One of our favorite patterns of sound change between English and Spanish is the sh/j shift: under the influence of arabic, many words that had a “s” or “sh” or “sy” or “ch” sound in Latin, started to be pronounced with the throat-clearing sound and written with a “j”. See sherry/jerez and chess/ajedrez or syrup/jarabe, for example.
Another example of this pattern is the Spanish word for “juice”, jugo. It comes from the Latin succus meaning, “juice” (particularly sap, or juice from plants).
From this Latin root succus we also get the English… suck.
Yes, if it sucks — it is juicy! Literally!
We can see the mapping in the s-c to j-g mapping. The “c” and “g” sounds are similar and often interchanged.
Interestingly, in Spain they do not say jugo to mean “juice”; instead, they say… suco. Suco, funnily enough, also comes from the same root of succus. It is just the variation that never underwent the arabic “j” transformation.
From the same root we also get the English succulent, although we do not get the superficially similar English juice, which comes from the Latin ius, meaning, “sauce.”
The Spanish esperar — the common word meaning “hope, wait, expect” — comes from the Latin sperare for the same.
So it’s unsurprising that its opposite in Spanish, desperar, parallels exactly the English, despair. Ahhhh!
Less obvious is that the Latin sperare comes from the Proto-Indo-European root *spe, meaning “to thrive”, from which we also get the English, speed.
Speeding and hoping are indeed both forms of thriving!
Caldera (Spanish for “pot”) comes from the Latin calderium meaning “warm bath”. From that same root, we get the English… cauldron. The witches’ boiling pot is both a pot and a warm bath of sorts, after all.
We can see the c-ld-r root clearly in all the words.
Recinto (Spanish for “enclosure” or “facility”) comes from the Latin re– (which just adds emphasis) and the Latin cintus (a noun meaning “surrounding” – in the literal sense, of something that surrounds something else, like enclosing a circle around them; or similarly, “encircling.”)
From that same root, we get the English word precinct — which makes sense, since a precinct is really just a radius or… encircling to define a neighborhood.
More surprisingly from same root is, cinch. This Latin word meaning a circling came to mean sword-belt (it is a belt that encriclces you!), which then came to mean the Spanish cincha, meaning “girdle.” That then came back to English to mean, “a sure thing” and then “easy” — because your girdle stays on tightly to be a sure thing. It is a cinch!
1859, American English, “saddle-girth,” from Spanish cincha “girdle,” from Latin cingulum “a girdle, a swordbelt,” from cingere “to surround, encircle,” from PIE root *kenk- (1) “to gird, encircle” (cognates: Sanskrit kankate “binds,” kanci “girdle;” Lithuanian kinkau “to harness horses”). Replaced earlier surcingle. Sense of “an easy thing” is 1898, via notion of “a sure hold” (1888).
We can see the c-n-t root clearly in recinto and precinct, and the very similar c-n-ch in cinch as well.
Alegre, Spanish for happiness, has a close English cousin in alacrity (a SAT word meaning “eagerness” or “cheerful readiness”).
Both come from the Latin alacritas meaning the same as the English.
It’s funny, to me at least, how the word for eagerness turned into the word for happy in Spanish: there is a strong and ancient correlation between being willing to do things, and excited about them — and being happy.
The Spanish for “blue,” azul, is originally an Arabic word referring to a particular type of valuable blue stone, the lapis lazuli. In Spanish, the word degraded over time, and the l- was lost (as though it was the the french l’ for “the”) and we were just left with azul for just “blue.”
The English for azure — which is really just a shade of blue! — comes from the same root, although azure still retains a luxury connotation that was lost with the simple blue implication of azul in Spanish.
Many languages, including Spanish, have an -l- and -r- shift, where, over time, the -l- and -r- sounds are swapped. We see this here, as the a-z-l root of azul maps to the a-z-r root of azure.
It is obvious that nube (spanish for “cloud”), and its cousin nebuloso (“cloudy”),are related to the English nebulous: a SAT word meaning “unclear”, just like the sky is when it’s cloudy. This one is easy.
But did you realize that nube is also related to the English nuance?
Nuance comes from the Latin nubes, meaning “cloud” – from which we also get the almost-identical Spanish word.
Although this is less obvious, we can see the pattern here: a nuance is a slight shade of meaning, just how the cloud adds a slight shade to sky.
Nuances, therefore,by definition, stop the clarity of sunshine from shining in, and just cloud our judgments!
Rocío (Spanish for “dew,” not to mention its cousin, rociar, “to sprink or spray”) comes the Latin ros (“dew.”)
From that same root, we get the English… rosemary, everyone’s favorite mint! Rosemary in fact comes from the Latin rosmarinus (ros – marinus), the “dew of the sea”!
The r-c of rocío clearly maps to the r-s of rosemary.
The common Spanish word dar (“to give”) comes from the Latin for the same, dare.
From the Latin root, we get the English… mandate (“to give with your hand” – thus related to mano as well): what is a mandate if not a written order to give to someone? The best mandates are when you deliver them yourself anyway, not through intermediaries. The dare connection explains where the -d- after the hand comes from!
Another English word from the same root: tradition. That word comes from the Latin tradere, literally, “to hand over” — the tra– is the same trans- root (“over”), while the dere is the same “give.” In today’s way of walking, we’d say that tradition is what is handed down to us: it is what is given to us. Literally. ANd you can see the -d- in the word from dare as well clearly!
Costilla, Spanish for “rib,” is a close cousin of the English coast and accost. All come from the same Latin root, costa, meaning, “side.”
Thus, your rib is literally, “what which is on your side” and to accost is literally, “to come up to you from the side” and, of course, the coast is the definition of the side, your side boundary.
The c-s-t root is clearly visible in all descendents of costa.