Want more Spanish etymologies? Let us know!
logo

Jeringa – Syringe

Jeringa, Spanish for Syringe, sounds like it has nothing in common with its English counter-part. But they are literally the same word.

The Latin sh- sound often evolved into the j- sound in Spanish — originally retaining the sh- sound but eventually, under Arabic’s influence, transforming to the throat-clearing sound we know and love.

This explains how both jeringa and syringe derive from the same root: the Latin siringa, itself from the Greek syringa. The sy- sound is a variation of the sh- sound and therefore the sy-r-n-g of syringe maps to the j-r-n-g of jeringa.

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.

Buitre and Vulture

The Spanish buitre doesn’t obviously look like the English word it means: “vulture,” both of which are from the Latin vulturis.

But looking below the surface, we see the similarity: the b-t-r of buitre maps to the v-(l)-t-r of “vulture.”

This isn’t obvious at first for two reasons. First, the b- to v- transition: the sounds are identical in Spanish and often interchanged with each other, so it makes sense that they swap here.

But more subtly, the -l- between the vowels disappeared in the Spanish version, with the ulu becoming u-i. The vanishing of the -l- between the vowels is much more characteristic of Portuguese than Spanish (see almost every example in Portuguese, like comparing the Spanish vuelo with the Portuguese voo — an observation I first made in the Rio de Janeiro airport years ago!).

Mismo and Lorem Ipsum

The Spanish mismo for “same; self” comes from the Latin metipsimus meaning “same”. That word, in turn, comes from the combination of the Latin roots: met (just giving emphasis) and ipse (“himself; itself”) and the suffix -issismus (also adding emphasis; think “-ism” in English).

Here’s where it gets interesting: from that same Latin root, we get… lorem ipsum, the Latin phrase (still used in English!) that we use as the filler text when we don’t know what else to write, before the real wording comes in. Where does lorem ipsum itself come from? Well, Google around, there’s a lot written about that; but the exact phrase itself means “pain onto himself” (with the lorem short for dolorem — thus related to the Spanish dolor for “pain”!). So, we can see how the ipse that turned into mismo also retained without change in lorem ipsum.

Not to mention… ipse dixit!

Entender and Extend

Entender (Spanish for, “to understand”; and much more common than the other word for the same, comprender) comes from the Latin tendere, “to stretch out.”

From this root, we get the English extend — which is just a form of stretching.

We can also see how stretching became understanding if we remember that, to really understand something, you need to stretch your brain and creativity to the limits.

The t-n-d root is clear in both words as well. From the same root, we get other similar words that are metaphors for stretching out: intend, to tender, and even tentative

Empujar and Push

The Spanish empujar (“to push”) has the same common ancestor as the English for the same, push: the Latin pulsare.

Pulsare meant, in Latin, “to beat”. A push is a sort of beat, in both senses: a punch and, a punch happening over and over again!

From the same root we also get the English, to pulse, of course. As does… impulse. Yes, an impulse is indeed a strong punch!

The sound here is a variation of the sh-to-j pattern, where variations of the s/x/sh/soft-g sound in Latin turned into the “j” in Spanish (via the Arabic influence) but remained the same as it transformed from Latin into educated English. Hence the “sh” sound in “push”!

Pudrir and Foul

The Spanish pudrir, “to rot,” has a surprising connection to the English, foul, a word meaning the same but sadly very underused these days — although still when quoting Macbeth: fair is foul and foul is fair!

Both come from the same Indo-European root *pu, meaning, “to rot.”

But the English one sounds so different because, in the Germanic branch of Indo-European, the p- sound turned into the f- sound. But now in the Latin branch.

Thus the initial f+vowel of foul maps to the initial f+vowel of pudrir.

From the same root are more fun words including defile, putrid, and pus. What wonderful imagery!

Jerez – Sherry

Sherry jerez spanish englishThe Latin sounds for “sh” — and similar variations, like “ch” and “ss” — became a “j” sound in Spanish.

Thus, the English sherry is near identical to the Spanish jerez!

These sh/j sounds were often spelt with a “x” in old Spanish; and sherry itself is named after the town it first came from, Xeres, which is near Cordova.

Desayuno, Ayuno and Breakfast, Fast

This is one of my all-time favorite Spanish-English parallel etymologies.

The Spanish word desayuno, meaning breakfast, comes from the prefix des– meaning not– and ayuno, meaning fast (in the sense of a religious fast, during which you don’t eat). Thus, literally desayuno (breakfast) is “the break – fast”!

Caer – Case, Cadaver, Cadence

The Spanish caer, “to fall”, sounds weird to English ears. But it is closer than it sounds to many English words.

Caer comes from the Latin cadere — meaning “to fall, sink, die” — and the middle -d- was lost as Latin grew into Spanish.

From this same Latin root cadere, we get a bunch of English words — mostly that came from the Latin to English via French — including:

  • Cadaver – The most obvious connection is Cadaver, a dead body.
  • Cadence – The cadence of your voice does go up and down!
  • Cadenza – The cadenza is the dramatic falling off of the music at the end!
  • Case (in the sense of, something that happens: a detective’s case or “in case of”; not in the “box” sense) – Case is the least obvious connection. Cadere turned into the Latin casus, meaning “an event, an accident” which then that turned into the more standard, “something that happens.” So, falling/death turned into an accident which turned into something that just happens — talk about words becoming euphemistic over time!
logo

© 2018 - All Rights Reserved | Contact | Privacy Policy | Terms & Conditions | Sitemap | Etymology Dictionaries To Help Us Learn Spanish | Resources | 🚑 Privacy Products