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Parecer and Apparition

Parecer, Spanish for “to appear”, comes from the Latin parere, meaning the same. As does the Spanish verb form, aparecer.

Obviously to some but not to others, from the same root comes the English appear as as well as… apparition. What is an apparition if not something that appears to you but doesn’t really exist?

We can see the relationship because the p‑r of parecer maps to the p‑r in both appear and apparition.

Débil and Debilitating

Débil, Spanish for “weak,” comes from the same root as the English word debilitating: the Latin debilitas, meaning the same. This is another “obvious once you know” etymology.

Curiously, debilitas itself comes from the prefix de- (“away from”) and the Proto-Indo-European root *bel‑, meaning “strong.” From the same root we get, via other routes, the strong men of the Bolsheviks. Yes, it’s the same b‑l root there too!

Docente and Educate

Docente, Spanish for “teacher,” comes from the Latin docere, meaning, “to teach”. From the same root, we get the English… education. The parallel becomes clear when we observe the d‑c root in all of the variations.

The Latin root, Docere, however, is first cousins with ducere, meaning… “to lead.”

To teach is thus to lead — literally. Even more specifically, education is the ducere root, but beginning with the prefix ex‑, meaning, “out of”: To teach is to lead out of (the darkness of ignorance)!

But it gets better: from the same root is to lead in a different direction… to seduce: sub- (Latin for, “away from”) plus ducere. To seduce is thus to lead away from where you should be!

Amigo and Friend

Today’s etymology is simple and to the point — and, for me at least, was completely unexpected:

Amigo (Spanish for “friend”), comes from the Latin amare, “to love,” a common word we see everywhere, as in amor and amante.

So, a “friend” is literally someone you love.

The best part is that there is an exact parallel to English as well: the English friend comes from the Old Germanic word frijojanan meaning… “to love”. From this Germanic root meaning “to love” we get various distantly related words in English, like Friday (the day of Love — just like how in Spanish, viernes is named after Venus, the goddess of love) as well as freedom. Freedom is something we love… just like our friend.

Hipoteca and Theme

The Spanish hipoteca for “mortgage” comes from the Greek hypo- (“down”) and tithenai (“to put, place”). Why? A mortgage is when you put down a deposit, and you put down your commitment to pay it off until it’s all paid down.

From the root tithenai we also get the English… theme. A theme is when you put down one topic you will consistently return to during the course of the event!

This etymology is almost as good as the English equivalent, mortgage… which literally means, pledge until you’re dead. Yup, the same mort- as in death! A mortgage is — literally — what you’ll be paying until you die!

Turbio and Disturb

Turbio, Spanish for “cloudy”, comes from the same Latin root as the English disturb: turbidus, meaning, “turmoil; full of confusion; muddy.”

It is easy to see how this one root evolved in time into both the English disturb and the Spanish turbio. Think of a cloudy day, just about to rain: the skies are in turmoil! The Gods are about to fight with one another!

We can see the t‑r-b root clearly in both. And the English turbid also comes from the same root, although that word is used only on the SATs.

Mil and Mile

The Spanish for a “thousand,” mil, comes from the Latin milia, meaning the same. 

Here’s the interesting part: the ancient Romans would put a stake in the ground every thousand paces outside the city, to mark how far away you go. And that’s why, from the Latin word for a thousand, we get the English… mile.

Bonus: million comes from the same root – and literally means, “a thousand thousand!”

Piedra and Petrify

Piedra, Spanish for “rock,” is a close cousin of the English, petrify: “to be very, very scared”. We see the connection clearly if we map the p‑d-r of piedra to the p‑t-r of petrify.

What is the connection between them? Well, when you get scared, you often just freeze: you turn to stone! So next time someone is so scared that they stop in the middle of their tracks, just think, they are just, petrified!

It’s interesting to note that, these words have a whiff, just a whiff, of Sodom and Gomorrah. Remember the classic scene from Genesis: Lot and his wife are fleeing the city of Sin as they are being destroyed, commanded by God to not look back as they run away. But Lot’s wife is so scared that, she turns back onto it and is thus… turned into a pillar of salt. Her fear turns her into a stone (well, salt, but the same concept!). Literally!

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?

Leer and Religion

It seems like a paradox: leer (Spanish for, “to read”) is a cousin of religion! But they are actually closely related – despite the too-common belief that religion is thoughtless!

Religion comes from the Latin, re- (“again”) combined with legere (“to read.”) Thus, religion is literally, reading the same thing again and again: a form of reading ritual.

From the Latin legere, the ‑g- disappears over time and we get the Spanish… leer, “to read.”

Thus the r‑l-g of religion maps to the l- of leer.

It’s funny that, today, religion and reading are too often seem as opposites. For most of history, the educated classes were the priests and scholars; this is why the old American universities, for example, were predominantly founded by religious groups!

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