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Recinto and Precinct and Cinch

Recinto (Spanish for “enclosure” or “facility”) comes from the Latin re- (which just adds emphasis) and the Latin cintus (a noun meaning “surrounding” — in the literal sense, of something that surrounds something else, like enclosing a circle around them; or similarly, “encircling.”)

From that same root, we get the English word precinct — which makes sense, since a precinct is really just a radius or… encircling to define a neighborhood.

More surprisingly from same root is, cinch. This Latin word meaning a circling came to mean sword-belt (it is a belt that encriclces you!), which then came to mean the Spanish cincha, meaning “girdle.” That then came back to English to mean, “a sure thing” and then “easy” — because your girdle stays on tightly to be a sure thing. It is a cinch!

1859, American English, “saddle-girth,” from Spanish cincha “girdle,” from Latin cingulum “a girdle, a swordbelt,” from cingere “to surround, encircle,” from PIE root *kenk- (1) “to gird, encircle” (cognates: Sanskrit kankate “binds,” kanci “girdle;” Lithuanian kinkau “to harness horses”). Replaced earlier surcingle. Sense of “an easy thing” is 1898, via notion of “a sure hold” (1888).

We can see the c‑n-t root clearly in recinto and precinct, and the very similar c‑n-ch in cinch as well.

Celoso and Jealous, Zeal

The Spanish celoso and the English for the same, jealousy, come from the same Greek root: zelos.

But how did this happen? They should so different!

The answer is that the Latin (and Greek) words with a ‑ch- sound and variations (like ‑sh‑, the soft ‑j-, ‑z-, etc) usually turned into the hard, guttural, throat-cleaing ‑j- sound in Spanish. Think about sherry and jerez, for example, or quash and quejar, or soap and jabón.

Thus, the c‑l-s of celoso maps to the j‑l-s of jealous.

Curiously, the ancient Greek form — zelos — meant jealousy, but in the more positive sense of enthusiasm and friendly rivalry. In a word: zeal — which also comes from the same root!

Creer — Incredible

The Spanish creer, “to believe”, is easy to remember once we realize it comes from the same root as… incredible. Both are from the Latin credibilis (meaning “worth of believing”), and the in- prefix is a negation, so that which is incredible is literally… unbelievable. And thus creer is also a first cousin to being… credible. Ahhh!

Martillo and Malleable

The Spanish martillo (“hammer”) comes from the Latin malleus meaning the same. And from this Latin root malleus we get the English… malleable. So something that is malleable, changeable, is figuratively… hammerable. 

We see that the Spanish m‑rt-ll maps to the English m‑ll.

Enviar and Envoy

Enviar (Spanish for “To send”) comes from the Latin for the same, inviare. From that same root, we get the English… envoy. An envoy just sends a message, after all!

The e‑n-v root is self-evident in both words. And the Latin inviare comes from the root via for “road”, from which we get endless English words, including… via!

Ladrón — Burglar

The Spanish ladrón, for thief, sounds unrelated to any English word.

But, it does have an interesting connection to the English for the same, Burglar.

Burglar comes from the Latin burgus, which meant “castle” or a “fortified town” — think about the ‑burg ending in many place names, like Pittsburgh or Edinborough.

But, if burglar comes from burgus, then where did the ‑l- in the middle come from?

Well, the ‑l- was inserted slowly over time under the influence of the Latin for thief, latro. The word for “thief” was, unconsciously, made to sound similar to the other word for thief! And from latro we get, directly, the Spanish ladrón.

Thus, although burglar isn’t directly descended from ladrón, they are incestuous cousins.

Padecer and Passion

Padecer (Spanish for “to suffer”) comes from the Latin pati, meaning, “to suffer.” From that same root, we get the English… passion.

Yes, by definition, passion necessarily entails suffering.  Doesn’t that tell you everything you need to know about love?

Vestirse and Vest, Invest, Travesty, Transvestite

Vestirse (Spanish for, “to get dressed”) comes from the Latin for the same, Vestire. Some fun English words that come from the same root include:

Vest– It makes sense since it is an article of clothing!

Invest– This originally meant, “to clothe” and was used in a metaphorical sense meaning, “to surround”. Your investors do surround you every moment – literally!

Travesty– This one is less obvious. Travesty originally meant, “dressed in a way to purposefully look ridiculous”. Ah! It does tie-in to clothing!

Transvestite– Dressed in the clothing of… oh you know how this one ends 🙂

Turbio and Disturb

Turbio, Spanish for “cloudy”, comes from the same Latin root as the English disturb: turbidus, meaning, “turmoil; full of confusion; muddy.”

It is easy to see how this one root evolved in time into both the English disturb and the Spanish turbio. Think of a cloudy day, just about to rain: the skies are in turmoil! The Gods are about to fight with one another!

We can see the t‑r-b root clearly in both. And the English turbid also comes from the same root, although that word is used only on the SATs.

Palabra and Parable

The Spanish palabra (“word”) comes from the Latin parabola, meaning, “story; comparison.”

From that Latin word, we get the English… parable.

So, the word that became “word” in Spanish, became, the child’s word in English!

The p‑r-b‑l root is clear in both.

Interestingly, from the same root is the French word for “to talk”: parler. Je ne parle pas Francais!

But it gets more interesting: the French parler (literally, “to tell parables”) has a parallel to the Spanish hablar (which came from fabulare, literally, “to tell fables.”) As the Roman soldiers conquered Spain and France, their exaggerated words for telling stories — telling parables or fables — eventually became the words themselves for just, talking.

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