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Learning Spanish & Etymology Pattern-Matching for Nerds

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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Limpio and Lymph

Limpio (Spanish for “clean”) comes from the Latin limpid (“clear”). The transition is easy to see: cleaning something is, broadly, making it look clear again, right?

From that same Latin root, we also get the English lymph — as in the lymph nodes we studied in high school biology. What is a lymph? The clear liquid circulating in the body. Oh, there it is again: it’s clear.

The l-m-p root is clear in all!

Sueldo and Soldier

Sueldo (Spanish for “salary”) comes from the Latin solidus for “gold coins” — that which you pay the salary in.

From the same root solidus we also get… soldier. Yes, a soldier is defined by the money he makes: a soldier is just someone who is in an arm for the pay.

The s-l-d root is clearly visible in both!

Plegar and Applicant

The Spanish plegar, meaning “to fold” comes from the Latin root plicare, meaning the same.

From plicare, we also get the English applicant. The connection makes sense if we think about both words in the sense of “attach”: when you apply, you want to attach yourself to an organization; and think of fold in the same metaphorical sense, “to bring into the fold.”

We can see the mapping clearly in the p-l-g of plegar and the p-l-c of applicant. The -c- was lost when it was shortened to just apply over time.

From the same root we also get the English ply, as in plywood – but that is a lot less common!

Pluma and Fleece

Pluma, Spanish for “feather”, sounds nothing like the English feather.

But it is a cousin to the English fleece.

Both come from the same Indo-European root *pleus-, which meant “feather” or to “pluck.”

But they sound so different! That is because the Indo-European p- sound stayed the same in Latin and then Spanish but changed into a f- in the Germanic branch (including English).

Thus the p-l of pluma maps to the f-l of fleece.

Flamante and Flaming

Flamante, Spanish for “great-looking” or “splendid” — perhaps, a more modern version of which would be, “awesome!” — comes from the Latin flamma, meaning, “flame.”

From that same root, we get the English, flame. Completely unsurprisingly.

If you’re wondering how we get from “fire” to “sexy”, then all we need to do is remember one word…. flaming.

The fl-m root is clearly visible in both.

what is the etymological way to learn spanish?

Nerds love to pattern-match, to find commonalities among everything. Our approach to learning languages revolves (the same -volve- that is in “volver”, to “return”) around connecting the Spanish words to the related English words via their common etymologies – to find the linguistic patterns, because these patterns become easy triggers to remember what words mean. Want to know more? Email us and ask:
morgan@westegg.com

patterns to help us learn spanish:

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For Nerds Learning Spanish via Etymologies