Want more Spanish etymologies? Let us know!
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.
logo

Coquetear and Cock

Coquetear, the Spanish verb meaning “to flirt,” comes from the French coq which means “cock” — in both senses — from which we also get the English word cock, albeit with a slightly different spelling.

It’s not that hard to figure out how a word that means “penis” came to mean “flirt” — but it is easy to smile every time you remember why.

From the same root, we also get the almost-forgotten English word for “flirting,” coquetry.

The c-q to c-ck mapping is clear between both words.

Sanguche and Sandwich

The Spanish for sandwich is sánguche — just the English word, as it is pronounced in Spanish. That one is easy!

However, what is noteworthy is that the -w- becomes a -g-. At first, that seems odd. But then, we remember the -w- to -g- transformation: that in a lot of Germanic words, when they’re brought into Spanish, the -w- sound becomes a -g- sound. Think war/guerra, for a great example.

Suddenly, the weird letter change makes sense!

Presupuesto and Presuppose

Today’s pattern is another entry in the “obvious in hindsight” category.

Presupuesto is the common Spanish word for “budget.” Sounds arbitrary and hard to remember.

But it turns out, this is just a participle of presuponer, which is conjugated just like poner and means… to presuppose.

We see the relation between the words obviously in the too-clear pre-s-p-s pattern.

A budget, after all, is just presupposing how all the money will be spent, right?

Deporte and Sport

Sport and the Spanish for the same, deporte, are closer than they seem.

The English sport comes from the French for the same… desporte — notice it is the same as the Spanish, except with an extra “s” (that’s a pattern that we’ll explain in the French version of this page one day!).

You can see the connection to the English clearly if we remember the “s” and we remember the de- prefix was lost over time. Thus, the s-p-r-t maps to the Spanish (d)-(s)-p-r-t.

The French desporte (and thus the English sport) and its Spanish equivalent deporte both come from the same Latin root: des- meaning “away” and portare, meaning, “to carry”.

Thus deporte, and sport, is also related to puerto (“port”) and portero (“super”, in the sense of, “superintendent”) in Spanish and port in English.

Humo and Fumes

If he is fuming, he is smoking — literally. And it is, subtly, the same word in Spanish.

“To fume” comes from the Latin root fumus (“smoke”) from which we also get the common Spanish word for “smoke”, humo. But they don’t sound alike, so how are they related?

The Spanish humo is a great example of the pattern of the Initial F turning into an H in Spanish, alone among the languages of the world. Many Latin words that began with an F, and come to us in English through the Latinate F form, became the equivalent word but with an H- in Spanish. Take hermano and filial, for example. Or fact and hecho.

Other English words from the same root fumus include fumigation (ahhhh!) and the less common fetid. Fetid is a dirty, Shakespearean word, after all.

Ajedrez – Chess

Ajedrez (Spanish for “chess”) sounds nothing like the English chess, so they can’t be first cousins… right?

Wrong. The Spanish “j” sound — pronounced with an Arabic-ish throat-clearing sound — was originally pronounced with a “sh” or “ch” sound. The arabic influence changed the pronunciation to be closer to the arabic: see sherry/jerez, for example.

Ajedrez and Chess are another example of this same interesting pattern. Try to imagine the “j” in ajedrez with a ch- sound and you almost get chess.

Both, curiously, come from the same Sanskrit word for the game: chaturanga (so the English ch- is thus preserved closer to the original sound — English didn’t have the arabic influence that Spanish did). And these came to both languages via the Persian, chatrang. The traders and travelers, after all, are the ones who change languages.

Siglo and Secular

Siglo, Spanish for “century”, closely related to the English secular.

How? The connection seems surprising.

Both come from the Latin saeculum, meaning, “age, span of time, generation”.

The evolution from saeculum to siglo is obvious: a century is just a unit or breakdown of time.

But in English, it evolved into the sense to mean “worldly.” While the religious concerns itself with the spirit and the “other-worldly,” it is the characteristics of time — growing, aging — that are are the most fundamental characteristics of this world.

Life in the real world, in other words, is defined by getting old.

Ubicar and Ubiquitous

Ubicar (Spanish for “to put somewhere” or “to place”) comes from the Latin ubi, meaning “where.”

From the Latin ubi, we get a bunch of location-related words in English, such as, ubiquitous — which actually means, “everywhere!” Something that is ubiquitous really is everywhere.

The u-b-c of ubicar maps clearly to the u-b-qu of ubiquitous.

Cargarse and Caricature

Cargarse (Spanish for, “to take charge”; a very common word, often used in the sense of, assigning or accepting responsibility) comes from the Latin carrus, meaning, cart.

How did this evolution happen? Easy: you load a cart; so the cart takes on the burden; just as you, by accepting responsibility, are taking on a burden, too. In other words, any action you might need to be responsible for achieving is just like the annoying junk in your trunk, holding down the car!

From the same Latin root, we get the English, caricature. You can see the c-r root in both. The word for “cart” turned into caricature because, well, a caricature is an overloading (!). A caricature, then, is literally just piling on more and more needless extra, exaggerated observations into the picture you paint, until your trunk is similarly burdened down!

Funny how, in English, over-loading a car is an exaggeration, a caricature. But in Spanish, it is just the normal way of taking responsibility.

Coima and Calumny

Coima (Spanish for “a bribe” and an unfortunately common word) comes from the Latin calvor, which means, “to cheat, deceive, trick”.

From that root, we get the English… calumny, which means “slander” (in case you forgot your SAT words or didn’t go to Law School!).

It is easy to see how a word meaning “cheating” transformed into both bribery on one hand, and slander on the other.

The c-m of coima maps to the c-(l)-mn of calumny, with the “l” having been slurred out over time.

logo

© 2020 - All Rights Reserved | Contact | Privacy, Terms & Conditions | Sitemap| Resources | Etymology Dictionaries To Help Us Learn Spanish