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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.

Miel and Mellifluous

The Spanish for “honey,” miel, comes from the Latin mel — also meaning honey. We can see the m-l root obviously and simply in both!

(The –fluous ending comes from the Latin fluere, meaning “to flow” — and we can also see the f-l root there!)

So, mellifluous words are… flowing like honey.

Bailar and Ballroom

Bailar, Spanish meaning “to dance”, is another one of these Spanish words that sounds random and is difficult until you realize its subtle common origin with a bunch of English words.

Bailar comes from the late Latin ballare, meaning the same, “to dance”, originally from the Greek ballizein, meaning, “to dance or jump around”. From this same root, we get a few English words including:

  • Ballroom — Yes, the room where you go dancing!
  • To Have a Ball — Yes, the “ball” in this phrase is the same “ball” as in bailar and ballroom!
  • Ballad — The love song, unsurprisingly, comes from the same root as dancing: perhaps slow dancing!
  • Ballistics — Directly from the Greek, we get the science of having balls shoot around!

No connection to the English “ball” in the sense of the round object you throw.

Have a ball remembering these!

Mano – Manufacture

The Spanish for “hand,” mano, has a first cousin in the English manufacture.

Manufacture comes from the Latin manus (like in Spanish, also “hand”) and the Latin factura (which is from facere — “to do”, and almost identically in Spanish, with an f-to-h conversion, hacer).

Thus, “manufacturing” is literally, “making by hand” — the work of an artisan!

Also from the Latin for “hand”, and thus still cousins with the Spanish mano is manual as well: manual labor is also work done with your hands–literally.

Embajada and Embassy

Embassy (and Ambassador) and its Spanish equivalent, Embajada (and Embajador), both come from the same ancestor, the Old French Ambactos.

What is most interesting about these two is that it is an example of the pattern where the -j- sound in Spanish maps to the -sh- sound (and its cousins, like -ss- and -ch-) in English. Remember syrup and jarabe, chess and ajedrez, sherry and jerez, and push and empujar for a few examples.

Thus, the m-b-j of emabajada maps to the m-b-ss of embassy.

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.

Vaca and Vaccine

The Spanish for “cow” vaca, comes from the Latin vacca, meaning the same. From that same root, we get the English…. vaccine/em.

Huh? How?

Interestingly, the first, umm, vaccine, was to give the cow-pox virus to people with small-pox! Thus, the word for cow turned into the word for vaccine!

We can see the v-c root clearly in both.

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.

Abogado and Advocate

Spanish for “lawyer,” abogado is a cousin of the English uncommon synonym for the same, advocate (think of it in the noun sense).

Both come from the same Latin root: advocatus, which is a combination of ad- (“towards”) and vocare (“to call”: think of voice, vocal, vocation — literally, your calling!). So a lawyer, or advocate, literally meant, “one called [to help others]”.

Although the sound mappings may not be obvious at first, we can see that the a-b-g-d of abogado maps to the a-v-c-t of advocate.

Padre and Father

Father padre spanish english

Father is one of the most basic words in every language and a traceable pattern throughout the Indo-European languages.

The original PIE sound “p-” changed in all the Germanic languages to “f-“. This is referred to as “Grimm’s Law”, from the fairy-tale fabulist who first noted this pattern.

In the Latin languages such as Spanish, the original “p-” sound was preserved. Thus, the Spanish padre’s p-d-r root maps to the English father’s f-th-r root.

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