The Spanish hallar (“to find”) comes from the Latin afflare (“to blow.”) From that same Latin root we get various f‑l words involving blowing, including:
All of these share the f‑l root. But how did this turn into the Spanish hallar? Well, first remember that the initial F- sound tended to disappear when Latin turned into Spanish; see, fig and higo or fable and hablar. Secondly, note that finding something is just blowing on it, uncovering what was below the dust you blew away!
Although ayudar (Spanish for “to help”) sounds little like the English “young”, both have the same great-grandfather.
Ayudar comes from the Latin adiutare also meaning “to help”, which in turn comes from ad- (meaning “towards”) and iuvenis, meaning “young”. To help, after all, is — at its core — what those with strength (the young) do for the elderly and those who can’t help themselves. Iuvenis is often written with the modern Latin-ish spelling of Juvenis — ahhh! Think Juvenal!
The Latin iuvenis comes from the Proto-Indo-European root *yeu-, which means “youth, strength”. From that root we get the Germanic jungas, from which we get the English young.
So youth, seemingly everywhere, is strongly tied to strength; and strength is tied to helping those who need it.
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.
Amenazar (Spanish for “to threaten”) has a curious origin: from the Latin mine, meaning, “lead” or sometimes “silver.” Remember, this was the material that weapons — swords, arrowheads, etc — were made of. If you don’t comply with my threat–I will hurt you!
Although this isn’t directly related to the English mine (the place where you get silver!), they might have the same original root–and it is an easy mnemonic. After all, we mine silver in the mines.
Embassy (and Ambassador) and its Spanish equivalent, Embajada (and Embajador), both come from the same ancestor, the Old French Ambactos.
What is most interesting about these two is that it is an example of the pattern where the ‑j- sound in Spanish maps to the ‑sh- sound (and its cousins, like ‑ss- and ‑ch-) in English. Remember syrup and jarabe, chess and ajedrez, sherry and jerez, and push and empujar for a few examples.
Thus, the m‑b-j of emabajada maps to the m‑b-ss of embassy.
The Spanish Acatar (meaning “to follow, obey, respect”) comes from the Latin captare, meaning “to capture, take hold of”. From that root, we get a few English words, including:
The c-℗t root is visible in all, although the ‑p- in the ‑pt- has been lost in a few variations.
The Spanish mancha (“spot” or “stain”) comes from the Latin for the same, macula.
From the Latin macula, we get the English… immaculate — which literally means (knowing the negation prefix of im-) “without a stain.” So the immaculate conception truly was perfect!
How this sound changed was interesting: often Latin words with a ct- or cl- or other hard letters after a c- sound turn into a suave ch in Spanish. For a distant example, see duct and ducha, or nocturnal and noche. (The ct- is much more common than the cl‑, but they’re cousins!) Thus, we can see the m‑ch of mancha mapping to the (im-)m‑cl of immaculate.
The Spanish pegar (“to paste”) comes from the Latin pix, meaning “tar.” That makes sense: “paste” looks like just a more diluated “tar.”
But pix itself comes from the Proto-Indo-European root pei(e), which meant, fat — think of animal fat, for example. It makes sense that this word evolved into a word meaning “tar”: that’s a bit what animal fat looks like.
From this same root pei(e), we get a few notable English words:
Apostar, Spanish for “to bet”, sounds nothing like bet or any related English word.
But it turns out to be a close cousin of Posit and Position: Betting is indeed just an extreme form of putting forth a position or positing something — literally putting your money where your mouth is.
All come from the same Latin, positionem, which come from the Latin root verb ponere (“to put”) from which we also get the Spanish for the same, poner.
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!