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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.

Leer and Religion

It seems like a paradox: leer (Spanish for, “to read”) is a cousin of religion! But they are actually closely related–despite the too-common belief that religion is thoughtless!

Religion comes from the Latin, re- (“again”) combined with legere (“to read.”) Thus, religion is literally, reading the same thing again and again: a form of reading ritual.

From the Latin legere, the -g- disappears over time and we get the Spanish… leer, “to read.”

Thus the r-l-g of religion maps to the l- of leer.

It’s funny that, today, religion and reading are too often seem as opposites. For most of history, the educated classes were the priests and scholars; this is why the old American universities, for example, were predominantly founded by religious groups!

Miel and Mellifluous

The Spanish for “honey,” miel, comes from the Latin mel — also meaning honey. We can see the m-l root obviously and simply in both!

(The –fluous ending comes from the Latin fluere, meaning “to flow” — and we can also see the f-l root there!)

So, mellifluous words are… flowing like honey.

Ambos and Ambition, Ambiance

The English Ambition comes from the Latin root ambi– (meaning “around”) plus the Latin verb ire (meaning “to go”): someone who goes around. Someone with ambition was, literally, someone who went around soliciting votes and support.

Ambiance also comes from the same root, ambi-: Ambiance is really what’s going around the place you’re in. That is, the environment.

The best part: the very common Spanish word meaning “both”, ambos, also comes from the same root, “around” — but only when there are two around.

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?

Turbio and Disturb

Turbio, Spanish for “cloudy”, comes from the same Latin root as the English disturb: turbidus, meaning, “turmoil; full of confusion; muddy.”

It is easy to see how this one root evolved in time into both the English disturb and the Spanish turbio. Think of a cloudy day, just about to rain: the skies are in turmoil! The Gods are about to fight with one another!

We can see the t-r-b root clearly in both. And the English turbid also comes from the same root, although that word is used only on the SATs.

Espuma and Scum

Espuma (Spanish for “foam”) is a (surprising) cousin of the English, scum.

Both come from the same Indo-European root skeu-, which meant, “to cover, hide.” In the Germanic side of Indo-European, this evolved into skuma — literally “foam” — which then evolved into scum.

Transition from the meaning of “foam” in the old Germanic to the current meaning happened because of the sense of “foam”: the layer above the liquid” turned into “a layer of dirt on top of something cleaner”. And that then evolved into just pure dirt. Words degrade over time, at least in English.

The Indo-European skeu- separately evolved into espuma (via the Latin spuma, also just meaning neutrally “foam”) which — still today — retains the more neutral connotation of just foam.

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.

Cama and Camera, Chamber

Cama, Spanish for “bed”, has many surprising cousins in English, including:

  • Chamber — This French word made its way into English, meaning originally and still most commonly, “bedroom”. What is your bedroom if not the room with your bed? Chamber comes from the Latin, camera, meaning the same — from which we also get cama itself.
  • Camera — From the Latin for the same, room. If we think about how a camera works: there is a little dark room where the film is exposed.
  • Comrade — The communist word for “friend” came to Russian and the world via French, but came to French via the Spanish camarada, literally, “chamber mate” — the person you shared your room with. You and your comrades have a closer relationship than you thought!

In all these words, we can see a c(h)-m to c-m mapping, so the relationships are clear!

Nacer and Renaissance

Nacer comes from the Latin for the same, nascere: “to be born.”

From the Latin nascere, with an added prefix of re– meaning “again”, we get the Renaissance — literally, “the rebirth”!

Thus, Nacer and Renaissance are close cousins, and we can see that the n-c of nacer maps to the (r)-n-s of renaissance.

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