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Ganar and Gain

Ganar (Spanish for “to win”) comes from the old Germanic root waidanjan, meaning “to hunt”. From the same root, via French, we get the English… gain.

The g‑n pattern is clearly visible in both.

Interestingly, this is almost an example of the w- to g- pattern, like guerra and war. It has the original w- root in the original word but the modern words, in both Spanish and English, use the g- sound (since the English word came indirectly from Latin via French).

Lleno — Plenty

Llenar — Spanish meaning “to fill” — comes from the Latin plenus, meaning “full”.

This, therefore, connects it to the English for the same, from the same root: Plenty. Not to mention, the less common English word plenary.

These words sound so different yet they’re so similar. Here’s how: Latin words that began with pl- usually turned into ll- when Latin evolved into Spanish. But as these words moved into English via French, they remained unchanged.

This explains not just llenar/plenty but explains a bunch of other words, including llama/flame.

Mancha and Immaculate

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.

Abrir and Aperture

The common Spanish abrir, for “open”, comes from the Latin for the same, aperio.

From the same root — in an “ahhhh!” moment — is the English, aperture, the opening of the camera. The sort of word you learn if you ever try to figure out how to use an analog camera!

The a‑b of abrir maps to the a‑p of aperture, with the “b” and “p” being often and easiliy exchanged.

Pudrir and Foul

The Spanish pudrir, “to rot,” has a surprising connection to the English, foul, a word meaning the same but sadly very underused these days — although still when quoting Macbeth: fair is foul and foul is fair!

Both come from the same Indo-European root *pu, meaning, “to rot.” 

But the English one sounds so different because, in the Germanic branch of Indo-European, the p- sound turned into the f- sound. But now in the Latin branch.

Thus the initial f+vowel of foul maps to the initial f+vowel of pudrir.

From the same root are more fun words including defile, putrid, and pus. What wonderful imagery!

Parto and Post-Partum Depression

Parto (Spanish for “birth”) comes from the Latin partus, “brought forth”. That makes sense: a baby is just brought forth into the world.

From the same Latin root, we get the English partum for “birth”. But that word is really only used in one contemporary word today: post-partum depression, the depression a woman gets after childbirth. Yes, post-partum is merely “after-birth”.

The p‑r-t root is clearly visible in both words.

Luna — Lunatic

Okay, put the Spanish for “moon”, Luna, being related to Lunatic, in the category of, “It’s so obvious you never realized it until someone once pointed it out to you!”.

Nighttime has historically, since ancient times, been associated with danger and the crazy riskiness that comes alongside it. This is manifested in many forms, including the Luna/Lunatic parallel.

Think, also, about parallel English cliches like, “shooting for the moon”: someone who is trying something that is so risky and unlikely to succeed that you must be insane to even try it!

Gratis and Gratify, Gratuity

Gratis (Spanish for “free,” in the sense of “free beer”, not “free speech”) is a close cousin of the English gratify and gratuitous (and its cousin gratuity).

Upon realizing this, it suddenly becomes obvious: all share the gr‑t root, plus vaguely related meanings. All come from the Latin gratus, meaning, “pleasing.”

It parallel becomes more obvious when we think of the connection of the English words to the original meaning of “pleasing”: that which is gratifying is pleasing, and you leave a gratuity when you are pleased. And gratis, free, is a reward to those who want to please others!

Humo and Fumes

If he is fuming, he is smoking — literally. And it is, subtly, the same word in Spanish.

“To fume” comes from the Latin root fumus (“smoke”) from which we also get the common Spanish word for “smoke”, humo. But they don’t sound alike, so how are they related?

The Spanish humo is a great example of the pattern of the Initial F turning into an H in Spanish, alone among the languages of the world. Many Latin words that began with an F, and come to us in English through the Latinate F form, became the equivalent word but with an H- in Spanish. Take hermano and filial, for example. Or fact and hecho.

Other English words from the same root fumus include fumigation (ahhhh!) and the less common fetid. Fetid is a dirty, Shakespearean word, after all.

Meterse and Omit, Submit, Admit, Permit

The Spanish meterse (“to get involved with”) comes from the Latin mittere (“to let go.”) They sound like they might be opposites, but they’re broadly aligned: it’s all about going somewhere, figuratively. Getting involved with something is just getting to your destination!

From this Latin root, we get a whole slew of English words, such as:

  • Omit
  • Submit
  • Admit
  • Permit

Basically, all the ‑mit words – even the awesome, but usually forgotten, manumit!

What all of these words have in common is, going in a particular direction: the permission to go there; the acceptance to go there; the submission to see if you can go there; and even the opposite, just not going there at all!

Note that also from the same root we get the noun version of these words, in which (surprisingly) the ‑mit morphed into ‑mission. Thus: manumission, dismiss, mess and mission.

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