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Daño and Condemn, Damn

Daño, Spanish for “damage”, comes from the Latin for the same: damnum. From the same root we get both the English condemn and damn. But what happened to that missing ‘m’?

Interestingly, the Latin m-n sound tended to turn into a ñ sound in Spanish. This explains how autumn became otoño, for example.

We can still see this pattern preserved in the perfect mapping of d-ñ in daño to the d-mn of damn, and the same with condemn.

From the same root we also get the English indemnity, as well as damage itself, although the final -n was lost because damage entered English via French.

We can see the parallel but between daño, condemn, damage, and damnum — but how did it come to mean the formerly-vulgar, damn? Think of damn in the old sense of, sentencing someone for a crime they did: you are condemned to hell. A whole slew of English insults come from this same concept, including the word hell itself!

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