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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.

Brindar, Brindis and Bring

Brindis (a “toast”, in the sense of saluting someone before you drink alcohol) and brindir (“to provide”) both come from the same origin — through a funny story.

In 1527, the German king Charles V sacked Rome — and the soldiers, when sacking the city, screamed out in victory constantly, “Ich bring dir’s!”, meaning, “I’m bringing it!” (“It” here refers to victory, the new king, a new beginning, etc.) This phrase then became popular and repeated around Rome (in Italian), in different senses: it became the toast that everyone used to the new king; and it also entered popular usage in the same sense, of bringing or providing. Then, the word was copied from Italian into Spanish. And, separately, bring, although a German word, is the same word in English. Remember, English is a Germanic language, after all (despite all those French words since 1066 and all that!).

We can thus see the br-n-d of brindis and brindar map to the br-n-g of bring quite clearly. The d/g sounds often swap places as well, thus making the g/d switch make sense: they do sound quite similar, after all.

Anillo and Anus

Let’s try not to laugh with this one.

The Spanish ending -illo is a common diminuitive, meaning a smaller version of something. A vecino is a neighbor; a vecinillo is the cute word that Flanders calls his neighbors in the Spanish translation of the Simpsons.

So: anus means anus. And anillo — the very common Spanish word meaning “ring” — is thus really just “little anus.”

Yes, in Spanish, a ring is just a small anus.

Piedra and Petrify

Piedra, Spanish for “rock,” is a close cousin of the English, petrify: “to be very, very scared”. We see the connection clearly if we map the p-d-r of piedra to the p-t-r of petrify.

What is the connection between them? Well, when you get scared, you often just freeze: you turn to stone! So next time someone is so scared that they stop in the middle of their tracks, just think, they are just, petrified!

It’s interesting to note that, these words have a whiff, just a whiff, of Sodom and Gomorrah. Remember the classic scene from Genesis: Lot and his wife are fleeing the city of Sin as they are being destroyed, commanded by God to not look back as they run away. But Lot’s wife is so scared that, she turns back onto it and is thus… turned into a pillar of salt. Her fear turns her into a stone (well, salt, but the same concept!). Literally!

Carne and Carnival

The Spanish carne (“meat”) is surprisingly related to… carnival.

The original carnival — the wild annual February parties in the Roman Catholic countries — were, after all, a meat market in many senses of the word!

Also related, more literally, is the English carnage.

You can see the c-r mapping in both the English and Spanish words clearly.

Jugo and Suck

One of our favorite patterns of sound change between English and Spanish is the sh/j shift: under the influence of arabic, many words that had a “s” or “sh” or “sy” or “ch” sound in Latin, started to be pronounced with the throat-clearing sound and written with a “j”. See sherry/jerez and chess/ajedrez or syrup/jarabe, for example.

Another example of this pattern is the Spanish word for “juice”, jugo. It comes from the Latin succus meaning, “juice” (particularly sap, or juice from plants).

From this Latin root succus we also get the English… suck.

Yes, if it sucks — it is juicy! Literally!

We can see the mapping in the s-c to j-g mapping. The “c” and “g” sounds are similar and often interchanged.

Interestingly, in Spain they do not say jugo to mean “juice”; instead, they say… suco. Suco, funnily enough, also comes from the same root of succus. It is just the variation that never underwent the arabic “j” transformation.

From the same root we also get the English succulent, although we do not get the superficially similar English juice, which comes from the Latin ius, meaning, “sauce.”

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.

Caldera and Cauldron

Caldera (Spanish for “pot”) comes from the Latin calderium meaning “warm bath”. From that same root, we get the English… cauldron. The witches’ boiling pot is both a pot and a warm bath of sorts, after all.

We can see the c-ld-r root clearly in all the words.

Limpio and Lymph

Limpio (Spanish for “clean”) comes from the Latin limpid (“clear”). The transition is easy to see: cleaning something is broadly, making it look clear again, right?

From that same Latin root, we also get the English lymph — as in the lymph nodes we studied in high school biology. What is a lymph? The clear liquid circulating in the body. Oh, there it is again: it’s clear.

The l-m-p root is clear in all!

Coima and Calumny

Coima (Spanish for “a bribe” and an unfortunately common word) comes from the Latin calvor, which means, “to cheat, deceive, trick”.

From that root, we get the English… calumny, which means “slander” (in case you forgot your SAT words or didn’t go to Law School!).

It is easy to see how a word meaning “cheating” transformed into both bribery on one hand, and slander on the other.

The c-m of coima maps to the c-(l)-mn of calumny, with the “l” having been slurred out over time.

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