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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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