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Trapo – Drape

Trapo is the common Spanish word for “cloth” or, more commonly, “rag”.

It sounds nothing like the similar words in English, except… it turns out to be a close cousin of drape & drapery.

All come from the same old Irish word, drapih, meaning, “garment.”

We can see the parallel in the t-r-p and d-r-p mapping. Both are the same roots except for the t/d shift, which is a very common and not-noteworthy transition.

A drape, after all, is a form of a cloth.

Hilo and File

The Spanish hilo (cord; thread; string) comes from the Latin for the same, filum. The words sound very different, until we remember that, words in Latin that began with a f- tended to change to h- in Spanish: hijo/filium, and hoja/foliage, for example. Now the hilo/filum make sense!

Interestingly, however, from that same Latin root filum, we get various English words that also quietly show they are descendants of the word for cord or thread. Including:

  • File (as a verb; to file your nails or papers) — what is filing if not using a thread to shorten or separate different items?
  • Profile — With the Latin root pro- (put forth!), what is profiling it not drawing out or dragging out information about someone?

Dar and Mandate, Tradition

The common Spanish word dar (“to give”) comes from the Latin for the same, dare.

From the Latin root, we get the English… mandate (“to give with your hand” – thus related to mano as well): what is a mandate if not a written order to give to someone? The best mandates are when you deliver them yourself anyway, not through intermediaries. The dare connection explains where the -d- after the hand comes from!

Another English word from the same root: tradition. That word comes from the Latin tradere, literally, “to hand over” — the tra– is the same trans- root (“over”), while the dere is the same “give.” In today’s way of walking, we’d say that tradition is what is handed down to us: it is what is given to us. Literally. ANd you can see the -d- in the word from dare as well clearly!

Eje and Axle

The Spanish eje for “axle” comes from the Latin for the same, axis. The English axle comes from the same common ancestor as the Latin axis, the proto-indo-european root *aks– also meaning the same.

The Spanish eje is easy to understand if we remember that most of the x/sh/ch sounds in Latin and the ancient languages became the throat-clearing -j- sound in Spanish. Thus, the e-j of eje maps to the a-x of axle pretty clearly.

It’s interesting how such a simple word has remained mostly unchanged for tens of thousands of years. Perhaps, the axle is one of the most fundamental discoveries in human history. It is, after all, what led to the wheel, which led to… civilization.

Jefe – Chief

Chief jefe spanish english

Chief, and the Spanish for the same, Jefe, both come from the same root: the French chef, which means the same.

But this is odd as they sound so different! How are they related?

It’s not obvious, but it’s easy once you understand the pattern: The Latin sound “sh” and very similar sounds (such as the “ch” and “sy”) almost always became a “j” in Spanish. Like syrup and jarabe. Not obvious!

Estrella Fugaz and Fugitive

A “shooting star” in Spanish is an estrella fugaz. Since estrella means “star”, then fugaz is the parallel to “shooting.”

Fugaz comes from the Latin fugere which means, “to run away; flee” — from which we get the English fugitive.

The mapping is obvious with the f-g retained in both versions.

Thus, in Spanish, a shooting star is literally, a fleeing star. But fleeing from what?

Revancha and Vindicate

The Spanish revancha (“revenge”) comes from the Latin vindicare, meaning — surprisingly — “to vindicate.”

Revenge, after all, is just one way to vindicate yourself!

If we remember the reinforcing re– prefix, we can see that the v-n-ch of revancha maps to the v-n-(d)-c of vindicate.

Aval and Avalanche

The Spanish aval (“guarantee, as in a bank guarantee”) comes from the French aval, meaning “downward”. The French word comes from the Latin vallem, meaning valley — a valley does slope downward, after all. From that same root, we get the English… avalanche, which is an overwhelming amount of the valley tumbling downwards!

But all this leaves the question: how did the word for “downward” turn into the word for a “loan guarantee”? That part is unknown. But we could speculate that the creditor calling upon a guarantor to pay in the case of a default is a low point for the borrower. Or perhaps, you need a guarantor only when you’re at a low point yourself. Or…? Since we don’t know the history, we can create infinite variations that sound like they might make sense, as a fun exercise.

You can see the a-v-l root in all the variations clearly.

Facil – Difficult

The everyday Spanish word facil, meaning “easy” is the exact opposite — literally — of the English, difficult.

Both come from the latin facere, meaning, “to do” (hence the Spanish hacer and the English fact, as well).

So, facil — easy — is literally, doing! Doing is easy, we hope.

Difficult is really just de-facil : that is, not facil. Now that is easy, indeed!

The connection becomes clear when we remember the f-c-l root in both words!

Lluvia and Pluvial

The Spanish lluvia (for “rain”) comes Latin pluvia for the same — a change that may not be obvious because the -pl- of Latin sometimes became a -ll- in Spanish.

From the same root, we get the sophisticated English word pluvial which means… lots of rain!

The ll-v of lluvia clearly maps to the p-l of pluvial.

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