The Spanish for “shirt”, Camisa, is a distant cousin of the English Heaven. How?
Both come from the same common ancestor, the Proto-Indo-European root *kem, meaning, “to cover.” This root evolved, via German, to the English heaven (that which covers us above) and it evolved, via Latin (and even the French chemise), to the Spanish camisa (that which covers our torso!).
But they sound so different. How can that be?
The answer is that the Indo-European sound k- transformed over time into the German and then English h- sound — which remaining the same (albeit with a c- spelling) in Latin and then Spanish. Thus the c- of camisa maps to the h- of heaven.
From that same root, we get a bunch of English –cussion words, including:
You can see the s-c in reverse in the Spanish sacudir and the –cussion words.
But there’s a mystical connection as well: from this Latin root, we also get the English… reincarnation. Combined with the re– prefix for “again”, reincarnation literally means “in the flesh… again”. Sounds just like what reincarnation is!
Note: see also our previous posts about Carne and carnival as well.
Suggested by: Hong Linh
Cárcel (Spanish for “prison, jail”) comes form the Latin for the same, carcer. Note that the words are almost identical except for the l/r swap — a very common switch linguistically (think of the Japanese, who pronounce both interchangeably, “Frushing meadows! Frushing meadows!” as they joke in New York).
From that same Latin root carcer, we get two English words.
More directly, Incarceration. That makes sense — incarcerating is going to jail! We can see the c-r-c root in both.
More subtly, we also get the English cancel. The English made the same l/r shift as the Spanish — but, as it came via French, the first -r- became an -n-. But that’s a French pattern for another day!
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.
The Spanish pudrir, “to rot,” has a surprising connection to the English, foul, a word meaning the same but sadly very underused these days — although still when quoting Macbeth: fair is foul and foul is fair!
Both come from the same Indo-European root *pu, meaning, “to rot.”
But the English one sounds so different because, in the Germanic branch of Indo-European, the p- sound turned into the f- sound. But now in the Latin branch.
Thus the initial f+vowel of foul maps to the initial f+vowel of pudrir.
From the same root are more fun words including defile, putrid, and pus. What wonderful imagery!
The Latin root cognatus itself came from the roots com– (meaning “together”) and gnasci (meaning “to be born”); thus, literally, “born together.” So, two words that are cognates are — etymologically-speaking — words that are born together. And brothers-in-law are two men who are not brothers but were, in effect at least, born together as well.
Note also that this is an example of the pattern whereby Latin words with a -gn- generally became an ñ in Spanish. Thus the c-gn-t of cognate maps to the c-ñ-d of cuñado.
From the same root, however, also comes the English ineffable, that SAT word meaning “unable to be described in words.” So, ineffable literally means “without” (in-) and “speaking” (fabulare).
We see the h-b-l of hablar map to the (in-)f-b-l of ineffable quite clearly!
The surprising English cognate is… saddle. A saddle is what you do sit in, indeed!
This mapping is not obvious at first, but you can see that the s-d root of saddle maps to the s-(n)-t of sentarse. Anglo-Saxons are shorter and to the point–as usual.
However, what is noteworthy is that the -w- becomes a -g-. At first, that seems odd. But then, we remember the -w- to -g- transformation: that in a lot of Germanic words, when they’re brought into Spanish, the -w- sound becomes a -g- sound. Think war/guerra, for a great example.