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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!).

Ceniza and In­cin­er­ate

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.

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.

Prestar and Presto

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.

Flecha and Fletch­er

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!

Corazón and Heart

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 and Fe­lic­i­ty

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 and Posit

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 and Se­quester

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!

Ca­bal­lo and Chival­ry

The Span­ish for “horse” ca­bal­lo, comes from the Latin for the same. From that Latin root, we get a bunch of Eng­lish words in­clud­ing:

  • Cav­al­ry — Cav­al­ry, af­ter all, is just a group of knights on hors­es!
  • Chival­ry — Yes, from the same root as “horse” we get the word for the be­hav­ior of a gen­tle­man! The “knight in shin­ing ar­mor” is the cross-roads be­tween the fight­er turn­ing in­to a gen­tle­man.

All of these share the same c‑v-l root (which turns in­to c‑b-l in Span­ish).


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