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The Nerdy Way To Learn: Spanish »

Levantar – Elevator

The Spanish levantar –“to rise” (in all senses: to rise in the morning when you wake up, the sun rises, etc) — sounds pretty random. Nothing to do with rising up, right?

It turns out to be from the Latin root levare, from which we get a whole host of words that, in different senses, implies the same. These include:

  • Leaven — as in, leaven bread: the bread rises!
  • Lever — the lever is what you use to rise something!
  • Carnival — the “carne” is from the Latin caro used for “meat” while the -val comes from the same levare. Yes, a carnival is about rising flesh!
  • Relief, Relieve — these words literally mean: to lighten up!
  • Elevate — Yes, the elevator takes you up!

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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.

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Hacerand Fact

The English fact comes from the Latin factum, meaning “something that happened.” It is thus an exact cognate to the Spanish hacer, meaning “to make.” How?

The root of both is the Latin facere, meaning “to do.” Fact, and the Latin factum, is just the same word in a different tense.

The Latin facere turned into the Spanish hacer, although they superficially sound different. Their relation becomes obvious once we remember that Latin words that began with an initial f- almost always turned into an initial h- when Latin evolved into Spanish.

Therefore the f-c-r of facere maps exactly to the h-c-r of hacer.

This pattern explains many words such as hierro/ferrari, hervir/fever, huir/fugitive, hoja/foliage!

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Bailar and Ballroom

Bailar, Spanish meaning “to dance”, is another one of these Spanish words that sounds random and is difficult until you realize its subtle common origin with a bunch of English words.

Bailar comes from the late Latin ballare, meaning the same, “to dance”, originally from the Greek ballizein, meaning, “to dance or jump around”. From this same root, we get a few English words including:

  • Ballroom — Yes, the room where you go dancing!
  • To Have a Ball — Yes, the “ball” in this phrase is the same “ball” as in bailar and ballroom!
  • Ballad — The love song, unsurprisingly, comes from the same root as dancing: perhaps slow dancing!
  • Ballistics — Directly from the Greek, we get the science of having balls shoot around!

No connection to the English “ball” in the sense of the round object you throw.

Have a ball remembering these!

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Pensar, Pesadilla and Pensive, Compensate

The Latin pensare meant “to weigh”, in both senses: “to weigh something, such as gold, to get its value, usually to make a payment” or “to think about something deeply”.

From this word, we get a few Spanish words, including:

  • Pensar – to “think”, just a simplification and lightening of the original.
  • Pesadilla – with the diminutive -dilla ending added, it means “nightmare”. A dream is really just a small thought!

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

  • Pensive – with the same original meaning as the Latin.
  • Compensate – which originally meant, “to counterbalance”, precisely what you do with a balance of justice!
  • Pansy – which is basically an insult for someone who spends too much time thinking!
  • Span – which originally meant to bind, and came from the original sense of weighing.
  • Poise – originally meant, “to have a certain weight,” which then came to mean “to have a certain look”.

The p-n-s root (sometimes without the ‘n’) is visible in all words.

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