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Borracho and Inebriated

The fun, and everyday, Spanish word borracho is…. drunk. Although it sounds nothing like the English “drunk” it does have a subtle cousin in English: inebriated. Although they don’t look the same we can see the parallel if we look with squinted eyes:

The b-r-ch root of borracho maps to the b-r in (in)-b-r-t. The English version sounds more Latinate because we added the in- prefix for emphasis at the beginning.

Buitre and Vulture

The Spanish buitre doesn’t obviously look like the English word it means: “vulture,” both of which are from the Latin vulturis.

But looking below the surface, we see the similarity: the b-t-r of buitre maps to the v-(l)-t-r of “vulture.”

This isn’t obvious at first for two reasons. First, the b- to v- transition: the sounds are identical in Spanish and often interchanged with each other, so it makes sense that they swap here.

But more subtly, the -l- between the vowels disappeared in the Spanish version, with the ulu becoming u-i. The vanishing of the -l- between the vowels is much more characteristic of Portuguese than Spanish (see almost every example in Portuguese, like comparing the Spanish vuelo with the Portuguese voo — an observation I first made in the Rio de Janeiro airport years ago!).

Regalo and Gala, Gallant

Regalo, Spanish for “gift,” comes from the Old French galer (“to rejoice; make merry”), with a re- prefix added for emphasis.

From the same root we get the the English gala, as well as gallant.

It makes sense: a gala is a big, merry, ball after all. Gallant is a bit more subtle: it meant, in old French, courteous — but earlier, it had originally meant, “amusing, entertaining,” from which we can see a clear relationship to making merry.

So it is noteworthy, therefore, that, good manners (being courteous) originally began as… being fun.

And all share the same g-l root to make the connection clear.

Red and Retina

Red (Spanish for “network; net”) comes from the Latin rete, meaning “net.”

From the same root, we get the English… retina. How? What does your eye have to do with a net?

Well, if you look deeply into someone’s eye, their retina turns out to be a very tight network of blood vessels. And thus, your retina really is a… red (Spanish sense)!

You can see that the r-d of red maps to the r-t of retina.

Jeringa – Syringe

Jeringa, Spanish for Syringe, sounds like it has nothing in common with its English counter-part. But they are literally the same word.

The Latin sh- sound often evolved into the j- sound in Spanish — originally retaining the sh- sound but eventually, under Arabic’s influence, transforming to the throat-clearing sound we know and love.

This explains how both jeringa and syringe derive from the same root: the Latin siringa, itself from the Greek syringa. The sy- sound is a variation of the sh- sound and therefore the sy-r-n-g of syringe maps to the j-r-n-g of jeringa.

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!

Trazar and Trace

The Spanish trazar (“to draw up”) comes from the Latin tractus (“drawing.”) From that same root we get a few English words, including, trace. The t-r-z to t-r-c mapping is very clear here.

What’s more interesting are the other words that come from the Latin tractus. These include:

  • Trait — A trait, after all, is just an outline of your personality
  • Train — Think of the word “draw,” but in the other sense: the horse draws the carriage.
  • Trattoria — The Italian restaurant draws you in with its awesome food!
  • Tract — When you’ve drawn out your borders over land
  • Treat — When you’ve drawn what you want out of the patient

Alumbrar and Illuminate

The Spanish Alumbrar means “to light up” in English — and, indeed, it is literally the same as to illuminate.

The Latin m-n sound almost always became a m-b-r as Latin turned into Spanish. Compare hominem with hombre, for example.

We see the same pattern here. Both alumbrar and illuminate come from the Latin luminare, meaning the same, “to light up” — from which we also get the English luminary.

Thus, the l-m-n in the original corresponds to the ll-m-n in the English illuminate and the l-m-b-r in the Spanish alumbrar.

Cara and Cheer

The Spanish cara (“head”) comes from the same Latin word (cara), also meaning the same, “head.”

From that Latin, we get the English cheer (via French’s chere). Thus, the ch-r of cheer maps to the c-r of cara.

A face — after all — is the most human instead to make us thankful (to cheers a toast!) for life. And most faces fill us with enough happiness to make us cheerful!

Sangre and Sangria

Sangre (Spanish for “blood”) comes from the Latin sanguis for the same.

From that root, we also get…. sangria. Yes, the classic alcoholic wine plus fruit drink looks a bit like blood!

We also get a bunch of less common words, such as, consanguine (cousin marriages!) and even just sanguine, which originally meant “bloodthirsty”. It’s only a small step from the intensity of bloodthirsty to the cheery optimism of sanguine!

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