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Estafa and Staff

Estafa, Span­ish for “to rip off” in the sense of tak­ing ad­van­tage of some­one or steal­ing, comes from the Ital­ian staffa, which means “stir­rup”. This change of mean­ing came about be­cause it was com­mon, back in the day, for peo­ple to bor­row a horse… and then nev­er re­turn it.

The Ital­ian staffa it­self comes from the Pro­to-In­do-Eu­ro­pean root stebh, which meant “to fas­ten, or place firm­ly” from which we get the Eng­lish… staff. A staff, af­ter all, is a stick that helps you fas­ten some­thing in­to place! At least, it used to.

From the same PIE root, we get oth­er Eng­lish words in­clud­ing step, stump, stamp and… Stephen.

The st‑f root is vis­i­ble in both estafa and staff.

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