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Cuatro and Quarantine

The English word quarantine is related to the Spanish word cuatro (“four”). How so? A quarantine was historically… forty days. Think about Jesus’ forty days in the desert, or the Jews’ 40 years wandering. Ahhhhh!

Pensar, Pesadilla and Pensive, Compensate

The Latin pensare meant “to weigh”, in both senses: “to weigh something, such as gold, to get its value, usually to make a payment” or “to think about something deeply”.

From this word, we get a few Spanish words, including:

  • Pensar – to “think”, just a simplification and lightening of the original.
  • Pesadilla – with the diminutive -dilla ending added, it means “nightmare”. A dream is really just a small thought!

From the same Latin root, we get a few English words including:

  • Pensive – with the same original meaning as the Latin.
  • Compensate – which originally meant, “to counterbalance”, precisely what you do with a balance of justice!
  • Pansy – which is basically an insult for someone who spends too much time thinking!
  • Span – which originally meant to bind, and came from the original sense of weighing.
  • Poise – originally meant, “to have a certain weight,” which then came to mean “to have a certain look”.

The p-n-s root (sometimes without the ‘n’) is visible in all words.

Catarata and “Cats and Dogs”

It is unknown where the English phrase “it’s raining cats and dogs” comes from. But there’s one likely etymology that it is a corruption of the Latin catadupa for “waterfall”. From that same Latin root catadupa, we get the Spanish for waterfall…. catarata.

The c-t root that begins both catarata and “cats and dogs” does make this etymology plausible. But is it real? I just don’t know.

It does, however, make it easy to remember: a waterfall has the intensity of rain showers even stronger than with “cats and dogs”!

Coima and Calumny

Coima (Spanish for “a bribe” and an unfortunately common word) comes from the Latin calvor, which means, “to cheat, deceive, trick”.

From that root, we get the English… calumny, which means “slander” (in case you forgot your SAT words or didn’t go to Law School!).

It is easy to see how a word meaning “cheating” transformed into both bribery on one hand, and slander on the other.

The c-m of coima maps to the c-(l)-mn of calumny, with the “l” having been slurred out over time.

Veda and Veto

Veda (Spanish for “closed season” such as, the time of year when you can’t hunt for your favorite beast) comes from the Latin vetare, which meant, “to forbid”.

In fact, from the same Latin root, we get the English… veto. Veto is actually the first person conjugation in Latin: “I forbid!”

We can clearly see the that the v-d of veda maps to the v-t of veto.

Quedar and Quiet

Quedar (Spanish for “to remain”) comes from the Latin quietare (meaning, “to rest”), from which we also get the English… quiet.

It is clear how a word meaning “to rest” becomes quiet — it’s hard to rest when there are jackhammers outside, as there coincidentally are right now! — but how does a word meaning “to rest” become “to remain”?

The answer has to do with the notion of, what remains after everything else leaves. The food is sizzling hot — but it’s the quiet, sad pieces just sitting there, that no one wants, that remain. There’s a lot of noise and ruckus — and when all is said and done, only silence remains. Life is tale, full of sound and fury… and nothing remains (the Bard almost wrote!).

We can clearly see the qu-d of quedar map to the qu-t of quiet.

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.

Llama – Flame

Latin words that began with the fl- tended to become ll- in Spanish. This is consistent with the pattern in many other hard-constant-plus-L words, like pl- and cl-.

Excellent example: the Latin for “flame” is flamma. This evolved into the different-but-similar Spanish for the same: llama.

Who would’ve thunk?

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.

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?

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