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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!

Junta and Joint

The Spanish junta (“together”) comes from the Latin iunctus for “joined.” If you are together, then you are joined in one form or another.

From the Latin root iunctus, we get the English joint. A joint, after all, is just the exact point where two different things come together!

Both junta and joint have the j-n-t root, although it’s always fun to remember that both had an i- instead of a j- in Latin. Just like INRI.

Postizo and Posit

Postizo, Spanish for “false, artificial; in particular, a fake hairpiece” comes from the Latin positus, which meant, “put into its place.” If we’re wondering how “put into its place” came to mean “fake”, just think of the most common use of the Spanish word: for a wig. You put your fake hair into place!

From that same root, we also get the English posit — which is, quite literally, putting an idea into its place.

We can see the p-s-t root clearly in both words.

Jugar and Joke

Jugar (Spanish for “to play,” in the sense of a sport, not an instrument) and the English joke both, surprisingly, come from the same root: the Latin iocus, meaning, “joke, sport, pastime.”

Interesting: although the j-g of jugar maps to the j-k of joke, their meanings are sufficiently different so that, to an English speaker, the connection isn’t obvious.

Upon reflection, however, the key that binds them together is the other definition of iocus, “pastime”: both telling jokes and playing sports really are, indeed, pastimes.

Todo and Total

Todo (Spanish for “all; everything”) comes from the Latin for the same, totus. From that same Latin root, we also get the English… total. Anything that’s total is really all-encompassing, right? Hannah Arendt would certainly say that about a totalitarian government!

We can see the t-d to t-t mapping very clearly!

Apretar and Pectoral

Apretar (Spanish for “to squeeze”) comes from the Latin pectus, meaning, “chest.” Think of having a heart attack: your chest feels squeezed. It’s not a coincidence that doctors in the USA today still call a heart attack, angina pectoris — that is, “angina of the chest” since pectoral in English today still means “relating to the chest”! The p-t maps to the p-ct, with the -ct- just simplifying into its first -c- sound.

Related: see also Pecho/Pectoral. From the same pectus root, we see other interesting words, following the ch/ct pattern.

Llave – Clef

Key llave spanish english

The Latin words that began with “cl” changed, pretty consistently, to “ll” as Latin changed into Spanish.

Today’s example of this: the Latin word for “key” was clavis. This became the modern Spanish word for “key”, llave.

There are, however, a few interesting other descendants of clavis, and thus distant relatives of llave. They include:

  • the Spanish clavo, meaning, “nail”. It’s a more educated word, coming to Spanish via Latin scholars later on, so it didn’t lose the natural cl- sound the way the traditional words did.
  • English words like clef and enclave. Yes, in music you talk about the “key” and the “clef” and they come from the same word originally!

Nieve and Snow

Both the Spanish nieve and the English for the same, snow, come from the same root, although via very different routes.

In Proto-Indo-European, the ancient ancestor to both Spanish (PIE turned into Latin then Spanish) and English (PIE also turned into ancient Germanic then English), the Proto-Indo-European *sniegwh for snow gave rise to both the Latin nivis — which turned into the Spanish nieve — and the old German sneo which became the English snow.

Thus, the n-v of nieve maps exactly to the n-w of snow. The key sound change, which is what can confuse us, is the loss of the initial s- as the word transformed from PIE into Latin and then Spanish.

Plomo and Plumber

Plumber comes from the Latin plumbum, for “lead.” A plumber originally meant someone who works with (particularly smelts) lead. These men, over time, worked mostly with pipes (made of lead!) and eventually dealt more and more with the pipes that carry water into (or out of) homes and buildings. So leadworkers became plumbers.

Interestingly, the Spanish for “lead” (plomo) comes from the same Latin root. We can see the pl-m root in words in both languages.

Brazo and Bra, Bracelet

The Spanish brazo (“arm”) comes from the Latin bracchium meaning, “upper arm.” The Latin itself comes from the Greek brakhion. From these, we get English words such as bra (more recognizable if we remember the older, and original French, form of the word, brassière) as well as bracelet

We can see the br-c and its variations (br-z, br-s) in all the versions of the word.


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