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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.

Anillo and Anus

Let’s try not to laugh with this one.

The Spanish ending -illo is a common diminuitive, meaning a smaller version of something. A vecino is a neighbor; a vecinillo is the cute word that Flanders calls his neighbors in the Spanish translation of the Simpsons.

So: anus means anus. And anillo — the very common Spanish word meaning “ring” — is thus really just “little anus.”

Yes, in Spanish, a ring is just a small anus.

Casarse — Husband, Shack Up

Casarse shack up spanish english

“To marry”, in Spanish, is casarse.

The funny part: casarse comes from the common Spanish word for “house”, casa. That makes sense: getting married is fundamentally about two people building a house together, metaphorically and literally.

In English, although marry is unrelated, two English words convey the same concept. Husband, in English, comes from the Old English “hus — bondi”, which mean, “House Dweller”: so the Husband is the one who lives in the house!

Even better: American slang hands down to us a lower version of the same concept, the slang phrase, “to shack up”, meaning, well, to either live together in sin — premaritally — or more recently, to have sex in a one-night stand. A shack, after all, is just a poor house.

Cama and Camera, Chamber

Cama, Spanish for “bed”, has many surprising cousins in English, including:

  • Chamber — This French word made its way into English, meaning originally and still most commonly, “bedroom”. What is your bedroom if not the room with your bed? Chamber comes from the Latin, camera, meaning the same — from which we also get cama itself.
  • Camera — From the Latin for the same, room. If we think about how a camera works: there is a little dark room where the film is exposed.
  • Comrade — The communist word for “friend” came to Russian and the world via French, but came to French via the Spanish camarada, literally, “chamber mate” — the person you shared your room with. You and your comrades have a closer relationship than you thought!

In all these words, we can see a c(h)-m to c‑m mapping, so the relationships are clear!

Lazar and Lasso

Lazar (Spanish for “to tie, such as with a ribbon”) comes from the Latin laqueum, meaning “a tie, such as a noose”. From that same root, we get the English… lasso. A lasso, after all, is really a cable that can be used to tie someone or something up…!

The l‑z of lazar clearly maps to the l‑ss of lasso.

Rasgar and Section

The Spanish for “to scratch”, rasgar, comes from the Latin secare, “to cut.”

From the same root, we also get the English Section.

A section, indeed, is just a cut into different parts. And a scratch is really almost a cut as well!

We can see the parallel in mapping the s‑ct of section to the s‑g of rasgar. Although the ‑ct- sound didn’t commonly turn into a ‑g-, we can hear the guttural connection if we sound it out.

Viernes — Friday

Friday viernes spanish english

Continuing in our days-of-the-week series, there is finally Friday — the night we love to go out on. Indeed, this is basically the meaning of this weekday name, in both Spanish and English!

The Spanish viernes for the last day before the Weekend comes from Latin for the day of the Goddess “Venus”, the Goddess of Love, of course (who went by the name of Aphrodite in Greece).

And the English Friday comes from the old Germanic for the Day of Fryga — Fryga was the Germanic Goddess of Love, their equivalent of Venus!

We can see the parallel with the V‑R in viernes and the F‑R in Friday. The Germanic F‑s also often maps to Latin V‑s.

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.

Afinar and Refine

Afinar, meaning “to tune” — as in, you tune your guitar — comes from the Latin finis, meaning, “border”: tuning a guitar is really finding the exact border between this note and the other one. 

From the same Latin root finis, we get English words such as fine, refine (remember the re- prefix is just an intensifier), as well as the English finish.

Tuning your guitar, in other words, as really an act of refining the souds.

The f‑n root is clearly visible in all.

Burro and Burrito

Burro is the Spanish for “donkey” and it is — shocking, shocking! — related to the English… burrito, that Mexican food we all know and love. The Spanish itself comes from burrus for the crimson/maroon color, which comes from the Greek pyros for “fire.”

But how did a donkey become a burrito?

The answer is lost to the annals of history but the two most common theories are: they look like those packs that you roll up and hang on either side of a donkey; or they look like donkey’s ears. In either case, the imagery should make the word easy to remember!

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