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Meterse and Omit, Submit, Admit, Permit

The Spanish meterse (“to get involved with”) comes from the Latin mittere (“to let go.”) They sound like they might be opposites, but they’re broadly aligned: it’s all about going somewhere, figuratively. Getting involved with something is just getting to your destination!

From this Latin root, we get a whole slew of English words, such as:

  • Omit
  • Submit
  • Admit
  • Permit

Basically, all the ‑mit words – even the awesome, but usually forgotten, manumit!

What all of these words have in common is, going in a particular direction: the permission to go there; the acceptance to go there; the submission to see if you can go there; and even the opposite, just not going there at all!

Note that also from the same root we get the noun version of these words, in which (surprisingly) the ‑mit morphed into ‑mission. Thus: manumission, dismiss, mess and mission.

Sordo and Absurd

The Spanish for “deaf,” sordo, comes from the Latin for the same: sordus.

From that same root is the English… absurd.

How did this abs… umm, ridiculous etymology come about? Well, with the ab- prefix (Latin for “off” or “away from”), it meant, “that which is unheard of.” Think of it as a metaphorical version of being deaf: so absurd, you never heard about that happening in reality!

This, this is self-referential: it is an absurd etymology!

Par and Peer, Pair, Disparage

The Spanish for “equal”, par, has a few useful parallels in English. All — in Spanish and English — come from the same Latin root par meaning “equal”.

  • Pair — A pair is really two equals together, literally.
  • Peer — Your peer is someone who is your equal, or at least at an equal level to you.
  • Disparage — is literally to note that someone is not your equal, with the dis- negative prefix before the p‑r root.

In all of these, we can see the p‑r mapping consistently and easily.

Vencer and Vanquish

Vencer — “to defeat” in Spanish — comes from the Latin vincere, of course from the classic triple‑V line of Caesar’s. But from this root, we get a bunch of interesting words, including:

  • Vincent — yes, the name is literally, The Conquerer!
  • Victory — the victor does win over the enemy!
  • Convince — With the con- prefix… the victor of an argument just convinces the other!
  • Vanquish — The victor vanquishes the opponent!
  • Invincible — the victor is someone who is not (in!) vincible!
  • Evict — when you’re evicted from your apartment, that is a form of defeat

We can see the v‑n-c root in most of these, or slight variations, like v‑n-q.

Playa and Plagiarism, Plain

Playa (Spanish for “beach”) comes from the Latin plaga, meaning “region to go hunting” (hunting for water animals, clearly!), which is related to the Greek plagos (“side” — the beach is just one side of your town!).

From that same root, we get the English Plagiarism — because the original Latin, in the sense of “hunting”, turned into “kidnapping”, which then turned into, “literary kidnapping.” Seriously!

The original Proto-Indo-European root, before it became Latin, for these words is *pele, meaning, “flat, spread out”. Think of the English, plain, as in, the plains of the midwest! And what is the beach of not flat land spread out? Well, most beaches, at least.

Cuñado and Cognate

Cuñado, Spanish for “brother-in-law,” comes from the Latin cognatus, from which we get the near-identical English cognate. How can two words so similar mean something so different?

The Latin root cognatus itself came from the roots com- (meaning “together”) and gnasci (meaning “to be born”); thus, literally, “born together.” So, two words that are cognates are — etymologically-speaking — words that are born together. And brothers-in-law are two men who are not brothers but were, in effect at least, born together as well.

Note also that this is an example of the pattern whereby Latin words with a ‑gn- generally became an ñ in Spanish. Thus the c‑gn‑t of cognate maps to the c‑ñ-d of cuñado.

Pollo and Poultry

Pollo (Spanish for “chicken”) is a close cousin of the English poultry.

Both come from the Latin pullus meaning “a young animal”.

The p‑l mapping in both is obvious. And this mapping falls into the category of “completely and utterly obvious once you’ve heard it… but you never thought of it or realized it until someone told you”.

Apellido and Repeal

The Spanish apellido, for “last name” (“surname” to the Brits) has a cousin in the English repeal and appeal.

All of these come from the Latin appellare, meaning, “to call.”

The Spanish makes sense: your last name is which tribe the world calls you by!

The English appeal is, indeed, when you call for a higher authority for help. And repeal is when you call back, push back to those who tried to do something to you.

The p‑l mapping is consistent amongst all the variations, with slight changes in spelling (single l vs double l, for example).

Alrededor and Round

The Spanish for “around”, alrededor”, comes from the same root as the English “round”: both come from the Latin rota, meaning, “wheel.”

The Spanish is a bit less obvious because of its al- prefix — which was originally a separate word, originally, “al rededor.” Thus, the r-(n)-d of round maps to the (al)-r‑d of alrededor.

Aguantar and Bear

The very common Spanish word aguantar, meaning “to put up with”, comes from old Provençal for glove, guanto.

We can see the evolution: something you put up with is, something you (metaphorically) carry around with you, a burden. And what is a glove if not something you wear, something you carry around, something that helps you carry anything else?

There’s an interesting parallel to the English, bear — in this “put up with” sense, not the animal sense. Bear, from the Old English beran, originally meant something you “bring” or “carry”. So, bear follows a parallel etymology as aguantar, both originally meaning what you carry and becoming what you force yourself to put up with.

Funnily enough, the Old English beran also became bore and born in English: women do bear children, after all. I guess children are really just something you need to put up with.


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