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Sacudir and Percussion, Discussion, Concussion

Sacudir, Spanish for “to shake” comes from the Latin for the same, quatere.

From that same root, we get a bunch of English -cussion words, including:

  • Discussion — that’s when you shake up what you’re talking about!
  • Concussion — that’s when you shake someone so hard, they get hurt!
  • Percussion — that’s when you shake the drums a lot!

You can see the s‑c in reverse in the Spanish sacudir and the -cussion words.

Cadena and Concatenate, Chain

Cadena (Spanish for “chain”) is a cousin of chain itself. Both come from the Latin for the same: catena.

The English chain is disfigured from the original for a few reasons. Since the English came to our language via the French, the initial c- changed into a ch‑, as so often French does. French additionally has a tendency to drop letters: the middle ‑d- in this case. Thus, the c-(d)-n of cadena maps to the ch‑n of chain!

From the same root, we have a more obvious connection–but a more obscure word. Concatenate, a nerdy word meaning “to add together” that really only software developers remember these days, comes from the same root. We can thus see the c‑d-n of cadena very easily in the c‑t-n of concatenate, remembering the very common ‑d- and ‑t- swapping. Concatenate begins with the con- prefix (“together” in Latin, like the Spanish “con”) — and what is a concatenation, if not just adding together a bunch of nodes in a chain?

Cuero and Cork

The Spanish for “leather,” cuero, comes from the Latin corium meaning, “leather or hide.” From that root, we get a few English words, including… cork. A cork is made from the the hide of a tree, after all! 

From the same root we also get cortex (the tree that runs up your spine!), scrotum (feels like a skin, doesn’t it?)

We can see the c‑r root clearly in all these words!

Viejo and Inveterate

The Spanish viejo (“old”) comes from the Latin vetus meaning the same, “old.”

From the same Latin root we get the English inveterate (an SAT word meaning, a “long-ingrained habit.”) Lets break down the English: the Latin prefix in- means, well, “in” and the “veterate” means “old”, from the same root vetus. So an inveterate habit is really just a habit you’ve had for a long time!

We can see that the v‑j root of viejo maps to the v‑t of inveterate. The Latin ‑t- turning into the ‑j- sound isn’t that common (more common is that it turns into a ‑sh- sound, as in syrup and jarabe) but isn’t too uncommon: we can hear the similarities between ‑t- and ‑sh- if we say the sounds together quickly!

Bailar and Ballroom

Bailar, Spanish meaning “to dance”, is another one of these Spanish words that sounds random and is difficult until you realize its subtle common origin with a bunch of English words.

Bailar comes from the late Latin ballare, meaning the same, “to dance”, originally from the Greek ballizein, meaning, “to dance or jump around”. From this same root, we get a few English words including:

  • Ballroom — Yes, the room where you go dancing!
  • To Have a Ball — Yes, the “ball” in this phrase is the same “ball” as in bailar and ballroom!
  • Ballad — The love song, unsurprisingly, comes from the same root as dancing: perhaps slow dancing!
  • Ballistics — Directly from the Greek, we get the science of having balls shoot around!

No connection to the English “ball” in the sense of the round object you throw.

Have a ball remembering these!

Moda and Modern

Moda (Spanish for “fashion”… to be fashionable is, de moda) comes from the Latin modo meaning, “just now”: what is fashionable or cool is, definitionally, temporal, for just this one fleeting moment;tomorrow, it will no longer be cool, for tomorrow isn’t now!

From the same root is the English Modernity, definitionally, is thus just what is happening right this very moment.

Siglo and Secular

Siglo, Spanish for “century”, closely related to the English secular.

How? The connection seems surprising.

Both come from the Latin saeculum, meaning, “age, span of time, generation”.

The evolution from saeculum to siglo is obvious: a century is just a unit or breakdown of time.

But in English, it evolved into the sense to mean “worldly.” While the religious concerns itself with the spirit and the “other-worldly,” it is the characteristics of time — growing, aging — that are are the most fundamental characteristics of this world.

Life in the real world, in other words, is defined by getting old.

Alumbrar and Illuminate

The Spanish Alumbrar means “to light up” in English — and, indeed, it is literally the same as to illuminate.

The Latin m‑n sound almost always became a m‑b-r as Latin turned into Spanish. Compare hominem with hombre, for example.

We see the same pattern here. Both alumbrar and illuminate come from the Latin luminare, meaning the same, “to light up” — from which we also get the English luminary.

Thus, the l‑m-n in the original corresponds to the ll-m‑n in the English illuminate and the l‑m-b‑r in the Spanish alumbrar.

Tarjeta and Target

Tarjeta, Spanish for “card,” comes from the same root as target. This is only obvious in retrospect, since the interchange between the ‘j’ and the ‘g’ makes it hard to recognize. But once you learn it, it is easy to remember that the t‑r-j maps to the t‑r-g.

Both words come from the old German (via old French) targa, meaning “shield.” Yes: a target is just a shield–your shield is a target, since it is the shield that is hit, not you! And a card (tarjeta) is also a shield–just a very small one!

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?
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