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Cumplir and Ac­com­plish, Com­plete

Cumplir, the com­mon Span­ish mean­ing, “to fin­ish [do­ing some­thing]” is — in a mo­ment of, “ah! It’s ob­vi­ous now that you’ve told me!’ — a close cousin of the Eng­lish, ac­com­plish.

Both come from the Latin mean­ing “to com­plete,” ac­com­plere, which comes from the old­er Latin root com­plere, mean­ing, “to fill up” — from which we al­so get the Eng­lish com­plete.

Thus, the c‑m-pl of cumplir maps to the c‑m-pl of ac­com­plish. Not to men­tion, the c‑m-pl of com­plete as well.

De­porte and Sport

Sport and the Span­ish for the same, de­porte, are clos­er than they seem.

The Eng­lish sport comes from the French for the same… de­sporte — no­tice it is the same as the Span­ish, ex­cept with an ex­tra “s” (that’s a pat­tern that we’ll ex­plain in the French ver­sion of this page one day!).

You can see the con­nec­tion to the Eng­lish clear­ly if we re­mem­ber the “s” and we re­mem­ber the de- pre­fix was lost over time. Thus, the s‑p-r‑t maps to the Span­ish (d)-(s)-p-r‑t.

The French de­sporte (and thus the Eng­lish sport) and its Span­ish equiv­a­lent de­porte both come from the same Latin root: des- mean­ing “away” and portare, mean­ing, “to car­ry”.

Thus de­porte, and sport, is al­so re­lat­ed to puer­to (“port”) and portero (“su­per”, in the sense of, “su­per­in­ten­dent”) in Span­ish and port in Eng­lish.

Destacar and De­tach

Destacar (Span­ish for “to stand out”) comes from the French destachi­er (“to de­tach”) which, in turn, comes from the Latin de- (of, from) plus the old French stakon, mean­ing a “stake” (lit­er­al­ly, as in a pole!).

Thus, “stand­ing out” (destacar) is lit­er­al­ly just de­tach­ing your­self from the rest around you — who are, pre­sum­ably, much low­er qual­i­ty than you are!

We can see the root clear­ly in the d-(s)-t‑c (for destacar) to d‑t-ch (de­tach) map­ping.

Don’t for­get that the de- pre­fix in French and some­times Span­ish is just an­oth­er form of the de- pre­fix. Thus, ex­plain­ing the ex­tra ‑s-. And — clear­ly! — at­tach comes as well from the same root, just with­out the de/des nega­tion!

But the best mod­ern Eng­lish word from the same root is… stac­ca­to. Yup: play­ing the pi­ano in stac­ca­to fash­ion is just, when you play each note re­al­ly sep­a­rat­ed from the oth­ers!

Mil and Mile

The Span­ish for a “thou­sand,” mil, comes from the Latin mil­ia, mean­ing the same.

Here’s the in­ter­est­ing part: the an­cient Ro­mans would put a stake in the ground every thou­sand paces out­side the city, to mark how far away you go. And that’s why, from the Latin word for a thou­sand, we get the Eng­lish… mile.

Bonus: mil­lion comes from the same root–and lit­er­al­ly means, “a thou­sand thou­sand!”

Yer­no and Genus

Yer­no (Span­ish for “son-in-law”) at first sounds like noth­ing in Eng­lish.

But let’s look clos­er! The g- and y- sounds are of­ten mixed up be­tween lan­guages and even re­gions that speak the same lan­guage; in fact, the Old Eng­lish g- trans­formed it­self in­to a y- over time (com­pare the Ger­man gestern with the Eng­lish yes­ter­day, for ex­am­ple). And the n‑r sound not un­com­mon­ly swaps to be­come an r‑n sound, the two are eas­i­ly mixed up, es­pe­cial­ly in slurred speech.

Thus, the bizarre-sound­ing y‑r-n root of yer­no maps to the g‑n-r root of gener­ic (Maybe sons-in-laws are more gener­ic in Span­ish cul­tures than Eng­lish ones?) as well as genus (which lost the fi­nal r-) — yes, genus as in Latin and now sci­en­tif­ic clas­si­fi­ca­tion of your spot in the uni­verse! The son-in-law, I guess, is des­tined to be the son-in-law as his lot-in-life.

Ex­i­to and Ex­it

The Span­ish éx­i­to (“suc­cess”) comes from the Latin ex­i­tus (“an ex­it”) — from which we get the Eng­lish… (sur­prise, sur­prise) ex­it.

But how are “ex­its” — like the sign you see to leave a build­ing in an emer­gency! — and “suc­cess­es” re­lat­ed?

Well, re­mem­ber that in­vestors and com­pa­ny founders of­ten call a suc­cess­ful sale of a com­pa­ny, an “ex­it.” It’s leav­ing… but on a high note.

What is note­wor­thy is that, over the cen­turies, in Span­ish, the no­tion of “leav­ing” has tak­en on such a pos­i­tive con­no­ta­tion, that the word for ex­it­ing be­came the word for suc­cess!

Sug­gest­ed by: Paul Mur­phy

Tar­je­ta and Tar­get

Tar­je­ta, Span­ish for “card,” comes from the same root as tar­get. This is on­ly ob­vi­ous in ret­ro­spect, since the in­ter­change be­tween the ‘j’ and the ‘g’ makes it hard to rec­og­nize. But once you learn it, it is easy to re­mem­ber that the t‑r-j maps to the t‑r-g.

Both words come from the old Ger­man (via old French) tar­ga, mean­ing “shield.” Yes: a tar­get is just a shield–your shield is a tar­get, since it is the shield that is hit, not you! And a card (tar­je­ta) is al­so a shield–just a very small one!

Di­sheveled and Ca­bel­lo

Di­sheveled — as in, hav­ing messy hair! — comes from the same Latin root as the Span­ish ca­bel­lo, mean­ing “hair” or “a head of hair.” Both of these come from the Latin capil­lus, mean­ing hair.

We can see the pat­tern more clear­ly if we re­mem­ber the dis- pre­fix at the be­gin­ning of di­sheveled: thus the (d)-sh-v‑l of di­sheveled maps to the c‑p-ll of capel­lo.

Al­so from the same Latin root capil­lus, we get the Eng­lish cap­il­lary. A cap­il­lary, af­ter all, looks just like a thin strand of hair.

Otoño and Au­tumn

Otoño does­n’t sound much like its Eng­lish trans­la­tion, fall (the sea­son). But if we think of the less com­mon syn­onym, Au­tumn, then the pat­tern be­comes a bit clear­er.

Both come from the Latin for the same, Au­tum­nus. But Latin words with an m‑n sound usu­al­ly be­came an ñ sound in Span­ish. Think of damn and daño, for ex­am­ple. So the a‑t-m‑n of au­tumn maps to the o‑t-ñ of otoño!

Lev­an­tar and Rel­e­vant

Rel­e­vant is a sur­pris­ing cousin of the Span­ish for Lev­an­tar (“to raise”). Both come from the Latin Lev­antare, al­so mean­ing “to raise”.

But what is the con­nec­tion be­tween rais­ing and be­ing rel­e­vant? Rel­e­vant was orig­i­nal­ly a le­gal term, in Scot­land, mean­ing “to take over a prop­er­ty”: thus, rais­ing up be­came tak­ing con­trol of which then be­came just mak­ing rel­e­vant.


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