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Zapato and Sabotage

No one quite knows the origin of zapato, Spanish for “shoe.” But the same word — or words from the same root — are still used in Portuguese, French, Italian, and even Arabic and, most shocking of all, Basque (shocking since Basque is unrelated to any other known language).

Most interesting, though, is that from the old French for shoe, savate, which is from the same root as zapato as we can see with the z-p to s-v mapping, do we get the English, sabotage.

Indeed, they say sabotage comes from the word for “shoe” since French workers used to throw their (wooden) shoes into machinery in order to sabotage their factory.

Horno – Furnace

The Spanish horno, for “oven,” sounds unrelated to any English counterpart.

But it is in fact a close cousin of furnace. Both come from the Latin formus, meaning “warn”.

How did such dissimilar words end up such close cousins?

Because most Latin words that began with an f- followed by a vowel ended up evolving in Spanish (alone among the romantic languages) into an h-. Thus the h-r-n of horno maps almost exactly to the f-r-n of furnace. In both cases, the original -m- evolved into an -n- in the root. But that is a very common transition too, with both sounds being so similar.

Espuma and Scum

Espuma (Spanish for “foam”) is a (surprising) cousin of the English, scum.

Both come from the same Indo-European root skeu-, which meant, “to cover, hide.” In the Germanic side of Indo-European, this evolved into skuma — literally “foam” — which then evolved into scum.

Transition from the meaning of “foam” in the old Germanic to the current meaning happened because of the sense of “foam”: the layer above the liquid” turned into “a layer of dirt on top of something cleaner”. And that then evolved into just pure dirt. Words degrade over time, at least in English.

The Indo-European skeu- separately evolved into espuma (via the Latin spuma, also just meaning neutrally “foam”) which — still today — retains the more neutral connotation of just foam.

Asqueroso and Scar

Asqueroso is the common Spanish word meaning “disgusting.” ¡Qué asqueroso! is the common Spanish exclamation of disgust, as is its closely-related cousin, ¡Que asco!

Asqueroso (and asco) come from the Latin eschara, meaning, “scab” (which itself is from the Greek eskhara meaning the same).

From the same Latin (and Greek) root, we also get the English… scar.

So, in Spanish, something that is so disgusting literally scars you!

We can see the mapping in the s-qu-r of asqueroso to the s-c-r of scar.

Pan – Companion

The Spanish for “bread,” pan, sounds nothing at all like its English equivalent.

But it is, indeed, a close cousin of another English word: companion.

All over the ancient world, bread was the sign of friendship and peace. Hence English phrases like, to “break bread.”

In Ancient Rome, your friend — literally, your companion — was someone you broke bread with. Companion, com – pan, con – pan = with bread.

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