Want more Spanish etymologies? Fill out the form below and we will send you our favorites, Free!
logo

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.

Cucaracha and Cockroach

We get the English cockroach directly from the Spanish cucaracha. We can see the c-c-r-ch pattern in both. There is no Latin, Greek, or German root since it is a New World word.

Apellido and Repeal

The Spanish apellido, for “last name” (“surname” to the Brits) has a cousin in the English repeal and appeal.

All of these come from the Latin appellare, meaning, “to call.”

The Spanish makes sense: your last name is which tribe the world calls you by!

The English appeal is, indeed, when you call for a higher authority for help. And repeal is when you call back, push back to those who tried to do something to you.

The p-l mapping is consistent amongst all the variations, with slight changes in spelling (single l vs double l, for example).

Hembra and Feminine

The Spanish hembra, for “female” (usually in regards to animals) sounds nothing like the English feminine. But it turns out that they are etymologically identical.

Both come from the Latin for female, feminina. Hembra sounds so different because the f-m-n root is changed to h-mbr via two different patterns:

  • The f-to-h pattern, where words beginning in the Latin f- change to an h- in Spanish, such as filial and hijo, or hacer and fact — changing the initial h- of feminina to h-.
  • The m-n to -mbr- pattern, where Latin words with the m-n together usually changed to an -mbr- in Spanish, like illuminate and alumbrar — changing the m-n of feminina to the -mbr- of hembra.

These two, taken together, show a clear mapping of f-m-n to h-mbr.

Lavar and Deluge

The Spanish lavar (“to wash”) comes from the almost-identical Latin, lavare.

From the same Latin root, we get the English… deluge. What is a deluge of, well, anything if not a flood of it?

Of course, this also means that the English antediluvian (literally, “before the flood”!) also comes from the same root!

We can see the parallel more clearly if we note that the l-v root of the Spanish lavar maps to the (d)-l-u of deluge, with the -u- turning into its cousin -u- during the process.

Decir/Dicho and Dictionary

Dictionary decir spanish english

The Spanish Decir (“to say”) comes from the Latin dictio for “word”. Its participle form is dicho — and dicho also means “saying”, in the sense of, a cliche.

Thus decir is another example of the “ct” sound in Latin turning into the “ch” sound in Spanish — and is also related to the English word… dictionary.

Mostrar and Monster, Demonstrate

Mostrar (Spanish for “to show”) comes from the Latin root, monstrare (“to point out”), which comes from monstrum, an “omen from God; a wonder.”

From that root monstrum, we get two related English words:

  • Demonstrate — A demonstration, after all, is just a showing!
  • Monster — A monster was originally a messenger from God. But just a bad one!

We can see how the m-n-st-r root in the original Latin was preserved in the two English descendants, but turned into m-st-r in the Spanish mostrar, losing the middle -n-.

It’s curious how the sense of awe and wonder, of a God-given message, has been lost as monstrum — the divine omen! — turned into merely demonstrations or just showing, mostrar. Sounds like the modern world, in a nutshell.

Fallar and Flatulent

Today’s etymological comparison is a bit weird, but one I love. Fallar is Spanish for “to fail” and Flatulent is, well, a fancy word for “farting.”

Both come from the Latin Flare, meaning, “to blow.” A fart is definitely a type of blowing; and failing at something being considered a type of blowing is a common image in languages around the world: think about Bart Simpson, in our own language, saying, That Blows!

The f-l root makes the relationship clear in both words.

Interestingly, from the same Latin root Flare, we also get olfactory (another fancy word for, “the sense of smell”) and blow itself is the anglo-saxon cognate to flare.

Espuma and Foam

The Spanish for “foam”, espuma, comes from the Latin for the same: spuma. And this Latin comes from the Proto-Indo-European root *(s)poi-moi from which we also get the English… foam.

How so? Because the PIE root p- very consistently became an f- as it evolved into German then English, but this transformation never happened when it became Latin and then Spanish. Note words like foot/pie and father/padre.

Thus the f-m of foam maps to the (s)-p-m of espuma very clearly!

Alrededor and Round

The Spanish for “around”, alrededor”, comes from the same root as the English “round”: both come from the Latin rota, meaning, “wheel.”

The Spanish is a bit less obvious because of its al- prefix — which was originally a separate word, originally, “al rededor.” Thus, the r-(n)-d of round maps to the (al)-r-d of alrededor.

logo

© 2017 - All Rights Reserved | Contact | Privacy Policy | Terms & Conditions | Sitemap | Etymology Dictionaries To Help Us Learn Spanish | Resources