logo

Apretar and Pectoral

Apretar (Spanish for “to squeeze”) comes from the Latin pectus, meaning, “chest.” Think of having a heart attack: your chest feels squeezed. It’s not a coincidence that doctors in the USA today still call a heart attack, angina pectoris — that is, “angina of the chest” since pectoral in English today still means “relating to the chest”! The p-t maps to the p-ct, with the -ct- just simplifying into its first -c- sound.

Related: see also Pecho / Pectoral. From the same pectus root, we see other interesting words, following the ch/ct pattern.

Apellido and Repeal

The Spanish apellido, for “last name” (“surname” to the Brits) has a cousin in the English repeal and appeal.

All of these come from the Latin appellare, meaning, “to call.”

The Spanish makes sense: your last name is which tribe the world calls you by!

The English appeal is, indeed, when you call for a higher authority for help. And repeal is when you call back, push back to those who tried to do something to you.

The p-l mapping is consistent amongst all the variations, with slight changes in spelling (single l vs double l, for example).

Enseñar and Sign

The Spanish for “to teach,” enseñar comes from the Latin insignare (“to mark”). From the same Latin root, we get the English to sign — signing, after all, is making your mark upon a paper!

But how did signing turn into teachin, in Spanish? Well, think about the English expression… to make a mark on someone. A great teacher truly leaves a lasting mark on you — literally.

The s-ñ of enseñar maps to the s-gn of “sign,” with the ñ turning into a gn in English, as it commonly does.

Pregunta and Count

Pregunta (Spanish for “question”) comes from the Latin per– (“through”) and contus (“pole”).

From the Latin root contus, we also get the English… count. But how do we get from “pole” to “counting”? Well, remember the Roman style of counting that you probably learned in elementary school, or at least I did back in the day — make a little pole on the paper for each number, and when you hit the fifth one, cross it through; then repeat — and we then remember that counting is really just lining up sticks to represent the total numbers!

We can see that the g-n-t of pregunta maps to the c-n-t of count.

Sentir – Resent, Sentence, Send

The Spanish sentir (“to feel”) doesn’t bear an obvious relation to the same English word. But looks can be deceiving:

Sentir comes from the Latin for the same, sentire, which in turn comes from the Proto-Indo-European root *sent, meaning, “to go” — feels are thus, definitionally, fleeting, things that come and go.

From the Latin sentire, we get a bunch of similar words in English, including:

  • Sentence — which originally meant, “a thought, judgment, opinion.” A sentence is a judgment indeed!
  • Sense — which is a feeling!
  • Resent — these are just your feelings, magnified with a re!
  • Scent — to smell something is to have a feeling for it, too

And a few others, including assent, consent, dissent and, most obviously, sentiment.

From the original Proto-Indo-European root *sent, meaning “to go” — via German, that turned into some simpler English words that we can now consider distant cousins of Sentir: send. Feelings do come and go!

Orar and Adore, Orate

Orar (Spanish “to pray”) comes from the Latin Orare (“to speak formally; pray”). From the same root, we get two similar English words, each of which takes on one of the two Latin senses: orate and adore, which adds in the ad– (“towards”) prefix.

The o-r root is clearly visible in all.

Cárcel and Incarceration, Cancel

Cárcel (Spanish for “prison, jail”) comes form the Latin for the same, carcer. Note that the words are almost identical except for the l/r swap — a very common switch linguistically (think of the Japanese, who pronounce both interchangeably, “Frushing meadows! Frushing meadows!” as they joke in New York).

From that same Latin root carcer, we get two English words.

More directly, Incarceration. That makes sense — incarcerating is going to jail! We can see the c-r-c root in both.

More subtly, we also get the English cancel. The English made the same l/r shift as the Spanish — but, as it came via French, the first -r- became an -n-. But that’s a French pattern for another day!

Azul and Azure

The Spanish for “blue,” azul, is originally an Arabic word referring to a particular type of valuable blue stone, the lapis lazuli. In Spanish, the word degraded over time, and the l- was lost (as though it was the the french l’ for “the”) and we were just left with azul for just “blue.”

The English for azure — which is really just a shade of blue! — comes from the same root, although azure still retains a luxury connotation that was lost with the simple blue implication of azul in Spanish.

Many languages, including Spanish, have an -l- and -r- shift, where, over time, the -l- and -r- sounds are swapped. We see this here, as the a-z-l root of azul maps to the a-z-r root of azure.

Esperar and Despair, Speed

The Spanish esperar — the common word meaning “hope, wait, expect” — comes from the Latin sperare for the same.

So it’s unsurprising that its opposite in Spanish, desperar, parallels exactly the English, despair. Ahhhh!

Less obvious is that the Latin sperare comes from the Proto-Indo-European root *spe, meaning “to thrive”, from which we also get the English, speed.

Speeding and hoping are indeed both forms of thriving!

Aprovecharse and Profit

The Spanish aprovecharse (“to take advantage of,” in a good way) comes from the Latin ad– (“towards”) and profectus (“progress, success.”)

From the same root profectus, we get the English… profit.

We can see the root pr-v of aprovecharse mapping to the pr-f of profit. And how do you make a profit if not, taking advantage of the opportunities in front of you?

logo

© 2016 - All Rights Reserved | Contact | Privacy Policy | Terms & Conditions | Sitemap | Etymology Dictionaries To Help Us Learn Spanish | Resources