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Despedirse and Repeat

The Spanish despedirse (“to say goodbye; leave”) comes from the Latin petere (“to seek.”) With the des- prefix, despedirse literally means: to seek away from. You say goodbye when you’re looking for something else, away from where you are now.

From the Latin root, we get a few English words including:

  • Petulant. The petulant kid never stops seeking more and more.
  • Perpetual. What is doing something perpetually if not, looking for something and never getting what you want?
  • Repeat. That’s when you keep on looking for something over and over, and never find it.
  • Compete. It’s when you’re looking for something — and so is someone else.

Demasiado and Master

The Spanish demasiado (“enough!”) comes from the Latin adverb magis, meaning “more!”.

From that same root magis, we also get the English… master.

It goes to show you: a master is really someone who, as Depeche Mode said, just can’t get enough.  So they keep going and going and going, until they’ve become a master.

The m‑s root maps clearly to both words.

Perejil and Parsley

Perejil and its English version parsley sound very different. But they are, actually, etymologically the same word.

They sound different because often the ‑s- and ‑sh- sounds in Spanish turned into the letter ‑j- with the Arabic throat clearing sound as a pronunciation. Thus, the p‑r-j‑l of perejil maps exactly to the p‑r-s‑l of parsley.

Tirar and Retire, Tirade

The Spanish tirar, meaning “to throw, to pull”, has two unexpected cousins: the English retire and tirade.

The two English words come from the same root, also meaning the same. Thus, retire literally means, to pull back (the Latin root re- means “back”): to go on a tirade is literally just throwing out lots and lots of words!

Oddly, no one knows where this whole family of words comes from. No obviously similar cognate exists in Latin.

Bajo — Base

The Spanish bajo, for “low”, sounds unlike the similar words in English.… except for base.

Think about base as the core foundation or support — the lowest thing holding everything else up — or even in the old Shakespearean sense of “vile”, “the basest weed” —  the connection makes much more sense.

Both come from the Latin basis (meaning, “foundation”) — from which we also get the same English, basis.

And think of the bass cleff in music, for the lower notes, as well.

The surprising connection is explained easily when we understand that a lot of sh- and si- and related sounds in Latin turned into j- in Spanish. Thus, the b‑s maps to b‑j almost exactly.

Delante and Anterior

The Spanish delante (“in front of”) comes from the Latin de- (“of, out of”) and ante (“before”), via intante (in plus ante). So “in front of” is literally “before” in the sense of “standing before.”

Thus, with the de- prefix, it is a cousin of the ante that brings us a host of English words with ante that mean “before”: anterior, antediluvian, antique. We can see the a‑n-t root in all these variations.

Dorado and Aurora

Dorado, Spanish for “covered in gold” — think of McDonalds in Spanish. Los Arcos Dorados (the golden arches–literally!) comes from the Latin de- (“of”) and aurum, “gold”: gilded or gold-covered, literally means… from gold.

From the same Latin root we also get the English aurora, “dawn” or the Roman goddess of the dawn. The morning sun glittering in the distance is… shining, just like gold does.

We can see the a‑r root in both words clearly!

Camisa — Heaven

The Spanish for “shirt”, Camisa, is a distant cousin of the English Heaven. How?

Both come from the same common ancestor, the Proto-Indo-European root *kem, meaning, “to cover.” This root evolved, via German, to the English heaven (that which covers us above) and it evolved, via Latin (and even the French chemise), to the Spanish camisa (that which covers our torso!).

But they sound so different. How can that be?

The answer is that the Indo-European sound k- transformed over time into the German and then English h- sound — which remaining the same (albeit with a c- spelling) in Latin and then Spanish. Thus the c- of camisa maps to the h- of heaven.

Other examples of this pattern include cornudo/horn and horse/correr.

Acabar — Bring To A Head

Acabar — the everyday Spanish word meaning “just”, “finish”, and, wait for it “to ejaculate” (don’t ask how I learned the last definition!) — comes from the Latin caput, meaning “head”.

Thus, it has a parallel in the English expression: to bring to a head. Although that phrase doesn’t exactly mean to finish (it means, to force a decision to be made, basically), it is a similar concept: bringing about a totality that finishes or just about finishes something that had been happening.

Thus etymology proves the common sense wisdom that, it’s easy to start something… but it requires real intelligence, a head, to finish what you start.

Ventana and Ventillation

Ventana, Spanish for “window,” comes from the Latin ventus, for “wind.” From the same root, we get the English… dum dum dum… ventilation. Vent and vent: both push back against the wind!

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