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Amenazar and Mine

Amenazar (Spanish for “to threaten”) has a curious origin: from the Latin mine, meaning, “lead” or sometimes “silver.” Remember, this was the material that weapons — swords, arrowheads, etc — were made of. If you don’t comply with my threat–I will hurt you!

Although this isn’t directly related to the English mine (the place where you get silver!), they might have the same original root–and it is an easy mnemonic. After all, we mine silver in the mines.

Afiche and Affix

The Spanish for “poster”, afiche, comes from the Latin figere, meaning, “to fasten”. From that same root, we get the English affix — and we can see that clearly, as the a-f-ch of afiche maps clearly to the a-f-x of affix.

More distantly, from the original Latin root figere, we get the English… fix. You can see the Latin root f-g map to the English f-x as well!

Lavar and Lavatory

We’ve already discussed how the Spanish lavar is related to other words in English like deluge.

But there’s a more obvious connection, that we’ll discuss today: lavar, meaning “to wash” is related to the English… lavatory. I guess there’s a reason why the British call it the “wash room”!

Both come from the Latin lavare, similarly meaning “to was”. And we can see the l-v root clearly in both.

Suerte and Sort

You wouldn’t think that suerte (Spanish for “luck”) would be related to the English sort. They sound similar — both with an s-r mapping to each other — but the definitions are completely different. How could they be related?

Both come from the Latin sortem meaning, “fate, lot” (“lot” in the sense of “your lot in life”).

The evolution of sortem into the Spanish suerte is straightforward: “luck” is just a less metaphysical version of “fate” — fate without attributing it to The Gods.

But the same evolved into the English sort because, your fate, your lot in life sorted you into a class, a rank. In the hierarchical view of the world (which the Romans had) everything and everyone existed in degrees. So your fate was also your portion: what you were given. Thus, the ranking of everything by degrees is… a sorting.

This, too, explains the other definition of the word lot: not only your fate, but the portion that has been allocated to you.

Gota and Gout, Gutter

Gota, Spanish for “drop” comes from the Latin gutta for the same. From this  root we also get the English gout and… gutter. What is gout, after all, if not a pain that is a constant drip or a gutter, if not a collection of dirty water drops? The g-l sounds are consistent among all variations.

Cárcel and Incarceration, Cancel

Cárcel (Spanish for “prison, jail”) comes form the Latin for the same, carcer. Note that the words are almost identical except for the l/r swap — a very common switch linguistically (think of the Japanese, who pronounce both interchangeably, “Frushing meadows! Frushing meadows!” as they joke in New York).

From that same Latin root carcer, we get two English words.

More directly, Incarceration. That makes sense — incarcerating is going to jail! We can see the c-r-c root in both.

More subtly, we also get the English cancel. The English made the same l/r shift as the Spanish — but, as it came via French, the first -r- became an -n-. But that’s a French pattern for another day!

Vinculo and Province

The Spanish vínculo (which we’ve previously discussed) comes from the Latin vincere — “to conquer.” (We previously reviewed the Proto-Indo-European root, which gave us the Latin word; the Latin is the intermediary word between the PIE and the English!).

From that same root, we also get…. province (along with the prefix pro-, “before.”)

But how did “conquer” evolve into these words? Province is easy: a province is literally, land you’ve conquered!

And that helps explain vínculo: somewhere you conquer, you make a deep connection with that place. Even turning it into a province.

We can clearly see the v-n-c root in both words.

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!

Higado – Fig

“Fig” comes from the Latin “Ficus” — obvious enough!

But, curiously, the Spanish word is “Higado”. Huh?

This is just a simple example of the Initial F to H pattern. In lots of Latin words, the first F became an H when Latin evolved into Spanish. Think fact/hecho or hablar/fable.

An easy way to figure out what an H- word in Spanish is: change the initial H to an F and see what English word sounds similar.

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.


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