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Ducha – Duct, Douche

Ducha, Spanish for “shower”, sounds unrelated to the English for the same. But it does have a less obvious cousin in English: duct; both do conduct water, towards a particular direction!

And yes, from the same root we also get, via French, douche, as in, douchebag.

Duct and Ducha both come the same Latin root, ductus, “leading”. More on that one another day.

The transformation happened due to the always-fun pattern of the -ct- words in Latin turning into -ch- words in Spanish. Thus, the d-ct in Latin and English maps almost exactly to the d-ch in Spanish.

Autopista and Pizza

Autopista (Spanish for “highway”) comes from the words auto– (you can guess what that one means!) and pista, which is Spanish for “track” (think, train tracks, or the track that runners run on).

But where does pista come from? The Latin pistus (“to pound” — think of the motion of pounding something into dust as being a bit like the running around the track! Pounding the pavement!). From this Latin pistus, we get a few English words including… pizza (via Italian, of course! Think of the pounding needed to make the pizza dough!) and piston (the piston engine going in circles is a bit like running as well!).

Thus, we can see the p-st of autopista maps to the p-zz of pizza and the p-st of piston.

Huir and Fugitive

Fugitive huir 3

The Spanish “Huir” comes from the same Latin root as “fugitive”, “fugitivus”, meaning, “to flee”.

Pattern: Latin words that began with an ‘F’ tended to lose that initial ‘F’ sound and became silent (yet represented in writing with an ‘H’) as vulgar Latin turned into Spanish.

Asqueroso and Scar

Asqueroso is the common Spanish word meaning “disgusting.” ¡Qué asqueroso! is the common Spanish exclamation of disgust, as is its closely-related cousin, ¡Que asco!

Asqueroso (and asco) come from the Latin eschara, meaning, “scab” (which itself is from the Greek eskhara meaning the same).

From the same Latin (and Greek) root, we also get the English… scar.

So, in Spanish, something that is so disgusting literally scars you!

We can see the mapping in the s-qu-r of asqueroso to the s-c-r of scar.

Reluctant and Luchar

Luchar, Spanish for “to fight”, doesn’t sound like its cousin reluctant – although of course everyone is reluctant to fight. But the relationship is closer than it seems.

Reluctant comes from the Latin roots re- (“against”) and luctari (“to fight”). Reluctance is to fight against what should be done — literally.

From luctari, we also get the Spanish for exactly the same, “to fight.”

But they don’t sound similar. How did luchar evolve?

Interestingly, in most Latin words that had a -ct- sound, this -ct- sound evolved into -ch- as Latin evolved into Spanish. Think about night/noche and eight/octagon. The same pattern explains luctari turning into luchar.

We see this relationship clearly with the l-ct to l-ch mapping between the two.

Decir/Dicho and Dictionary

Dictionary decir spanish english

The Spanish Decir (“to say”) comes from the Latin dictio for “word”. Its participle form is dicho — and dicho also means “saying”, in the sense of, a cliche.

Thus decir is another example of the “ct” sound in Latin turning into the “ch” sound in Spanish — and is also related to the English word… dictionary.

Cumplir and Accomplish, Complete

Cumplir, the common Spanish meaning, “to finish [doing something]” is — in a moment of, “ah! It’s obvious now that you’ve told me!’ — a close cousin of the English, accomplish.

Both come from the Latin meaning “to complete,” accomplere, which comes from the older Latin root complere, meaning, “to fill up” — from which we also get the English complete.

Thus, the c-m-pl of cumplir maps to the c-m-pl of accomplish. Not to mention, the c-m-pl of complete as well.

Lado, Lateral, Latitude

The Spanish lado (“side”) comes from the Latin latus (“wide”).

There are many surprising English words from the same Latin root. “Surprising” largely because the l-t sound was preserved in English, but evolved into the similar l-d sound in Spanish–thus making the connection less obvious and still interesting.

Some examples include:

  • Lateral, and its variations such as, unilateral, bilateral and multilateral.
  • Latitude: the latitude is literally the width from one side to the other.
  • Dilate: a dilation is indeed a widening.
  • Relate: literally means, “to go back to the side”; relating to someone is going to their side of the fence!
  • Elation: From the Latin ex-latus (and ex- is, of course, “above”); thus literally, “rising above the sides”.
  • Collateral: From com + latus (com is Latin for “with, together”, like the Spanish con-); thus literally meaning, “side by side”.
  • Translate: Since trans– is Latin for “across”, a translation is literally, “bringing something from one side across to another.”

Disheveled and Cabello

Disheveled — as in, having messy hair! — comes from the same Latin root as the Spanish cabello, meaning “hair” or “a head of hair.” Both of these come from the Latin capillus, meaning hair.

We can see the pattern more clearly if we remember the dis- prefix at the beginning of disheveled: thus the (d)-sh-v-l of disheveled maps to the c-p-ll of capello.

Also from the same Latin root capillus, we get the English capillary. A capillary, after all, looks just like a thin strand of hair.

Aliento and Exhale

The Spanish aliento (“breath”) comes from the Latin for anhelitus (“panting; exhalting”) which itself comes from the older Latin anhelo (“difficulty breathing”). Anhelo, in turn, comes from halo (even older Latin for breath), prefixed with the negative an- prefix and from halo which we get (via French) the English inhale and exhale.

But what’s confusing here is the Latin anhelitus transforming into the Spanish aliento . The easy way to see it is to remember that: most solo h- in Latin became silent in Spanish and then eventually, disappeared. (When ‘h’ does remain in Spanish, it is still silent!). So, (h)-l of aliento maps to the (in)-h-l of inhale and similarly (ex)-h-l of exhale.

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