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Rubio and Ruby

The Spanish rubio (meaning “blond,” as in the hair color) comes from the Latin rubeus, meaning “red”.

How did “red” come to mean “blond”? In a world where everyone has very dark black hair… it’s easy to see how everyone could conflate blond hair and red hair. The Romans didn’t know the Irish!

From the same Latin root, we get various English words including Ruby, the stone and guess what color it is? And also Rubric, which were originally religious directions that were written in… guess what color ink?

Madero and Matter, Material

The Spanish madero, for “wood”, sounds random, doesn’t it?

But it is more obvious than it sounds: it comes from the Latin root materia, which means “the substance from which something is made; inner wood of a tree.”

From this Latin word materia, we get the English words material and matter. At least metaphysically, they are what stuff is made of, aren’t they?

Andar and Ambulance

Andar, the common Spanish word for “to walk”, usually in the metaphorical sense of “to go,” is cousins with the English… ambulance, as well as its cousin, to amble.

Both come from the Latin ambulare, meaning, “to walk.” 

We can see the a‑n-d of andar map to the a‑m-b of ambulance and amble very clearly.

Pan — Companion

The Spanish for “bread,” pan, sounds nothing at all like its English equivalent.

But it is, indeed, a close cousin of another English word: companion.

All over the ancient world, bread was the sign of friendship and peace. Hence English phrases like, to “break bread.”

In Ancient Rome, your friend — literally, your companion — was someone you broke bread with. Companion, com — pan, con — pan = with bread.

Concurso and Concur

Concurso (Spanish for “contest”) comes from the Latin concursus, (“running together”).

Why? A contest really is just a bunch of people… running together to see who gets tot the finish line first.

From that same Latin root, we get the English… concur. Why? It could also mean in Latin an “assembly”: a bunch of people might be running together, but might also be just talking together in an assembly, to which they come to a conclusion together, to which, they concur.

We can see the c‑n-c‑r root in both words clearly.

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.

Jarabe — Syrup

Syrup jarabe english spanish

The Spanish for syrup, jarabe, comes from the same root as the English: the Persian/Arabic sharab, which means “a drink, or wine”.

The drastically different (at least superficially) words are explained by the sh- and related (such as, sy- ) sounds changing to the Arabic-sounding j- sound in Spanish — but not English.

Thus, the j‑r-b of jarabe maps to the sy-r‑p of syrup.

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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.

Reluctant and Luchar

Luchar, Spanish for “to fight”, doesn’t sound like its cousin reluctant — although of course everyone is reluctant to fight. But the relationship is closer than it seems.

Reluctant comes from the Latin roots re- (“against”) and luctari (“to fight”). Reluctance is to fight against what should be done — literally.

From luctari, we also get the Spanish for exactly the same, “to fight.”

But they don’t sound similar. How did luchar evolve?

Interestingly, in most Latin words that had a ‑ct- sound, this ‑ct- sound evolved into ‑ch- as Latin evolved into Spanish. Think about night/noche and eight/octagon. The same pattern explains luctari turning into luchar.

We see this relationship clearly with the l‑ct to l‑ch mapping between the two.

Buscar and Postulate

Buscar (Spanish for “to ask for”) comes from the Latin poscere (“to ask urgently”). In the transition from Latin to Spanish, the word was definitely weakened since buscar doesn’t have any urgent implication.

From this Latin root, we also get the English word… postulate. Postulating is really just formulating a thesis and wanting responses — which is just a sophisticated form of asking a question!

We can see the b‑s-c of buscar maps to the p‑s-t of postulate.

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