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Otoño and Au­tumn

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!

Lev­an­tar and Rel­e­vant

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.

Nieve and Snow

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 — 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.

Lla­ma — Flame

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?

Cam­biare and Change

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 and Presto

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 and Gout, Gut­ter

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.

Ata­jo and En­tail, Tai­lor

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 and Fever

Hervir boil spanish english

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.


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