Want more Spanish etymologies? Let us know!
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.
logo

Cielo and Celestial

Both the Spanish cielo (“sky”) and the English celestial come from the same root: the Latin caelestis, meaning, “sky.” The c-l root is evident in both.

Not all patterns are subtle; we just need to make the connection!

The Spanish for “light blue,” celeste, comes from the same root, for a reason so self-evident that it’s not worth saying. Just look up.

Lágrima and Lacrimal Sac

The Spanish lágrima (“tear”) comes from the Latin Lacrima, meaning the same.

From the same root we get the English… lacrimal sac. In case you forgot our high school biology class, that’s the bit by your eye that creates… tears.

The l-c-r of lacrimal sac maps to the l-g-r of lágrima.

Ubicar and Ubiquitous

Ubicar (Spanish for “to put somewhere” or “to place”) comes from the Latin ubi, meaning “where.”

From the Latin ubi, we get a bunch of location-related words in English, such as, ubiquitous — which actually means, “everywhere!” Something that is ubiquitous really is everywhere.

The u-b-c of ubicar maps clearly to the u-b-qu of ubiquitous.

Regalo and Gala, Gallant

Regalo, Spanish for “gift,” comes from the Old French galer (“to rejoice; make merry”), with a re- prefix added for emphasis.

From the same root we get the the English gala, as well as gallant.

It makes sense: a gala is a big, merry, ball after all. Gallant is a bit more subtle: it meant, in old French, courteous — but earlier, it had originally meant, “amusing, entertaining,” from which we can see a clear relationship to making merry.

So it is noteworthy, therefore, that, good manners (being courteous) originally began as… being fun.

And all share the same g-l root to make the connection clear.

Arena – Dirt and Stadium

The Spanish arena means “sand” or “dirt” while the English arena means, well, arena (something similar to a stadium). Nothing to do with sand!

Or so it seems…

Interestingly, both come from the same root: the Latin harena which meant “a place a combat, usually a sandy place” but came from an older, Etruscan word meaning, “a sandy place”. From the older meaning we get the Spanish sand, but from the Roman variation — apparently, the Romans often fought on sand! — we get the newer, English meaning.

Cola and Coward

Cola — Spanish for “tail” and, more informally, “ass” — comes from the Latin for the same: coda.

Coda itself has come into English in two ways. First, coda is a music term meaning… the end! The tail is the end of the animal!

More interestingly, from coda we also get the English, coward. The Latin coda became coe– in French, dropping the -d-; and an -ard is just a person, put negatively (bastard!). Thus, a coward is literally: someone who turns his tail, and runs!

Yerno and Genus

Yerno (Spanish for “son-in-law”) at first sounds like nothing in English.

But let’s look closer! The g- and y- sounds are often mixed up between languages and even regions that speak the same language; in fact, the Old English g- transformed itself into a y- over time (compare the German gestern with the English yesterday, for example). And the n-r sound not uncommonly swaps to become an r-n sound, the two are easily mixed up, especially in slurred speech.

Thus, the bizarre-sounding y-r-n root of yerno maps to the g-n-r root of generic (Maybe sons-in-laws are more generic in Spanish cultures than English ones?) as well as genus (which lost the final r-) — yes, genus as in Latin and now scientific classification of your spot in the universe! The son-in-law, I guess, is destined to be the son-in-law as his lot-in-life.

Charlar and Charlatan

Charlar (Spanish for “to chat”) comes from the Italian ciarla — as does the English… charlatan. We can see the ch-r-l root in both easily.

Interestingly, the English word has taken a negative turn while the Spanish, not so much. I would attribute this to the Anglo-Saxon culture’s looking down onto talk without action, while the Latin culture’s focus on talk even if it means inaction.

Also from the same root is the English, charade. Charade, like charlatan, contains the negative connotations of the appearance, not reality.

Gama and Gamut

Gama (Spanish for “range”) comes from the Greek gamma, the third letter of the alphabet: alpha beta gamma. But it came to mean “range” in an interesting way: music. The traditional musical note gamma — which today is just ‘g’ — was used, in classic musical notation, and still today — to refer to the note that is both just below the primary starting letter ‘a’ (hence, on a piano, the ‘g’ key is immediately to the left of the ‘a’ key), as well as the highest note that ends the octave on the other side. Thus, the gamma refers to the whole range of notes!

From the same root, and with the same musical history, we also get the English SAT-synonym for “range”… gamut.

The g-m root is clearly visible in both.

Correr and Current

The Spanish correr, “to run,” comes from the Latin for the same: currere.

In a “It’s not obvious until you realize it, then it’s completely obvious moment!”, this is related to the English: current.

Although current obviously does not share the same literal meaning of running, conceptually it is very similar: what is happening right now is what is running or flowing by.

So time doesn’t fly; it flows past, right now — literally.

Not to mention, think of the way they always talk about electricity: the running current.

logo

© 2019 - All Rights Reserved | Contact | Privacy, Terms & Conditions | Sitemap | Etymology Dictionaries To Help Us Learn Spanish | Resources