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Beber – Beverage

File this one under the “So obvious I didn’t realize it” category: the Spanish beber (“to drink”) is a cousin of the English, beverage.

Both come from the same fountain: the Latin bibere, meaning the same. Thus the b-b-r in the Spanish beber maps to the m-v-r in the English beverage.

The only change is a b-to-v transition, which is one of the more common and often interchangeable transitions.

Miel and Mellifluous

The Spanish for “honey,” miel, comes from the Latin mel — also meaning honey. We can see the m-l root obviously and simply in both!

(The –fluous ending comes from the Latin fluere, meaning “to flow” — and we can also see the f-l root there!)

So, mellifluous words are… flowing like honey.

Rocío and Rosemary

Rocío (Spanish for “dew,” not to mention its cousin, rociar, “to sprink or spray”) comes the Latin ros (“dew.”)

From that same root, we get the English… rosemary, everyone’s favorite mint! Rosemary in fact comes from the Latin rosmarinus (rosmarinus), the “dew of the sea”!

The r-c of rocío clearly maps to the r-s of rosemary.

Mismo and Lorem Ipsum

The Spanish mismo for “same; self” comes from the Latin metipsimus meaning “same”. That word, in turn, comes from the combination of the Latin roots: met (just giving emphasis) and ipse (“himself; itself”) and the suffix -issismus (also adding emphasis; think “-ism” in English).

Here’s where it gets interesting: from that same Latin root, we get… lorem ipsum, the Latin phrase (still used in English!) that we use as the filler text when we don’t know what else to write, before the real wording comes in. Where does lorem ipsum itself come from? Well, Google around, there’s a lot written about that; but the exact phrase itself means “pain onto himself” (with the lorem short for dolorem — thus related to the Spanish dolor for “pain”!). So, we can see how the ipse that turned into mismo also retained without change in lorem ipsum.

Not to mention… ipse dixit!

Hijo – Filial, Affiliate

The Spanish for “son”, hijo, doesn’t sound like anything in English. But it is a close cousin of the English synonym for brotherliness: filial.

Both come from the Latin for “son,” filius. The transformation to Spanish came about through two interesting patterns: the initial f- in Latin usually turned into an h- in Spanish (such as, hacer and fact, or hablar and fable). The other pattern is less common: the -li- sound turned into a -j- sound – it’s just a less common sound! Thus the f-li maps to h-j almost exactly.

From the Latin filius, we get a few other English words, including: affiliate: an affiliate is, in a way, a child you rear!

From the same root we also get the English fetus, fecund and even feminine. These come, via the Latin filius, from the Proto-Indo-European root *dʰeh₁y-li-os, meaning, “sucker” — in the literal sense of, “one who sucks.” Children, indeed, are defined by their sucking their mothers; so your hijo is literally, “the one who sucks.” And, some might argue, even affiliates themselves usually do suck!

Desayuno, Ayuno and Breakfast, Fast

This is one of my all-time favorite Spanish-English parallel etymologies.

The Spanish word desayuno, meaning breakfast, comes from the prefix des– meaning not– and ayuno, meaning fast (in the sense of a religious fast, during which you don’t eat). Thus, literally desayuno (breakfast) is “the break – fast”!

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.

Estafa and Staff

Estafa, Spanish for “to rip off” in the sense of taking advantage of someone or stealing, comes from the Italian staffa, which means “stirrup”. This change of meaning came about because it was common, back in the day, for people to borrow a horse… and then never return it.

The Italian staffa itself comes from the Proto-Indo-European root stebh, which meant “to fasten, or place firmly” from which we get the English… staff. A staff, after all, is a stick that helps you fasten something into place! At least, it used to.

From the same PIE root, we get other English words including step, stump, stamp and… Stephen.

The st-f root is visible in both estafa and staff.

Etapa and Staple

Etapa (Spanish for “stage, level”) comes from old Dutch word (remember, the whole Spanish-Netherlands 80 years war? They did influence each other a lot!) stapel meaning, “deposit; store.”

The English staple comes from the Old German stapulaz (“pillar”) — from which we also get the Dutch stapel and then the Spanish etapa!

But how did a word meaning “pillar” become “stage” or “staple”? Well, a pillar holds up the next level — the next stage! (Think of floors in a building as being stages of development. Ultimately we reach the penthouse!). Or think about the pillar — that which holds everything else up so it doesn’t fall — is the staple of the building, the most basic building block, to ensure it doesn’t collapse!

We can see the t-p root in both the English and Spanish words.

Desayuno and Dinner

We’ve already discussed desayuno (“breakfast”): breakfast is the break-fast, just like des- (“anti”) ayuno (“fast”)!

However, there’s an interesting addition to the story: dinner.

The English dinner originally comes from the French for breakfast, which is almost the same as the Spanish. Both are from Latin and meant the same: desjunare. Thus, we can see over time that the Latin for break-fast (dis– + ieiunus) became “breakfast” in both French and Spanish and then, via the French transformed into the English dinner while remaining with the same meaning in Spanish.

Therefore, we can see the d-(s)-n of desayuno map to the d-n of dinner.

But all of this suggests a question: how did breakfast (the first meal of the day) turn into dinner (the last meal of the day)?

Easy: breakfast kept on getting later and later — until it was dinner!

At first it was eating in the morning: breaking the fast of the night. Then, over time, the big fast-breaking meal would happen around 2pm. Then eventually it turned into our 6pm dinnertime.

We see this vestige of the old usage in England, where dinner is sometimes used to refer to “lunch”–and the night-time meal that Americans call dinner is still sometimes called… supper.


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