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Falta and Fault

Falta (“lack of”) is an interesting word in Spanish because, it is one of those words, along with cornudo that is a grammatical construction that, literally, is less common in the English but rather, in English, the same point is made very commonly in a different way. Falta is very common in Spanish: La casa falta calefacción is literally “the house lacks heating” but the way an English speaker would make that point — since few today says “lacks” in every day speech! — would be, The house doesn’t have heating.

Falta comes from the Latin Fallita, which mean, “a fault.” Indeed, Fault itself comes from the same root — and we can see that with the f-l-t mapping in both. Fallita itself comes from the older Fallere (“to disappoint”) from which we get many English and Spanish words such as fail and fallar.

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.

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.

Quizás and Savvy

Continuing the recent saber and sage conversation

Quizás (Spanish for “perhaps”) comes from the Latin qui sapi — literally, “Who knows?”. The sapi in that phrase is from the Latin for “to know”, sapere, from which root we get the English… savvy. Someone who is savvy just knows a lot about the subject!

The final -s of quizás maps to the first s- of savvy. And the -p- in sapere, although vanished from quizás, maps to the -vv- in savvy.

Faro – Lighthouse

Lighthouse faron spanish english

Lighthouse in Spanish is Faro. Seems totally random, doesn’t it? Well…

The greatest and most famous lighthouse in history was, of course one of the 7 Wonders of the World, the infamous Lighthouse at Alexandria, in ancient Egypt.

And the ancient Latins — knowing all about and in awe of the amazing lighthouse- referred to it by the title of the man who built it which was, of course, the King of Egypt. And they called their Kings, Pharaohs!

Pharaoh — yes, the same Pharaoh featured in the Old Testament who enslaved the Jews and thus of course gave them the holiday of Passover — in Spanish is written faraón. Thus, giving rise to the word faro for lighthouse.

Rubio and Ruby

The Spanish rubio (meaning “blond,” as in the hair color) comes from the Latin rubeus, meaning “red”.

How did “red” come to mean “blond”? In a world where everyone has very dark black hair… it’s easy to see how everyone could conflate blond hair and red hair. The Romans didn’t know the Irish!

From the same Latin root, we get various English words including Ruby, the stone and guess what color it is? And also Rubric, which were originally religious directions that were written in… guess what color ink?

Acontecimiento and Contagion

The Spanish acontecimiento (“something that happened; event”) comes from the Latin contigere (“to touch”).

How did that transformation happen? An event is something that you touch, at least metaphorically, or that touches you. Something that happens that doesn’t touch you is just in your mind: not a real event!

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

  • Contact — That is literally touching, right?
  • Contagious — How do you get something that is contagious? Through touching!
  • Contiguous — Two things that are contiguous are touching each other!
  • Contingent — One thing that is contingent upon another is a metaphorical form of touching it as well.

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

Luna – Lunatic

Okay, put the Spanish for “moon”, Luna, being related to Lunatic, in the category of, “It’s so obvious you never realized it until someone once pointed it out to you!”.

Nighttime has historically, since ancient times, been associated with danger and the crazy riskiness that comes alongside it. This is manifested in many forms, including the Luna/Lunatic parallel.

Think, also, about parallel English cliches like, “shooting for the moon”: someone who is trying something that is so risky and unlikely to succeed that you must be insane to even try it!

Hambre – Famine

Famine hunger spanish english

The Spanish hambre, for “hunger”, makes sense if you know two different patterns.

Firstly, the initial f-to-h pattern: words that began with an f- then a vowel in Latin tended to have the f- turned into an h- when Spanish evolved into Latin. Huir and Fugitive is another example of that pattern.

Secondly, the mn-to-mbr pattern: when the letters in Latin “m” and “n” appear together, often separated by a vowel, they usually became “mbr” as a unit in Spanish.

Thus the f-m-n of famine maps directly to the h-m-b-r of hambre.

Esposa – Spouse

Esposa spouse english spanish

Esposa and spouse both come from the same root, and both mean the same thing — that one was obvious!

However, it gets more interesting: both come from the Latin spondere, meaning, “to bind”.

From this root we also get the Spanish word esposas, which means (in addition to meaning just “wives”), also means… handcuffs.

Yes, in Spanish, “handcuff” and “wife” are the same word. It gets the point across clearly, doesn’t it?

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