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Aval and Avalanche

The Span­ish aval (“guar­an­tee, as in a bank guar­an­tee”) comes from the French aval, mean­ing “down­ward”. The French word comes from the Latin vallem, mean­ing val­ley — a val­ley does slope down­ward, af­ter all. From that same root, we get the Eng­lish… avalanche, which is an over­whelm­ing amount of the val­ley tum­bling down­wards!

But all this leaves the ques­tion: how did the word for “down­ward” turn in­to the word for a “loan guar­an­tee”? That part is un­known. But we could spec­u­late that the cred­i­tor call­ing up­on a guar­an­tor to pay in the case of a de­fault is a low point for the bor­row­er. Or per­haps, you need a guar­an­tor on­ly when you’re at a low point your­self. Or…? Since we don’t know the his­to­ry, we can cre­ate in­fi­nite vari­a­tions that sound like they might make sense, as a fun ex­er­cise.

You can see the a‑v-l root in all the vari­a­tions clear­ly.


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