Alcanzar and Calcium

Alcanzar (“to reach”, in the sense of, “to achieve,” such as, reaching a goal) comes from the Latin prefix in– with the Latin calx meaning, limestone. Limestone? Huh?

The word for Limestone became the word for achieving because, quite simply, you need to step on it to get a bit higher, to be a bit closer to the stars. Think of the word reach itself — there is a literal sense of, holding your hand a bit higher, a bit further, so you can get to something. A bit like stepping on a stone. But there is the metaphorical sense of both words, reaching a goal.

From the root calx, we also get the English… calcium. Calcium is just another really hard substance that looks just like limestone.

You know another hard substance that looks like limestone? Chalk. And yes, chalk comes from calx, too!

Also from calx we get, calculate and calculus. We can never forget that little pebbles (of limestone) were initially used to count. That’s what the word itself reminds us.

Rubio and Ruby

The Spanish rubio (meaning “blond,” as in the hair color) comes from the Latin rubeus, meaning, “red.”

How did “red” come to mean “blond”? In a world where everyone has very dark black hair… it’s easy to see how everyone could conflate blond hair and red hair. The Romans didn’t know the Irish!

From the same Latin root, we get various English words, including Ruby, the stone and guess what color it is? And also Rubric, which were originally religious directions that were written in… guess what color ink?

Cuidar and Agitate

Cuidar, Spanish for “to take care of” or “to be careful” and commonly used in the warning cuidado, comes from the Latin cogitare, “to think”: cogito ergo sum, as they say.

The Latin cogitare comes from the Latin prefix com with agitare, “to turn in the mind” which comes from agere, “to move.” From this we get the English… agitate!

So we have an interesting evolution: from moving to thinking (a moving of the mind) to… being careful. Being careful is then the same thing as being thoughtful – at least in Spanish.

Interestingly, the original root has been mostly lost in the modern cuidar, with the c-a-g-t root turning into c-d: but you can still see the outline at the extremes.

Cinco – Five

The relation between “five” in Spanish (cinco) and English is one of the more surprising relationships: they are indeed direct second cousins!

Both come from the same Proto-Indo-European root, *penkwe, meaning the same, five. (The greek for five also comes from the same: think about pentagon, for example.)

The interesting part is this: the p- sound in Proto-Indo-European evolved into the Germanic and then English f- sound. Think about father and padre, for example. Or foot and pie. Five and cinco follow this pattern, too – but in a more subtle way.

The Proto-Indo-European for the same, *penkwe, evolved into the Latin word for “five”: quinque. The qu- was pronounced in a hard way like a k- and then, as Latin evolved into Spanish, the k- was softened into the soft c- in cinco. So p- to k- to c-. You can see it through the similar sounds.

Indeed, the pattern is most obvious in the repetition of the sounds in both works cin-co as the c/k sound twice, at the start of each syllable. And the fi-ve as the f- sound (and its closely related, usually identical and often interchangeable sound of v-) at the start of each of its syllables as well.

Apostar – Position, Posit

Apostar, Spanish for “to bet,” sounds nothing like bet or any related English word.

But it turns out to be a close cousin of Posit and Position: Betting is indeed just an extreme form of, putting forth a position, or positing something — but literally putting your money where your mouth is.

All come from the same Latin, positionem, which come from the Latin root verb ponere (“to put”) — from which we also get the Spanish for the same, poner.

Jerez – Sherry

Sherry jerez spanish englishThe Latin sound for “sh” — and similar variations, like “ch” and “ss” — became a “j” sound in Spanish.

Thus, the English sherry is near identical to the Spanish jerez!

These sh/j sounds were often spelt with a “x” in old Spanish; and sherry itself is named after the town it first came from, Xeres, which is near Cordova.

Levantar and Relevant

Relevant is a surprising cousin of the Spanish for Levantar (“to raise.”) Both come from the Latin Levantare, also meaning “to raise.”

But what is the connection between raising and being relevant? Relevant was originally a legal term, in Scotland, meaning, “to take over a property”: Thus, raising up became taking control of which then became just making relevant.

Tornar and Tornado

Tornar (“to turn”) has given us directly an English word: tornado. A tornado turns, doesn’t it? Since this word came into English directly from Spanish – the word is unchanged from its Spanish participle form. We can see the t-r root clearly in all. And, if we go back a bit further, both words are also related to the English… turn.

Hervir and Fever

Hervir boil spanish english

Hervir (Spanish for, “to boil”) comes from the Latin fervere (“to be hot, burn, boil”).

The best part: from this same root, we also get the English… fever!

This is thus another example of the pattern where Spanish lost the initial F and replaced it with the (unspoken) “H”: Hoja-Foliage, Huir-Fugitive, etc.

Alegre and Alacrity

Alegre, Spanish for happiness, has a close English cousin in, alacrity (an 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.


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