Moda and Modern
Moda (Spanish for “fashion”… to be fashionable is, de moda) comes from the Latin modo meaning, “just now”: what is fashionable or cool is, definitionally, temporal, for just this one fleeting moment; tomorrow, it will no longer be cool, for tomorrow isn’t now!
From the same root is the English Modernity, which, definitionally, is thus just what is happening right this very moment.
Fondo, Hondo and Profound
From the Latin fundus (“bottom”), we get the Spanish fondo (“background”) and hondo (“deep”) — as well as the English profound. After all, when someone says something profound, well, that’s deep.
The mapping of the Spanish f-n-d (or h-n-d) to the English (pro)-f-n-d is straightforward. However, it’s curious that, in hondo, the initial F transformed from Latin into Spanish to an initial H. This is a common pattern, unique to Spanish, that we see in many Latin words as they transformed into Spanish, such as hijo and filial, refuse and rehusar, and higado and fig.
Beber – Beverage
File this one under the “So obvious I didn’t realize it” category: the Spanish beber (“to drink”) is a cousin of the English, beverage.
Both come from the same fountain: the Latin bibere, meaning the same. Thus, the b-b-r in the Spanish beber maps to the m-v-r in the English beverage.
The only change is a b-to-v transition, which is one of the more common and often interchangeable transitions.
Despedirse and Repeat
The Spanish despedirse (“to say goodbye; leave”) comes from the Latin petere (“to seek.”) With the des– prefix, despedirse literally means: to seek away from. You say goodbye when you’re looking for something else, away from where you are now.
From the Latin root, we get a few English words including:
- Petulant. The petulant kid never stops seeking more and more.
- Perpetual. What is doing something perpetually if not, looking for something and never getting what you want?
- Repeat. That’s when you keep on looking for something over and over, and never find it.
- Compete. It’s when you’re looking for something — and so is someone else.
Abrir and Aperture
The common Spanish abrir, for “open”, comes from the Latin for the same, aperio.
From the same root — in an “ahhhh!” moment — is the English, aperture, the opening of the camera. The sort of word you learn if you ever try to figure out how to use an analog camera!
The a-b of abrir maps to the a-p of aperture, with the “b” and “p” being often and easily exchanged.
Espuma and Scum
Espuma (Spanish for “foam”) is a (surprising) cousin of the English, scum.
Both come from the same Indo-European root skeu-, which meant, “to cover, hide.” In the Germanic side of Indo-European, this evolved into skuma — literally “foam” — which then evolved into scum.
Transition from the meaning of “foam” in the old Germanic to the current meaning happened because of the sense of “foam”: the layer above the liquid” turned into “a layer of dirt on top of something cleaner”. And that then evolved into just pure dirt. Words degrade over time, at least in English.
The Indo-European skeu- separately evolved into espuma (via the Latin spuma, also just meaning neutrally “foam”) which — still today — retains the more neutral connotation of just foam.
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: