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Der­re­tir and Trite

Der­re­tir (Span­ish for “to melt”) comes from the Latin terere, “to rub, wear down.” That which is melt­ed is worn down, af­ter all.

Some in­ter­est­ing words we get from the same root in Eng­lish in­clude:

  • Trite. What is some­thing trite if not, some­thing that is worn down by overusage, fig­u­ra­tive­ly?
  • Con­trite is when you use so few words, that your sen­tences are worn away!
  • At­tri­tion is when your em­ploy­ees are worn away, bit by bit
  • Detri­ment is ba­si­cal­ly the worn out re­mains!
  • Tribu­la­tions are re­al­ly when you are worn down by your trou­bles!

We can see the r‑t root in all these vari­a­tions.

Fre­nar and Re­frain

Fre­nar (Span­ish for, “to break”, par­tic­u­lar­ly in the sense of, “to stop” — think of, the breaks on your car!) comes from the Latin frenare, mean­ing, “to re­strain,” which it­self is from the old Latin frenum for “bir­dle” — yes, the mouth­piece you put on a horse to, umm, re­strain it.

From that same root, we get the Eng­lish re­frain. It is the same frenare root, with the re- added for em­pha­sis. But we have the ‑ain spelling be­cause it comes in­to Eng­lish via French, with the re­fraign­er, of course. We can see the f‑r-n maps to the (re)-f-r‑n very clear­ly as well.

The les­son here is: from re­strain­ing some­one from do­ing some­thing (the old sense of the word) to re­frain­ing com­plete­ly from do­ing it (the new sense of the word) is just a mi­nor step. At least lin­guis­ti­cal­ly.

Llenar and Ex­ple­tive

Llenar comes from the Latin plere (“to fill”), as we’ve pre­vi­ous­ly dis­cussed. But here’s an­oth­er Eng­lish word that comes from the same Latin root: ex­ple­tive, yes, that eu­phemism for vul­gar words!

Ex­ple­tive lit­er­al­ly means to “fill” with the ex­pan­sive ex- pre­fix which, tak­en to­geth­er, mean, “to fill out your words.” An ex­ple­tive is lit­er­al­ly fill­ing con­ver­sa­tion with words when you don’t know what else to say!

Volar and Vol­ley, Volatile

Volar (Span­ish for “to fly”) and its sis­ter vue­lo (“flight”) come from the Latin for the same, volare.

From this Latin root, we get the Eng­lish vol­ley — a vol­ley­ball re­al­ly does fly, does­n’t it? — as well as the Eng­lish volatile, which is some­thing fly­ing in the sense of be­ing fleet­ing: it is fly­ing away, time flies.

The v‑l root is so ob­vi­ous in all, that it’s al­most not worth men­tion­ing!

Es­puma and Foam

The Span­ish for “foam”, es­puma, comes from the Latin for the same: spuma. And this Latin comes from the Pro­to-In­do-Eu­ro­pean root *(s)poi-moi from which we al­so get the Eng­lish… foam.

How so? Be­cause the PIE root p- very con­sis­tent­ly be­came an f- as it evolved in­to Ger­man then Eng­lish, but this trans­for­ma­tion nev­er hap­pened when it be­came Latin and then Span­ish. Note words like foot/pie and fa­ther/padre.

Thus the f‑m of foam maps to the (s)-p‑m of es­puma very clear­ly!

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