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Palabra and Parable

The Spanish palabra (“word”) comes from the Latin parabola, meaning, “story; comparison.”

From that Latin word, we get the English… parable.

So, the word that became “word” in Spanish, became, the child’s word in English!

The p-r-b-l root is clear in both.

Interestingly, from the same root is the French word for “to talk”: parler. Je ne parle pas Francais!

But it gets more interesting: the French parler (literally, “to tell parables”) has a parallel to the Spanish hablar (which came from fabulare, literally, “to tell fables.”) As the Roman soldiers conquered Spain and France, their exaggerated words for telling stories — telling parables or fables — eventually became the words themselves for just, talking.

Gestación and Gestate

Gestación (“to develop”) comes from the Latin gestare (“to bear, carry, gestate”) from which we also get — not that surprisingly — the English word gestate. While the original word and the English version focused on developing a baby, in Spanish it has come to be used more broadly: like a business idea develops. The g-st root is clearly visible in both words.

Pollo and Pool

We have already discussed how pollo (Spanish for chicken) and poultry are related. But it gets more interesting!

From the same root is also… pool. Yes, pool! How so?

Well, in medieval France, they used to play the jeu de la poule, the game of the chicken. Everyone would pool their money together, and throw stones at the chicken to see it run in a different direction each time, a bit like how you… play pool today! Yes, this is where the game pool comes from!

Limpio and Lymph

Limpio (Spanish for “clean”) comes from the Latin limpid (“clear”). The transition is easy to see: cleaning something is broadly, making it look clear again, right?

From that same Latin root, we also get the English lymph — as in the lymph nodes we studied in high school biology. What is a lymph? The clear liquid circulating in the body. Oh, there it is again: it’s clear.

The l-m-p root is clear in all!

Rencor and Rancid

The Spanish for “anger,” rencor, has a fun English cousin: rancid.

Both words come from the Latin rancere, meaning “to stink.”

Thus, literally, both rotten food stinks and, anger stinks.

We can see the relationship clearly if we see the r-n-c mapping between the words.

Ácaro and Scar

A Spanish word that hopefully you don’t use much but unfortunately sometimes you need to is ácaro, meaning, “mite.”

Ácaro comes from the Latin for the same, acarus which ultimately comes from the Proto-Indo-European root *(s)ker-, which meant “cut.” Perhaps the word for “cut” turned into “mite” because that’s what mites do, they cut you open?

From that same root, via German, English gets a bunch of word of words related to cutting, such as… scar. That’s just a big cut, right? We also get the English shore – that’s just where the land cuts the flow of the ocean.

We can see the c-r mapping in both languages, with the initial s- disappearing in Spanish.

Volver and Vulva

It might seem obvious in retrospect but it wasn’t at the time. Vulva (yes, that word!) and the Spanish for “to return”, volver, all come from the same root: the Latin volvere also meaning “to return.” Yes, the words are almost identical and the v-l-v in both maps exactly to the other. It should have been glaringly obvious, I just never realized it! The vulva, after all, does roll back and forth! (Sorry, I couldn’t resist the comment!).

Lots of other super-interesting words come from the same root: valve, etc. Over the next weeks we’ll post them too! Volver is a particularly rich root; people have been going back and forth since time immemorial!

Acabar – Bring To A Head

Acabar — the everyday Spanish word meaning “just”, “finish”, and, wait for it “to ejaculate” (don’t ask how I learned the last definition!) — comes from the Latin caput, meaning “head”.

Thus, it has a parallel in the English expression: to bring to a head. Although that phrase doesn’t exactly mean to finish (it means, to force a decision to be made, basically), it is a similar concept: bringing about a totality that finishes or just about finishes something that had been happening.

Thus etymology proves the common sense wisdom that, it’s easy to start something… but it requires real intelligence, a head, to finish what you start.

Naufragar and Navigation

Naufragar (Spanish for “to be shipwrecked”) comes from the Latin Navis meaning “boat.” From that same root we get the English… navigation and navy. The n-v root is clearly visible in all of them.

Remolino and Mill

Remolino (Spanish for “whirlpool” or “swirl”) comes from the Latino molinum, which means…. mill. This makes sense: a mill just moves around and around in a circular motion — for example, think of a wind-mill. In fact, the English mill comes from the same root! So we can see the m-l root in both words!

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