Otoño doesn’t sound much like its English translation, fall (the season). But if we think of the less common synonym, Autumn, then the pattern becomes a bit clearer.
Both come from the Latin for the same, Autumnus. But Latin words with an m‑n sound usually became an ñ sound in Spanish. Think of damn and daño, for example. So the a‑t-m‑n of autumn maps to the o‑t-ñ of otoño!
Relevant is a surprising cousin of the Spanish for Levantar (“to raise”). Both come from the Latin Levantare, also meaning “to raise”.
But what is the connection between raising and being relevant? Relevant was originally a legal term, in Scotland, meaning “to take over a property”: thus, raising up became taking control of which then became just making relevant.
Both the Spanish nieve and the English for the same, snow, come from the same root, although via very different routes.
In Proto-Indo-European, the ancient ancestor to both Spanish (PIE turned into Latin then Spanish) and English (PIE also turned into ancient Germanic then English), the Proto-Indo-European *sniegwh for snow gave rise to both the Latin nivis — which turned into the Spanish nieve — and the old German sneo which became the English snow.
Thus, the n‑v of nieve maps exactly to the n‑w of snow. The key sound change, which is what can confuse us, is the loss of the initial s- as the word transformed from PIE into Latin and then Spanish.
Seguir, Spanish meaning “to follow”, sounds like it has nothing to do with anything.
But it does, in a subtle way. It comes from the Latin sequi, which means “to follow.” From the same root we get:
Latin words that began with the fl- tended to become ll- in Spanish. This is consistent with the pattern in many other hard-constant-plus‑L words, like pl- and cl-.
Excellent example: the Latin for “flame” is flamma. This evolved into the different-but-similar Spanish for the same: llama.
Who would’ve thunk?
Cambiar and the English for the same, change, both come from the same root: cambiare, Latin, also meaning change.
Although this may not be obvious at first, we can see the mapping in the c‑m-b of cambiar and the ch-n‑g of change. The ‑m- and ‑n- are often interchanged; and the ‑g- and ‑b- both have that soft sound where you can hear how one can easily turn into the other, although it is a bit less common.
Why did the c- of the Latin turn into the ch- in change? Oh, easy: because it came to English via the French! And French has it own sets of patterns of course!
Prestar (Spanish for “to lend”) has its English equivalent in… presto!
It does make sense: Presto! Money just appears out of nowhere!
There is a deeper connection. Both come from the Latin praesto, meaning, “ready”, which also came to mean, “provide”. Provide, over the years, turned into “lend” as Latin evolved into Spanish: the lender is the provider, after all. Thus, “ready” turned into “provide” which turned into “lend”!
From the same Latin root, we also get the English press–but not in the common sense of pressing a button. But in the almost forgotten, more esoteric sense of forcing into military service. I remember learning in an 18th century British history class that the British crown used the impress men into military service–no, they weren’t trying to impress them (make yourself sound great) but instead to impress them (draft them!). This press and impress, in these particular senses, also come from praesto.
Gota, Spanish for “drop” comes from the Latin gutta for the same. From this root we also get the English gout and… gutter. What is gout, after all, if not a pain that is a constant drip or a gutter, if not a collection of dirty water drops? The g‑l sounds are consistent among all variations.
The Spanish Atajo (“shortcut”) comes from the Latin taliare which means, “to split.” How did that transformation come about? Think about it like this: if you want to get somewhere quickly — via a shortcut — then you keep on splitting what remains to get there the quickest way! A more subtle variation of that is, atajo has the a “devious” implication, such as: you’re trying to use the shortcut to get around doing it the hard or honest way. You’re trying to split the path to take a quicker one…
The Latin tailare gives us the English… entail. If a premise entails a conclusion, then, the conclusion is cut for precisely that problem! (This originally happened in reference to inheritances, actually: the inheritance was cut appropriately.)
And from the same root we get the English tailor. A tailor cuts clothing to be right for you!
Hervir (Spanish for, “to boil”) comes from the Latin fervere (“to be hot, burn, boil”).
The best part: from this same root, we also get the English… fever!
This is thus another example of the pattern where Spanish lost the initial F and replaced it with the (unspoken) “H”: Hoja-Foliage, Huir-Fugitive, etc.