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Correr and Current

The Spanish correr, “to run,” comes from the Latin for the same: currere.

In a “It’s not obvious until you realize it, then it’s completely obvious moment!”, this is related to the English: current.

Although current obviously does not share the same literal meaning of running, conceptually it is very similar: what is happening right now is what is running or flowing by.

So time doesn’t fly; it flows past, right now — literally.

Not to mention, think of the way they always talk about electricity: the running current.

Encontrar – Acquaint

Although encontrar, the common Spanish word for “to meet”, doesn’t sound like its English counterpart, it does have an unexpected first cousin: acquaint.

Both come from the same Latin root for the same (in contra), although the English one comes to us via the French influence: acointier.

Thus, we can see that the en-c-n-t-r maps to a-cqu-n-t somewhat closely: the final -r disappeared as the French word evolved into the English word, and the opening en- (in- in Latin) became the simpler a-.

Someone you meet, after all, is indeed your acquaintance.

There is, however, another English word that is closer to encontrar although perhaps less obvious until you hear it: encounter!

Helado, Hielo and Gelatin, Jello

It’s easy to forget: the silent “h” can turn into a whole variety of soft, almost silent sounds in different languages.

Case and point: helado, Spanish for “ice cream” (and related words: helar for “to freeze”, and hielo, “ice”). All of these come from the Latin for gelare for… gelatin. And what is sweetened gelatin for mass consumption if not the brand… jello!

We can see the pattern best if we remember that the silent h- is very similar to the barely audible soft g- and soft j- sounds in English. Thus, the h-l-d of helado maps to the g-l-t of gelatin!

Coche – Coach

The Spanish for “car”, coche, on the surface sounds nothing like the English for the same — or any similar word.

But etymologically, it comes from the same root as the English, coach. Think of it in the old-fashioned sense of: the coach class on a train!

All come from the same root: the Hungarian kocsi (Hungarian is unrelated to English or Spanish, so there is no deeper root), named after the village where the first coach, in the very old sense — a large carriage — was created.

It’s interesting how coach has been downgraded as a word in English: it was first the luxurious way to travel, and now it is the economy class of a train.

Derecho and Direct

Derecho direct spanish english

The law and the good, in European languages, are associated with straight lines; the bad with the crooked. Think about the word crooked itself, literally! Or about right/rectangle, or the Greek ortho– for straight, hence, orthodox as well as orthodontics.

This is why it makes sense that DerechoSpanish for straight and also for law — comes from the same Latin root that gives us direct.

The “ct” in the original direct turned into a “ch” in Spanish, in the usual pattern of “ct” turning into “ch” as Latin grew into Spanish.

Pais and Pagan

País (Spanish for “country”) comes from the Latin pagus meaning “countryside”. From that same root, we also get the English… pagan.

Funny how, beliefs in traditional gods was a feature of people living far from the cities… even back then. The more things change, the more they remain the same!

Only the initial p– sound has been retained in both.

Hermoso and Form

The Spanish for “beautiful”, hermosa, seems unrelated to the English for the same. Or is it?

Hermosa comes from the Latin for “beautiful” formosus.

We can see this pattern because it is an example of the Initial F to H pattern, where many Latin words that began with F- turned into H- in Spanish.

Ahhh, that makes sense: Formosa, in Argentina really means, “Beautiful”, and this also explains the Portuguese for beautiful (also formosa) as well: Portuguese never lost that initial F.

The Latin formosus itself comes from the root forma, meaning, well, “form”. So, beauty, itself, is just your pure form. At least in Spanish.

Etapa and Staple

Etapa (Spanish for “stage, level”) comes from old Dutch word (remember, the whole Spanish-Netherlands 80 years war? They did influence each other a lot!) stapel meaning, “deposit; store.”

The English staple comes from the Old German stapulaz (“pillar”) — from which we also get the Dutch stapel and then the Spanish etapa!

But how did a word meaning “pillar” become “stage” or “staple”? Well, a pillar holds up the next level — the next stage! (Think of floors in a building as being stages of development. Ultimately we reach the penthouse!). Or think about the pillar — that which holds everything else up so it doesn’t fall — is the staple of the building, the most basic building block, to ensure it doesn’t collapse!

We can see the t-p root in both the English and Spanish words.

Piel and Peel

The English peel comes from the Latin pilus, meaning “hair”, from which we get the Spanish for “hair,” pelo.

More interesting, however, is its Spanish cousin, piel, meaning “skin,” from the related Latin pellis, meaning “hide”.

Your skin, after all, is just a thin covering of your body — just when you peel the skin off of the apple.

The p-l root is easily visible in all of these.

Quejar and Quash, Squash

Quejar, Spanish for “to complain” doesn’t seem related to any English equivalent.

But upon closer look, it is a first cousin of both quash and squash.

How so?

All come from the Latin quassare, meaning, “to shatter.”

The relationship is easy to see if we remember that the Spanish -j- sound used to be the Latin -s- sound (and many variants, like -ss-, -si-, -sy-, -sh-, -ch-, etc).

Thus, the qu-j for quejar maps to the qu-sh of quash and the sq-sh of squash.

Complaining, it seems, is a form of quashing (squashing?) your opponent!

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