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Hueso and Oyster

Hueso (Spanish for “bone”) comes from the Latin for the same, os. The connection is particularly easy to see when we remember that the H- is perfectly silent in Spanish.

From the same root we get the English ossify — literally, to turn into bone! — but, considering about 4 people know this word, it is easy to remember hueso if we connect it to another word it is related to, albeit more distantly: oyster.

Oyster comes from the Latin for the same, Ostreum, which itself comes from the Latin word os, “bone.” What is an oyster defined by, if not, its hard, bony shell?

The o-s root is clearly visible in all variations!

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!).

Martillo and Malleable

The Spanish martillo (“hammer”) comes from the Latin malleus meaning the same. And from this Latin root malleus we get the English… malleable. So something that is malleable, changeable, is figuratively… hammerable.

We see that the Spanish m-rt-ll maps to the English m-ll.

Respirar and Conspire

Respirar comes from the Latin spirare (“to breathe”), with the reinforcing re– prefix.

Curiously, the English conspiracy comes from the same, with the con- prefix meaning “together”: a conspiracy is a group of people whispering together so lightly that you can hear them breathing. Literally!

You can see the sp-r root in both words easily.

Mullir and Mollify

The Spanish mullir (“to soften”) comes from the Latin mollis, meaning, “soft.” From that same Latin root we get the English… to mollify. To mollify in English is usually used in the sense of, “to appease” — and it’s noteworthy that that appeasing IS softening. You need to be strong to not appease the bad guy, after all.

The m-ll root is clearly visible in both words.

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