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Amigo and Friend

Today’s etymology is simple and to the point — and, for me at least, was completely unexpected:

Amigo (Spanish for “friend”), comes from the Latin amare, “to love,” a common word we see everywhere, as in amor and amante.

So, a “friend” is literally someone you love.

The best part is that there is an exact parallel to English as well: the English friend comes from the Old Germanic word frijojanan meaning… “to love”. From this Germanic root meaning “to love” we get various distantly related words in English, like Friday (the day of Love — just like how in Spanish, viernes is named after Venus, the goddess of love) as well as freedom. Freedom is something we love… just like our friend.

Morder — Remorse

The Spanish morder, “to bite”, sounds completely different than anything in English (except for obscure SAT words like mordant — which literally means, biting!).

But who would’ve thunk that it’s related to remorse.

Remorse comes from the Latin remordere, which means, “to bite back” — from the earlier re- (the prefix meaning “back” in this case) and mordere, from which we get, morder.

The remorseful do bite back indeed!

Jerez — Sherry

Sherry jerez spanish englishThe Latin sounds for “sh” — and similar variations, like “ch” and “ss” — became a “j” sound in Spanish.

Thus, the English sherry is near identical to the Spanish jerez!

These sh/j sounds were often spelt with a “x” in old Spanish; and sherry itself is named after the town it first came from, Xeres, which is near Cordova.

Aprender and Apprentice

The common Spanish word aprender (“to learn”) comes from the similar Latin, apprehendere for the same.

From the same Latin root, we get a variety of related English words, most notably, apprentice — an apprentice just learns from the master, right?

A few other English words come from the same root, although less directly, including, apprehend: what is learning if not arresting all the information and knowledge and wisdom you hear and keep it in your mind? And apprise, which is just notifying someone — and that is really just sharing your learnings! We also get the English apprehensive: perhaps being apprehensive is just being scared of some knowledge?

The a‑p-r-n‑d root is clearly visible in all of these variations.

Red and Retina

Red (Spanish for “network; net”) comes from the Latin rete, meaning “net.”

From the same root, we get the English… retina. How? What does your eye have to do with a net?

Well, if you look deeply into someone’s eye, their retina turns out to be a very tight network of blood vessels. And thus, your retina really is a… red (Spanish sense)!

You can see that the r‑d of red maps to the r‑t of retina.

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.

Cama and Camera, Chamber

Cama, Spanish for “bed”, has many surprising cousins in English, including:

  • Chamber — This French word made its way into English, meaning originally and still most commonly, “bedroom”. What is your bedroom if not the room with your bed? Chamber comes from the Latin, camera, meaning the same — from which we also get cama itself.
  • Camera — From the Latin for the same, room. If we think about how a camera works: there is a little dark room where the film is exposed.
  • Comrade — The communist word for “friend” came to Russian and the world via French, but came to French via the Spanish camarada, literally, “chamber mate” — the person you shared your room with. You and your comrades have a closer relationship than you thought!

In all these words, we can see a c(h)-m to c‑m mapping, so the relationships are clear!

Vendimia and Vintage

The Spanish vendimia (“a harvest of wine”) comes from the Latin vinum (“wine” — from which we get words like vino — “wine” — in Spanish) combined with demere, which meant, “to take out”. So the wine harvest is literally, the taking out of the wine.

The interesting part is that, from these same two roots, we get the English… vintage. You may think of vintage cars or vintage clothing — but it really just does refer to, taking out wine.

We can see the v‑n-d of vendimia maps to the v‑n-t of vintage.

Guapo and Vapid

Guapo (Spanish for “beautiful,” at least in Spanish outside of Argentina) comes from the Latin vappa which meant, “flavorless wine.” (The Romans must have drunk a lot in order to have a word that just means, wine that has no flavor!).

From that same Latin root vappa, we get the modern English word… vapid. A vapid thought is, after all, flavorless.

Although only the ‑p- root remains in both words, we can see how the ‑v- sound transformed into the ‑g- sound (both are similar), while it remained intact in the English vapid.

Cobarde, Cola — Coward

A coward is one who turns his tail and runs: literally!

The English coward comes from the old French coart. Coart, in turn, comes from coe, meaning “tail” (from the Latin, coda for the same), plus the ‑art suffix just refers to a person doing that (think, braggart). A coward show you his tail and turns the other way!

Interestingly, from the Latin coda, we also get the Spanish for tail, cola. And from the French coart, we get the Spanish word for coward, cobarde.

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