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Coche – Coach

The Spanish for “car”, coche, on the surface sounds nothing like the English for the same — or any similar word.

But etymologically, it comes from the same root as the English, coach. Think of it in the old-fashioned sense of: the coach class on a train!

All come from the same root: the Hungarian kocsi (Hungarian is unrelated to English or Spanish, so there is no deeper root), named after the village where the first coach, in the very old sense — a large carriage — was created.

It’s interesting how coach has been downgraded as a word in English: it was first the luxurious way to travel, and now it is the economy class of a train.

Vecino and Vicinity

The Spanish for “neighbor”, vecino, comes from the Latin vicinus for “neighborhood”. From that root, we also get the similar… vicinity.

After all, what is your neighbor, if not someone who is in the same vicinity as you!

This one is in the class of very obvious ones (the v-c-n root is clear in both) but you don’t realize it until someone tells you.

Disfrazar and Friction, Traffic

The Spanish disfrazar (“to dress up”, as in a costume) comes from the Latin fricare meaning “to rub; to rub off.”

From this same Latin root, we get the English friction — and what is friction if not, rubbing against something to wear it down?

We also get the English traffic (the tra– comes from a shortened version of the trans– “across” prefix). And what is traffic if not, friction across the road?

The fr-z of disfrazar maps to the fr-ct of friction and just the ff of traffic.

But the question is: how did the word for “rubbing” turn into the word for “dressing up in a costume”? That part is interesting: the Latin fricare (“to rub off”) turned into the Late Latin frictiare, meaning, “walking and leaving footprints (just like animals do).” Leaving tracks as you walk gave away who you are and where you’re going, letting you be followed. But with the de– prefix (meaning “not”) which negates that, disfrazar (literally, de– “not” and frictiare “leaving a trail behind you as you walk”) together meant: not being able to be tracked or followed. Hence, a costume.

Esposa – Spouse

Esposa spouse english spanish

Esposa and spouse both come from the same root, and both mean the same thing — that one was obvious!

However, it gets more interesting: both come from the Latin spondere, meaning, “to bind”.

From this root we also get the Spanish word esposas, which means (in addition to meaning just “wives”), also means… handcuffs.

Yes, in Spanish, “handcuff” and “wife” are the same word. It gets the point across clearly, doesn’t it?

Catarata and “Cats and Dogs”

It is unknown where the English phrase “it’s raining cats and dogs” comes from. But there’s one likely etymology that it is a corruption of the Latin catadupa for “waterfall”. From that same Latin root catadupa, we get the Spanish for waterfall…. catarata.

The c-t root that begins both catarata and “cats and dogs” does make this etymology plausible. But is it real? I just don’t know.

It does, however, make it easy to remember: a waterfall has the intensity of rain showers even stronger than with “cats and dogs”!

Planchar and Plank

Planchar (Spanish for “to iron”) comes from the French for the same, planche, which comes from the Latin plancus, for “straight.” Ironing is making something straight!

From that same root, we get the English… plank. A plank, after all, is just a piece of wood that is… straight.

The mapping of the Spanish p-l-n-ch to the English p-l-n-k is quite clear.

Regalo and Gala, Gallant

Regalo, Spanish for “gift,” comes from the Old French galer (“to rejoice; make merry”), with a re- prefix added for emphasis.

From the same root we get the the English gala, as well as gallant.

It makes sense: a gala is a big, merry, ball after all. Gallant is a bit more subtle: it meant, in old French, courteous — but earlier, it had originally meant, “amusing, entertaining,” from which we can see a clear relationship to making merry.

So it is noteworthy, therefore, that, good manners (being courteous) originally began as… being fun.

And all share the same g-l root to make the connection clear.

Cucaracha and Cockroach

We get the English cockroach directly from the Spanish cucaracha. We can see the c-c-r-ch pattern in both. There is no Latin, Greek, or German root since it is a New World word.

Apellido and Repeal

The Spanish apellido, for “last name” (“surname” to the Brits) has a cousin in the English repeal and appeal.

All of these come from the Latin appellare, meaning, “to call.”

The Spanish makes sense: your last name is which tribe the world calls you by!

The English appeal is, indeed, when you call for a higher authority for help. And repeal is when you call back, push back to those who tried to do something to you.

The p-l mapping is consistent amongst all the variations, with slight changes in spelling (single l vs double l, for example).

Hembra and Feminine

The Spanish hembra, for “female” (usually in regards to animals) sounds nothing like the English feminine. But it turns out that they are etymologically identical.

Both come from the Latin for female, feminina. Hembra sounds so different because the f-m-n root is changed to h-mbr via two different patterns:

  • The f-to-h pattern, where words beginning in the Latin f- change to an h- in Spanish, such as filial and hijo, or hacer and fact — changing the initial h- of feminina to h-.
  • The m-n to -mbr- pattern, where Latin words with the m-n together usually changed to an -mbr- in Spanish, like illuminate and alumbrar — changing the m-n of feminina to the -mbr- of hembra.

These two, taken together, show a clear mapping of f-m-n to h-mbr.

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