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

Rabia, Rage, and Rabies

The Spanish for “anger,” rabia, is curiously related to the disease of insane dogs: rabies.

Both come from the Latin rabere, meaning “to be crazy.” So, rabies is literally when a dog is acting crazy — and, at least in Spanish, when you get angry, it is a form of insanity!

Also from the Latin rabere come related English words such as: rage, enrage, and rabid.

Coquetear and Cock

Coquetear, the Spanish verb meaning “to flirt,” comes from the French coq which means “cock” — in both senses — from which we also get the English word cock, albeit with a slightly different spelling.

It’s not that hard to figure out how a word that means “penis” came to mean “flirt” — but it is easy to smile every time you remember why.

From the same root, we also get the almost-forgotten English word for “flirting,” coquetry.

The c-q to c-ck mapping is clear between both words.

Vez and Vice-Versa

Vez (Spanish for “turn (in a line/queue)”, as in “next in line”) comes from the Latin for the same: vicis.

From this root vicis we get a few English words, including:

  • Vice-Versa — with versa (“against”), so this literally means, “it’s your turn against him!”
  • Vicissitude — thought about this way, vicissitudes are really just people taking turns back and forth, right?
  • Vice — as in “Vice President”. He whose turn is next!
  • Vicarious — it’s someone else’s turn instead of yours!
  • Vicar — he’s really just the guy whose turn it is to substitute for the real priest!

The v-c root is visible in all variations.

Ayudar and Aid, Adjutant

The Spanish ayudar, for “to help” is a close cousin of the English, aid. You can see that if we remember that the -y- sound is very similar to the -i- and thus the a-y-d of ayudar maps to the a-i-d of aid.

Both come from the same root: the Latin prefix ad- (“to”) and the verb juvare (“to help”). We can see the j to y transition here as well. Thus, both words are related to adjutant as well.

Ganso and Goose

The Spanish word for “goose” ganso, comes from the Proto-Indo-European root for the same, ghans. From this same root, we get… the English goose itself! In fact, ganso entered Spanish via German (and the English word comes from German too) — it makes sense that they’re related.

Thus, we can see that the g-(n)-s of ganso maps to the g-s of goose.

Tamaño and Magnificent

Tamaño (Spanish for “size,” in the size of, “what is your pants size?”) comes from the Latin tammagno, that is, “so – great” (“great” in the size of “big”). Tam is the Latin for “so” or “very” from which we get the Spanish tan.

To even measure is thus to imply that… you are big! So great! If you’re small, after all, you don’t even need to measure it!

Magno (Latin for “great” or “big”) gives us the English… magnificent. But, curiously, the –gn– turns into the ñ as Latin evolved into Spanish. Thus tanmagno became tamaño. We see this gn to ñ pattern in many words, such as cognate / cuñado.

Cinco – Five

The relation between “five” in Spanish (cinco) and English is one of the more surprising relationships: they are indeed direct second cousins!

Both come from the same Proto-Indo-European root, *penkwe, meaning the same, five. (The greek for five also comes from the same: think about pentagon, for example).

The interesting part is this: the p- sound in Proto-Indo-European evolved into the Germanic and then English f- sound. Think about father and padre, for example or foot and pie. Five and cinco follow this pattern too, but in a more subtle way.

The Proto-Indo-European for the same, *penkwe, evolved into the Latin word for “five”: quinque. The qu- was pronounced in a hard way like a k- and then, as Latin evolved into Spanish, the k- was softened into the soft c- in cinco. So p- to k- to c-. You can see it through the similar sounds.

Indeed, the pattern is most obvious in the repetition of the sounds in both works cin-co as the c/k sound twice, at the start of each syllable. And the fi-ve as the f- sound (and its closely related, usually identical and often interchangeable sound of v-) at the start of each of its syllables as well.

Tarde and Retard

The common Spanish tarde, “late”, is a close cousin of the English retard.

Retard is literally the re- prefix (which just adds emphasis) and the Latin tardare, which means, “slow, stupid.”

From tardare we also get the Spanish tarde. So, the ones that are the stupidest do things slowest — literally!

Of course, we also get the English tardy from the same root as well.

Madero and Matter, Material

The Spanish madero, for “wood”, sounds random, doesn’t it?

But it is more obvious than it sounds: it comes from the Latin root materia, which means “the substance from which something is made; inner wood of a tree.”

From this Latin word materia, we get the English words material and matter. At least metaphysically, they are what stuff is made of, aren’t they?

Cobrar and Recuperate

The Spanish cobrar (“to charge”; in the sense of, to charge a fee or collect a payment) comes from the older Spanish recobrar (meaning, “to recuperate”) — which itself comes from the Latin recuperare for the same “to recuperate.”

We can see the c-b-r mapping to the c-p-r clearly, since the -c- and -p- are often interchanged.

Lesson: charging for something is really just recuperating money that is owed to you anyway!

logo

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