Ácaro and Scar

A Spanish word that hopefully you don’t use much but unfortunately sometimes you need to is ácaro, meaning, “mite.”

Ácaro comes from the Latin for the same, acarus which ultimately comes from the Proto-Indo-European root *(s)ker-, which meant “cut.” Perhaps the word for “cut” turned into “mite” because that’s what mites do, they cut you open?

From that same root, via German, English gets a bunch of word of words related to cutting, such as… scar. That’s just a big cut, right? We also get the English shore – that’s just where the land cuts the flow of the ocean.

We can see the c-r mapping in both languages, with the initial s- disappearing in Spanish.

Lluvia and Pluvial

The Spanish lluvia (for “rain”) comes Latin pluvia for the same — a change that may not be obvious because the -pl- of Latin sometimes became a -ll- in Spanish.

From the same root, we get the sophisticated English word pluvial which means…. lots of rain!

The ll-v of lluvia clearly maps to the p-l of pluvial.

Gustar – Disgust, Gusto

The common Spanish word gustar (to like — actually, literally, “to be pleasing to”) sounds completely different from the English “like” and “pleasing.” But it is close to the English than it seems.

It comes from the same gustare, meaning, “to taste.” Interestingly, as the Latin turned into Spanish, the word became more euphemistic: to “taste” turned into to “like”, which is much better.

From the same Latin root we also get the similar English words:

  • Disgust — The Latin dis- means to dislike (dis-like!), so disgust is literally the opposite of gustar: to not gustar!
  • Gusto — To do something with gusto is to do it with enthusiasm. And enthusiasm is just a manifestation of liking or being pleasing — you only do something with gusto if you really like it!

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.

Rasgar and Section

The Spanish for “to scratch”, rasgar, comes from the Latin secare, “to cut.”

From the same root, we also get the English Section.

A section, indeed, is just a cut into different parts. And a scratch is really almost a cut as well!

We can see the parallel in mapping the s-ct of section to the s-g of rasgar. Although the -ct- sound didn’t commonly turn into a -g-, we can hear the guttural connection if we sound it out.

Jaula and Jail

Jaula, Spanish for “cage”, doesn’t feel or sound like a cage. Not related etymologically at all.

But it is related to the English word for a particular type of cage: jail.

Although not obvious, since the “j” is pronounced with the throat-clearing Arabic sound, both come from the French jaole (formerly geole).

You can see this in the j-l root in both.

Delante and Anterior

The Spanish delante (“in front of”) comes from the Latin de– (“of, out of”) and ante (“before”), via intante (in plus ante). So “in front of” is literally “before” in the sense of “standing before.”

Thus, with the de– prefix, it is a cousin of the ante that brings us a host of English words with ante that mean “before”: anterior, antediluvian, antique. We can see the a-n-t root in all these variations.

Saber and Sage

Saber (Spanish for “to know”, in the sense of “knowing a fact”–not “knowing a person”) comes from the Latin sapere, meaning “to taste.” I guess you can taste a fact more easily than a person!

From the same Latin root, we get (via French) the English word… sage. Sagacity is a form of wisdom — which is a form of knowledge.

The s-b to s-g mapping is clear, and the -b- and -g- have similar soft sounds.

Buscar and Postulate

Buscar (Spanish for “to ask for”) comes from the Latin poscere (“to ask urgently”). In the transition from Latin to Spanish, the word was definitely weakened since buscar doesn’t have any urgent implication.

From this Latin root, we also get the English word… postulate. Postulating is really just formulating a thesis and wanting responses — which is just a sophisticated form of asking a question!

We can see the b-s-c of buscar maps to the p-s-t of postulate.

Gales and Wales

Wales, that ancient province of Great Britain from which all the Jones emerge and which conjures up images of Tolkien, is known as Gales in Spanish.

Why? Because the Germanic w- words consistently became g- words when they entered late Latin and Spanish. Take war and guerra, for example. Or William and Guillermo.

Thus the w-l-s of Wales maps exactly to the g-l-s of Gales.


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