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Sentarse and Saddle

Sentarse, Spanish for “to sit”, comes from the root *sed‑, meaning the same.

The surprising English cognate is… saddle. A saddle is what you do sit in, indeed!

This mapping is not obvious at first, but you can see that the s‑d root of saddle maps to the s-(n)-t of sentarse. Anglo-Saxons are shorter and to the point – as usual.

English does have another word from the same root, but it comes via the Latin and is thus more pretentious and closer to the Spanish: sedentary. A veritable SAT word!

Asiento, Superseer and Sedate, Assiduous

Superseer (Spanish for, “to discontinue; cease”) comes from the Latin supersedere which in term is a combination of the prefix super- (“above”) and sedere (“to sit”). When you stop doing something — you’re now, literally, sitting on top of it. At least in Spanish.

From the Latin sedere root, we get various English words related to sitting, including:

  • Sedate — when you’re on a sedative, you’re just sitting around!
  • Assiduous — this originally meant “constantly sitting down”, but came to mean, “very busy” (since you sit down when you work) and thus the busy people are the assiduous ones!
  • Obsess — with the ob- prefix (“against”), it’s literally, “someone sitting opposite you” — which is what you do when you’re obsessing over someone, watching their every move closely.
  • Supersede — literally, “to sit on top of” — very similar to, “going over their heads!
  • Sedentary — the lifestyle of sitting down. Sounds familiar!
  • Siege — you sit in your castle when it’s under siege!
  • Reside — what do you do in your residence if not, sit around?

From the same Latin root sedere we also get the Spanish… asiento, the common word for, seat. Now that makes sense, doesn’t it?

The s‑n-t/d root is visible in most of these words. Note that in superseer, the middle ‑n- disappeared: hence the ‑e- on both sides!

Dorado and Aurora

Dorado, Spanish for “covered in gold” — think of McDonalds in Spanish. Los Arcos Dorados (the golden arches – literally!) comes from the Latin de- (“of”) and aurum, “gold”: gilded or gold-covered, literally means… from gold.

From the same Latin root we also get the English aurora, “dawn” or the Roman goddess of the dawn. The morning sun glittering in the distance is… shining, just like gold does.

We can see the a‑r root in both words clearly!

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!

Echar and Jet

Echar (Spanish for “to throw,” particularly in the metaphoric sense such as, “to throw out”) comes from the Latin Iactare, meaning “to throw”. From the same root, we get the English jet — a jet plane throws itself at an incredible speed!

But the words look nothing alike? How is that?

Two patterns, we must remember. Firstly, the ct- sound in Latin became a ch- in Spanish. Hence the ct- in ictare now looks like the ch- in echar. Secondly, Latin had no “j” and the initial “i” in Latin often became a “j” in English. Hence, the “j” in jet!

Cucaracha and Cockroach

We get the English cockroach directly from the Spanish cucaracha. We can see the c‑c-r-ch pattern in both. There is no Latin, Greek, or German root since it is a New World word.

Vecino and Vicinity

The Spanish for “neighbor”, vecino, comes from the Latin vicinus for “neighborhood”. From that root, we also get the similar… vicinity.

After all, what is your neighbor, if not someone who is in the same vicinity as you!

This one is in the class of very obvious ones (the v‑c-n root is clear in both) but you don’t realize it until someone tells you.

Autopista and Pizza

Autopista (Spanish for “highway”) comes from the words auto- (you can guess what that one means!) and pista, which is Spanish for “track” (think, train tracks, or the track that runners run on).

But where does pista come from? The Latin pistus (“to pound” — think of the motion of pounding something into dust as being a bit like the running around the track! Pounding the pavement!). From this Latin pistus, we get a few English words including… pizza (via Italian, of course! Think of the pounding needed to make the pizza dough!) and piston (the piston engine going in circles is a bit like running as well!).

Thus, we can see the p‑st of autopista maps to the p‑zz of pizza and the p‑st of piston.

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.

Reírse and Ridiculous

Both the Spanish reírse (“to laugh”) and the English ridiculous come from the same Latin root: ridere (also “to laugh”).

Thus, the r‑vowel-d-vowel of ridiculous maps to the r‑vowel-disappeared-vowel of reírse. Note that the middle ‑d- disappeared in the Spanish version, probably as the word was shortened since the Spaniards spent so much time laughing, it became natural to say it shorter and quicker!

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