Want more Spanish etymologies? Fill out the form below and we will send you our favorites, Free!
logo

Ayudar and Aid, Adjutant

The Spanish ayudar, for “to help” is a close cousin of the English, aid. You can see that if we remember that the -y- sound is very similar to the -i- and thus the a-y-d of ayudar maps to the a-i-d of aid.

Both come from the same root: the Latin prefix ad- (“to”) and the verb juvare (“to help”). We can see the j to y transition here as well. Thus, both words are related to adjutant as well.

Acatar and Capture

The Spanish Acatar (meaning “to follow, obey, respect”) comes from the Latin captare, meaning “to capture, take hold of”. From that root, we get a few English words, including:

  • Capture — surprise, surprise.
  • Capable — if you’re capable, you take hold of the solutions!
  • Captive — if you’re captive, someone else has taken hold of you!
  • Cater — the caterer is literally the person who takes hold of the food for you.

The c-(p)t root is visible in all, although the -p- in the -pt- has been lost in a few variations.

Cadena and Concatenate, Chain

Cadena (Spanish for “chain”) is a cousin of chain itself. Both come from the Latin for the same: catena.

The English chain is disfigured from the original for a few reasons. Since the English came to our language via the French, the initial c- changed into a ch-, as so often French does. French additionally has a tendency to drop letters: the middle -d- in this case. Thus, the c-(d)-n of cadena maps to the ch-n of chain!

From the same root, we have a more obvious connection–but a more obscure word. Concatenate, a nerdy word meaning “to add together” that really only software developers remember these days, comes from the same root. We can thus see the c-d-n of cadena very easily in the c-t-n of concatenate, remembering the very common -d- and -t- swapping. Concatenate begins with the con- prefix (“together” in Latin, like the Spanish “con”) — and what is a concatenation, if not just adding together a bunch of nodes in a chain?

Alegre and Alacrity

Alegre, Spanish for happiness, has a close English cousin in alacrity (a SAT word meaning “eagerness” or “cheerful readiness”).

Both come from the Latin alacritas meaning the same as the English.

It’s funny, to me at least, how the word for eagerness turned into the word for happy in Spanish: there is a strong and ancient correlation between being willing to do things, and excited about them — and being happy.

Llave – Clef

Key llave spanish english

The Latin words that began with “cl” changed, pretty consistently, to “ll” as Latin changed into Spanish.

Today’s example of this: the Latin word for “key” was clavis. This became the modern Spanish word for “key”, llave.

There are, however, a few interesting other descendants of clavis, and thus distant relatives of llave. They include:

  • the Spanish clavo, meaning, “nail”. It’s a more educated word, coming to Spanish via Latin scholars later on, so it didn’t lose the natural cl- sound the way the traditional words did.
  • English words like clef and enclave. Yes, in music you talk about the “key” and the “clef” and they come from the same word originally!

Pie – Foot

Foot pie Spanish English

The English foot comes from the Indo-European root *ped. Think pedal.

Interestingly, the “p” sound consistently transformed into an “f” in the Germanic languages — but remained a “p” in the Latinate languages.

This is why, foot is equivalent to pie.

Other examples of this pattern include father and padre, and the English far is from the same root as the Latin per.

Save

Save

Pais and Pagan

País (Spanish for “country”) comes from the Latin pagus meaning “countryside”. From that same root, we also get the English… pagan.

Funny how, beliefs in traditional gods was a feature of people living far from the cities… even back then. The more things change, the more they remain the same!

Only the initial p– sound has been retained in both.

Siglo and Secular

Siglo, Spanish for “century”, closely related to the English secular.

How? The connection seems surprising.

Both come from the Latin saeculum, meaning, “age, span of time, generation”.

The evolution from saeculum to siglo is obvious: a century is just a unit or breakdown of time.

But in English, it evolved into the sense to mean “worldly.” While the religious concerns itself with the spirit and the “other-worldly,” it is the characteristics of time — growing, aging — that are are the most fundamental characteristics of this world.

Life in the real world, in other words, is defined by getting old.

Puñal and Pugnacious

The English for eager-to-fight, pugnacious, contains the -gn- pattern inside it: a give-away to the pattern that -gn- words in Latin turned the -gn- into a -ñ- in Spanish yet remained the same into English.

Therefore, pugnacious maps perfectly to puñal, the Spanish for… “dagger.” It makes sense that “dagger” and “eager to fight” come from the same root, after all. And that root, in this case, is the Latin pugnare, meaning, “to fight.”

Quedar and Quiet

Quedar (Spanish for “to remain”) comes from the Latin quietare (meaning, “to rest”), from which we also get the English… quiet.

It is clear how a word meaning “to rest” becomes quiet — it’s hard to rest when there are jackhammers outside, as there coincidentally are right now! — but how does a word meaning “to rest” become “to remain”?

The answer has to do with the notion of, what remains after everything else leaves. The food is sizzling hot — but it’s the quiet, sad pieces just sitting there, that no one wants, that remain. There’s a lot of noise and ruckus — and when all is said and done, only silence remains. Life is tale, full of sound and fury… and nothing remains (the Bard almost wrote!).

We can clearly see the qu-d of quedar map to the qu-t of quiet.

logo

© 2017 - All Rights Reserved | Contact | Privacy Policy | Terms & Conditions | Sitemap | Etymology Dictionaries To Help Us Learn Spanish | Resources