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The Nerdy Way To Learn: Spanish »

Coima and Calumny

Coima (Spanish for “a bribe” and an unfortunately common word) comes from the Latin calvor, which means, “to cheat, deceive, trick”.

From that root, we get the English… calumny, which means “slander” (in case you forgot your SAT words or didn’t go to Law School!).

It is easy to see how a word meaning “cheating” transformed into both bribery on one hand, and slander on the other.

The c-m of coima maps to the c-(l)-mn of calumny, with the “l” having been slurred out over time.

Jueves – Thursday

Thursday jueves spanish englishThursday and Jueves, like the other days of the week, come from the Germanic and Latin names for the same God: the King of the Gods, the God known as “Zeus” to the Greeks, and sometimes as “Jupiter.”

The King of the Gods was often called “Jove” (we still remember this in English: sometimes people euphemistically say, “By Jove!”) — hence, Jueves. And the Germanic equivalent of the same God is Thor — and Thursday is literally, “Thor’s Day”!

Llamar – Claim, Clamor

Llamar claim spanish english

The Spanish llamar (to name; commonly used to say “My name is”: “Me llamo” is literally, “I call myself…”) comes from the Latin clamare, meaning “to cry out, shout, proclaim.”

This is an example of the pattern where Latin words beginning in “Cl” are changed to the double-l (“ll”) in Spanish. In English, these words retain the “cl” sound – from the same root we get claim and clamor.

Other examples of this pattern include llave and clef.

Aliento and Exhale

The Spanish aliento (“breath”) comes from the Latin for anhelitus (“panting; exhalting”) which itself comes from the older Latin anhelo (“difficulty breathing”). Anhelo, in turn, comes from halo (even older Latin for breath), prefixed with the negative an- prefix and from halo which we get (via French) the English inhale and exhale.

But what’s confusing here is the Latin anhelitus transforming into the Spanish aliento . The easy way to see it is to remember that: most solo h- in Latin became silent in Spanish and then eventually, disappeared. (When ‘h’ does remain in Spanish, it is still silent!). So, (h)-l of aliento maps to the (in)-h-l of inhale and similarly (ex)-h-l of exhale.

Ducha – Duct, Douche

Ducha, Spanish for “shower”, sounds unrelated to the English for the same. But it does have a less obvious cousin in English: duct; both do conduct water, towards a particular direction!

And yes, from the same root we also get, via French, douche, as in, douchebag.

Duct and Ducha both come the same Latin root, ductus, “leading”. More on that one another day.

The transformation happened due to the always-fun pattern of the -ct- words in Latin turning into -ch- words in Spanish. Thus, the d-ct in Latin and English maps almost exactly to the d-ch in Spanish.

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