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!).
Ceniza (Spanish for “ashes”) comes from the Latin cinis, meaning the same.
From the Latin root cinis, we get the English… cinder as well as incinerate. That makes sense: these are either the cause or the result of the process that causes ashes!
The most interesting part is.… this also explains why the Cinderella fairy tale, in Spanish, is called… Cenicienta!
We can see the c‑n root clearly in all these variations.
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.
Prestar (Spanish for “to lend”) has its English equivalent in… presto!
It does make sense: Presto! Money just appears out of nowhere!
There is a deeper connection. Both come from the Latin praesto, meaning, “ready”, which also came to mean, “provide”. Provide, over the years, turned into “lend” as Latin evolved into Spanish: the lender is the provider, after all. Thus, “ready” turned into “provide” which turned into “lend”!
From the same Latin root, we also get the English press–but not in the common sense of pressing a button. But in the almost forgotten, more esoteric sense of forcing into military service. I remember learning in an 18th century British history class that the British crown used the impress men into military service–no, they weren’t trying to impress them (make yourself sound great) but instead to impress them (draft them!). This press and impress, in these particular senses, also come from praesto.
Today’s pattern is so easy that you won’t recognize it until we tell you!
The classic English last name Fletcher was given to those who made arrows. This is unsurprising if we remember the Spanish word for arrow is… flecha. The f‑l-ch root is obvious in both of them!
Now is when we all go in unison: ahhhhh!
So, this is one of my personal all-time favorite etymologies. Just sayin’.
The Spanish for “heart,” corazón, and the English heart itself, both come from the same original root.
Huh? How? But they’re so different!
Both come from the Proto-Indo-European *kerd-, meaning the same. The key to understanding this one is remembering the pattern that the k- sounds from PIE tended to remain the same in Latin, but changed to the h- sound as it evolved into German and then English. Take, for example, hundred/century, for example.
Thus, the h‑r-t of heart maps to the c‑r-z of corazón.
From the same root is… courage. yup, that c‑r is the same c‑r. So courage is indeed something that comes from the heart.
Feliz (Spanish for “Happy”), comes from the Latin for the same, felix. From the Latin felix, we also get everyone’s favorite TV character: Felicity. Someone named Felicity must be a happy person by their very nature! As is someone named Felix!
We can see that the f‑l-z of feliz maps to the f‑l-c of felicity pretty clearly!
Postizo, Spanish for “false, artificial; in particular, a fake hairpiece” comes from the Latin positus, which meant, “put into its place.” If we’re wondering how “put into its place” came to mean “fake”, just think of the most common use of the Spanish word: for a wig. You put your fake hair into place!
From that same root, we also get the English posit — which is, quite literally, putting an idea into its place.
We can see the p‑s-t root clearly in both words.
Seguir (which we’ve discussed before here!) is also related to another interest word: sequester.
To sequester comes from the Latin sequestrare, which means, “to put in safekeeping”. This, in turn, is from the earlier Latin sequester “trustee, mediator”. The Latin Sequester is from the Latin segui, meaning, “to follow”, from which we also get the Spanish for the same, seguir.
In other words, Sequester went from meaning “to follow” to “being a trusted party” to “the trusted party holding something apart from everything else” to “holding something apart from everything else”. This is interesting because of the surprising implication of trust in the earlier connotations–but not the earliest connotations. Today, when you sequester someone or something, there is often a distinct lack of trust involved!
You can see the connection with seguir because the s‑g of seguir maps to the s‑qu of sequester easily!
The Spanish for “horse” caballo, comes from the Latin for the same. From that Latin root, we get a bunch of English words including:
All of these share the same c‑v-l root (which turns into c‑b-l in Spanish).