, alrededor”, comes from the same root as the English “round”: both come from the Latin rota, meaning, “wheel.”

The Spanish is a bit less obvious because of its al- prefix — which was originally a separate word, originally, “al rededor.” Thus, the r-(n)-d of round maps to the (al)-r-d of alrededor.

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”!

Aprender and Apprentice

The common Spanish word aprender (“to learn”) comes from the similar Latin, apprehendere for the same.

From the same Latin root, we get a variety of related English words, most notably, apprentice — an apprentice just learns from the master, right?

A few other English words come from the same root, although less directly, including, apprehend: what is learning if not arresting all the information and knowledge and wisdom you hear and keep it in your mind? And apprise, which is just notifying someone — and that is really just sharing your learnings! We also get the English apprehensive: perhaps being apprehensive is just being scared of some knowledge?

The a-p-r-n-d root is clearly visible in all of these variations.

Esposa – Spouse

Esposa spouse english spanish

Esposa and spouse both come from the same root, and both mean the same thing — that one was obvious!

However, it gets more interesting: both come from the Latin spondere, meaning, “to bind”.

From this root we also get the Spanish word esposas, which means (in addition to meaning just “wives”), also means… handcuffs.

Yes, in Spanish, “handcuff” and “wife” are the same word. It gets the point across clearly, doesn’t it?

Enojar and Annoy

Enojar, Spanish for “to get angry”, has a fun cousin in the English, annoy.

Both of these (along with the French for “worldly boredom”, ennui) come from the Latin inodiare, meaning, “to hate”. The Latin in- adds emphasis to the odium, Latin for “hate”.

We can see the parallels in all with the open vowel, followed by the -n-, followed by a -y- sound, although in Spanish the -y- sounds (and its corresponding -x- and -sh- variations) often turned into the -j- sounds, as it did here. Thus, the a-n-y maps to the e-n-j.

Hatred, then, dissipates and weakens over time. In English, hatred weakens into mere annoyance. In Spanish, hatred weakens into just anger, enojo. And, best of all, hatred in French weakens into a world-weary boredom of ennui.

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