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Es­mero and Mere

Es­mero, a Span­ish word mean­ing “done with care” comes from the Latin pre­fix ex- com­bined with the Latin merus which meant, “un­mixed; pure” (such as, pure wine — not di­lut­ed by wa­ter). Any­thing done with care will be pure, right?

From that same Latin root merus, we al­so get the Eng­lish… mere. The in­ter­est­ing part is that, over the cen­turies, mere has gone on to al­most take on the op­po­site of its orig­i­nal mean­ing: the orig­i­nal, more Lati­nate sense, was sim­i­lar to “pure” and its Span­ish de­riv­a­tive, done with care. But over time, in Eng­lish at least, its be­come de­grad­ed and de­grad­ed to the point in which to­day, it means to do “just bare­ly enough.” This is an ex­am­ple of a broad­er pat­tern: words tend to de­grade over time.

We see the m‑r root clear­ly in both lan­guages.


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