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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.

Romper and Corrupt

The Spanish for “to break”, romper, has a curious English cousin: corruption.

Corrupt comes from the Latin root com- (which just intensifies the following phrase) plus the Latin rumpere, meaning “to break” – just like the almost-identical Spanish romper (unsurprisingly, since the Spanish is descended from the Latin).

The connection is obvious if we see the unchanged r-m-p root in both words.

That which is corrupt, after all, is — definitionally — just broken.

Brindar, Brindis and Bring

Brindis (a “toast”, in the sense of saluting someone before you drink alcohol) and brindir (“to provide”) both come from the same origin — through a funny story.

In 1527, the German king Charles V sacked Rome — and the soldiers, when sacking the city, screamed out in victory constantly, “Ich bring dir’s!”, meaning, “I’m bringing it!” (“It” here refers to victory, the new king, a new beginning, etc.) This phrase then became popular and repeated around Rome (in Italian), in different senses: it became the toast that everyone used to the new king; and it also entered popular usage in the same sense, of bringing or providing. Then, the word was copied from Italian into Spanish. And, separately, bring, although a German word, is the same word in English. Remember, English is a Germanic language, after all (despite all those French words since 1066 and all that!).

We can thus see the br-n-d of brindis and brindar map to the br-n-g of bring quite clearly. The d/g sounds often swap places as well, thus making the g/d switch make sense: they do sound quite similar, after all.

Traer and Traction, Tractor

The Spanish traer, meaning “to bring,” comes from the Latin trahere, meaning “to drag.”

From the Latin root, we also get a few related English words that aren’t obvious at first glance:

  • Tractor: What is a tractor if not a machine that brings or drags machinery around the plot of farmland?
  • Traction: What is traction if not something moving so quick that it drags everyone else up along with it?

Note that the -h- vanished when the Latin turned into Spanish but became a -ct- when the Latin became English. Thus the t-r-[nothing] of traer maps to the t-r-ct of the English words.

Domingo – Sunday

Sunday domingo english spanish

In the final of our day-of-the-week comparisons, we have Sunday.

In the Latin languages, it is domingo, or a variation of it. These all come from the Latin for God — Deus. Sunday, after all, is the traditional Christian day of prayer and worship for God. It is literally God’s Day.

In the Germanic tradition — well, in the ancient German pantheon of nature Gods, the main God was the Sun himself. Our Sunday is quite literally “sun” – “day”: the day of the sun. The parallel thus continues!

Jugo and Suck

One of our favorite patterns of sound change between English and Spanish is the sh/j shift: under the influence of arabic, many words that had a “s” or “sh” or “sy” or “ch” sound in Latin, started to be pronounced with the throat-clearing sound and written with a “j”. See sherry/jerez and chess/ajedrez or syrup/jarabe, for example.

Another example of this pattern is the Spanish word for “juice”, jugo. It comes from the Latin succus meaning, “juice” (particularly sap, or juice from plants).

From this Latin root succus we also get the English… suck.

Yes, if it sucks — it is juicy! Literally!

We can see the mapping in the s-c to j-g mapping. The “c” and “g” sounds are similar and often interchanged.

Interestingly, in Spain they do not say jugo to mean “juice”; instead, they say… suco. Suco, funnily enough, also comes from the same root of succus. It is just the variation that never underwent the arabic “j” transformation.

From the same root we also get the English succulent, although we do not get the superficially similar English juice, which comes from the Latin ius, meaning, “sauce.”

Sierra and Serrated

Sierra (Spanish for “mountain range” — think of the Sierra mountains out west!) comes from the Latin serra, meaning “saw” (no, not the verb; the tool you use to cut wood apart!).

From the same root we get the English… serrated. Think of the serrated edges of cut paper! It does look a bit like a mountain, doesn’t it?

The s-rr root is clearly visible in both.

Nombre and Nominal

The usual Spanish word for “name”, nombre, is very closely related to the English word nominal, in an interesting way. Not only does nominally mean “relating to the name”, but there is an interesting etymological pattern between the words.

Latin words with an m-n sound usually turned the m-n into an mbr sound as Latin evolved into Spanish. Thus, we see curious patterns like hominem becoming hombre, and famine and hambre being closely linked.

The same pattern applies here. The Latin nominalis turned into the Spanish nombre and the English nominal — thus the n-m-n of nominal maps exactly to the n-mbr of nombre!

Aguja, Agujero and Acuity, Acrid

Aguja (Spanish for “needle”) and the similar Agujero (“hole”) both come from the Latin acus, also “needle.”

From the same Latin root, via Latin, we get the English acuity. Being sharp with your wit and observations is just another form of being sharp!

Another descendent (just slightly more distant!) is acrid — because that which is bitter is really sharp on the tongue.

The a-c root in English maps to the a-g root in Spanish. The c- and g- transformation is a very common one too; both sounds are very similar!

Acontecimiento and Contagion

The Spanish acontecimiento (“something that happened; event”) comes from the Latin contigere (“to touch”).

How did that transformation happen? An event is something that you touch, at least metaphorically, or that touches you. Something that happens that doesn’t touch you is just in your mind: not a real event!

From the same Latin root, we also get a few nifty English words including:

  • Contact — That is literally touching, right?
  • Contagious — How do you get something that is contagious? Through touching!
  • Contiguous — Two things that are contiguous are touching each other!
  • Contingent — One thing that is contingent upon another is a metaphorical form of touching it as well.

We can see the c-n-t root in both the Spanish and English words.

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