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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”.

Vinculo and Wind

The Spanish vínculo (“a link, connection, something that binds something to something else”) comes from the Latin for the same, vinculum.

A distantly related word is the English wind — not in the sense of what blows in your face on a windy day but rather in the sense of winding a clock (remember those ancient clocks?). Wind (again, in this sense) comes from the Proto-Indo-European *wendh- (“to turn, weave, or wind”)  from which we also get the Latin vinculum and finally the Spanish vínculo.

We can we can see that the v-n of vínculo maps to the w-n of wind.

Huésped and Hospitable

Huésped, the common Spanish word for “guest,” has an English cousin: hospitable. This might not be obvious at first since the -o- morphs to the -ue- and thus changes the sound completely but both come from the Latin hospes which means the same. We can see the mapping of h-s-p clearly in both.

In the same family is hospital. Yes, patients in a hospital are just guests, as though it’s a hotel!

Buscar and Postulate

Buscar (Spanish for “to ask for”) comes from the Latin poscere (“to ask urgently”). In the transition from Latin to Spanish, the word was definitely weakened since buscar doesn’t have any urgent implication.

From this Latin root, we also get the English word… postulate. Postulating is really just formulating a thesis and wanting responses — which is just a sophisticated form of asking a question!

We can see the b-s-c of buscar maps to the p-s-t of postulate.

Seguir – Persecute, Sequel

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:

  • Persecute – from the Latin persequi; the per means “through”, and the sequi is the same “follow”.
  • Sequel – directly from the Latin sequi for “follow”, via French.

Nombre and Nominal

The usual Spanish word for “name”, nombre, is very closely related to the English word nominal, in an interesting way. Not only does nominally mean “relating to the name”, but there is an interesting etymological pattern between the words.

Latin words with an m-n sound usually turned the m-n into an mbr sound as Latin evolved into Spanish. Thus, we see curious patterns like hominem becoming hombre, and famine and hambre being closely linked.

The same pattern applies here. The Latin nominalis turned into the Spanish nombre and the English nominal — thus the n-m-n of nominal maps exactly to the n-mbr of nombre!

Destacar and Detach

Destacar (Spanish for “to stand out”) comes from the French destachier (“to detach”) which, in turn, comes from the Latin de- (of, from) plus the old French stakon, meaning a “stake” (literally, as in a pole!).

Thus, “standing out” (destacar) is literally just detaching yourself from the rest around you — who are, presumably, much lower quality than you are!

We can see the root clearly in the d-(s)-t-c (for destacar) to d-t-ch (detach) mapping.

Don’t forget that the de- prefix in French and sometimes Spanish is just another form of the de- prefix. Thus, explaining the extra -s-. And — clearly! — attach comes as well from the same root, just without the de/des negation!

But the best modern English word from the same root is… staccato. Yup: playing the piano in staccato fashion is just, when you play each note really separated from the others!

Apañar and Pane

The Spanish apañar (“to fix, to rig”, as in “to fix the jury”) comes from the Latin pannus, which meant “cloth, garment or rag.” How did this transformation happen, as Latin turned into Spanish? Well, you use a cloth to tie people, which is one way of applying pressure — physically and metaphorically.

From the same Latin root pannus, we get the English… pane. As in a window pane. Here, the metaphorical meeting of the cloth or clothing took on the meaning of a divider — which divides one section from the other. Which is precisely the opposite meaning of the Spanish!

You can see the p-n root in both. And it’s always noteworthy that the Latin double n –nn– consistently transformed into the ñ in Spanish.

Jueves – Thursday

Thursday jueves spanish englishThursday and Jueves, like the other days of the week, come from the Germanic and Latin names for the same God: the King of the Gods, the God known as “Zeus” to the Greeks, and sometimes as “Jupiter.”

The King of the Gods was often called “Jove” (we still remember this in English: sometimes people euphemistically say, “By Jove!”) — hence, Jueves. And the Germanic equivalent of the same God is Thor — and Thursday is literally, “Thor’s Day”!

Flamante and Flaming

Flamante, Spanish for “great-looking” or “splendid” — perhaps, a more modern version of which would be, “awesome!” — comes from the Latin flamma, meaning, “flame.”

From that same root, we get the English, flame. Completely unsurprisingly.

If you’re wondering how we get from “fire” to “sexy”, then all we need to do is remember one word…. flaming.

Theh fl-m root is clearly visible in both.


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