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Cabeza and Head

The In­do-Eu­ro­pean root ka­put, mean­ing “head”, led to words for the head in al­most every west­ern lan­guage, with no change.

The ka­put turned in­to the al­most-iden­ti­cal ca­put in Latin; and then that evolved, through very mi­nor changes, to the al­most-the-same cabeza in Span­ish. The main sound shift is the p to b, but those are very clear­ly aligned signs that of­ten swap.

Ka­put, how­ev­er, evolved in­to the Ger­man kopf — which then be­came the Eng­lish head. How so?

The Ger­man­ic sound “k-”, as Ger­man evolved in­to Eng­lish, gen­er­al­ly be­came the “h-” sound in Eng­lish. Take cen­tu­ry/hun­dred or horn/cor­nudo or, my fa­vorite, hemp/cannabis as oth­er ex­am­ples.

Thus, the c‑b(-z) of cabeza maps to the h‑d of head. In the Eng­lish pat­tern of short, pow­er­ful words, the fi­nal sound was lost as well, to give us the sim­ple, straight­for­ward head.

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