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Herir and Interfere

Herir (Spanish for, “to round”; most commonly heard in the form, “herido”, a wound) is a surprising cousin of… interfere. How so?

Interfere comes to us from the French entre– (“between”) and ferir (“to hit”). Interfering with something is really just hitting it right in the middle of it, breaking it up! Ferir comes from the Latin, for the same, Ferire.

Curiously, Ferire evolved into Spanish Herir — the Initial “F” turning into a “H”. It turns out, this is a common pattern as Latin evolved into Spanish — but in no other language! Just look at Filial and Hijo, or File and Hilo, or Fig and Higo.

Thus, the h-r of herir maps to the (int)-f-r of interfere.

Caro and Whore, Cher

Today’s is a good one!

The Spanish caro (simply, “expensive”) has a fun provenance: from the ancient (pre-Latin) Proto-Indo-European root karo– that meant… whore. Yes, the ancient word karo turned into the almost-as-ancient Latin word carus meaning “expensive,” from which we get the modern Spanish word caro, still meaning “expensive.”

So the prostitutes of the ancient world, apparently, weren’t cheap!

Interestingly, we can even see a linguistic connection between the words. The k- sound in Proto-Indo-European stayed the same sound as it evolved into Latin and then Spanish (although usually written with a c-); but as Proto-Indo-European evolved simultaneously into ancient German and then into English, that k- sound became the silent or almost-silent h- or wh-. Think when and cuando, for example. So, we can see therefore that the c-r of caro maps to the wh-r of whore.

The funniest part, however, is that the ancient Latin carus, for expensive, as Latin evolved into French, turned into the French… cher, for “dear”: in the sense of, “My dear friend!”. The exact opposite of a whore! Thus, in French, prostitute became expensive which became that which is dear to you!

Piedra and Petrify

Piedra, Spanish for “rock,” is a close cousin of the English, petrify: “to be very, very scared”. We see the connection clearly if we map the p-d-r of piedra to the p-t-r of petrify.

What is the connection between them? Well, when you get scared, you often just freeze: you turn to stone! So next time someone is so scared that they stop in the middle of their tracks, just think, they are just, petrified!

It’s interesting to note that, these words have a whiff, just a whiff, of Sodom and Gomorrah. Remember the classic scene from Genesis: Lot and his wife are fleeing the city of Sin as they are being destroyed, commanded by God to not look back as they run away. But Lot’s wife is so scared that, she turns back onto it and is thus… turned into a pillar of salt. Her fear turns her into a stone (well, salt, but the same concept!). Literally!

Falta and Fault

Falta (“lack of”) is an interesting word in Spanish because, it is one of those words, along with cornudo that is a grammatical construction that, literally, is less common in the English but rather, in English, the same point is made very commonly in a different way. Falta is very common in Spanish: La casa falta calefacción is literally “the house lacks heating” but the way an English speaker would make that point — since few today says “lacks” in every day speech! — would be, The house doesn’t have heating.

Falta comes from the Latin Fallita, which mean, “a fault.” Indeed, Fault itself comes from the same root — and we can see that with the f-l-t mapping in both. Fallita itself comes from the older Fallere (“to disappoint”) from which we get many English and Spanish words such as fail and fallar.

Fallar and Flatulent

Today’s etymological comparison is a bit weird, but one I love. Fallar is Spanish for “to fail” and Flatulent is, well, a fancy word for “farting.”

Both come from the Latin Flare, meaning, “to blow.” A fart is definitely a type of blowing; and failing at something being considered a type of blowing is a common image in languages around the world: think about Bart Simpson, in our own language, saying, That Blows!

The f-l root makes the relationship clear in both words.

Interestingly, from the same Latin root Flare, we also get olfactory (another fancy word for, “the sense of smell”) and blow itself is the anglo-saxon cognate to flare.

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