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The Nerdy Way To Learn: Spanish »

Trapo – Drape

Trapo is the common Spanish word for “cloth” or, more commonly, “rag”.

It sounds nothing like the similar words in English, except… it turns out to be a close cousin of drape & drapery.

All come from the same old Irish word, drapih, meaning, “garment.”

We can see the parallel in the t-r-p and d-r-p mapping. Both are the same roots except for the t/d shift, which is a very common and not-noteworthy transition.

A drape, after all, is a form of a cloth.

Amarillo, Amargo

Although, there is no obvious English cognate, amargo is the Spanish word for bitter. Bittersweet, for example, is amargodulce: literally, bitter-sweet.

Interestingly, though, the very common Spanish word for “yellow,” amarillo, comes from this same root for bitter. It literally means “a bit of bitterness,” from the Latin amarus for “bitter” with the –illo diminuitive ending.

Yellow — the color of melancholy, of puke, of snot — is really the color of just a hint of bitterness.

Soler and Insolent

Insolent derives from the Latin prefix in– (meaning, “the opposite of,” of course) and the Latin root solere, meaning, “to be used to (doing something).” So, an insolent man is literally someone who is used to not doing the things he is expected to do. That sounds pretty insolent to me!

From the same Latin root, we get the Spanish soler meaning “to be used to (doing something)” just like the original Latin root, before the negation. So next time you hear in Spanish, Suelo… (“I’m used to…”) you should think, “Don’t be insolent!”. No one will get the pun other than you, me, and our fellow ForNerds fans.

Note that this has no relation to the Spanish suelo meaning, “ground”, which comes from the Latin solum.

Cabeza and Head

The Indo-European root kaput, meaning “head”, led to words for the head in almost every western language, with no change.

The kaput turned into the almost-identical caput in Latin; and then that evolved, through very minor changes, to the almost-the-same cabeza in Spanish. The main sound shift is the p to b, but those are very clearly aligned signs that often swap.

Kaput, however, evolved into the German kopf — which then became the English head. How so?

The Germanic sound “k-“, as German evolved into English, generally became the “h-” sound in English. Take century/hundred or horn/cornudo or, my favorite, hemp/cannabis as other examples.

Thus, the c-b(-z) of cabeza maps to the h-d of head. In the English pattern of short, powerful words, the final sound was lost as well, to give us the simple, straightforward head.

Cepo and Chip

The Spanish cepo (for “clamp”; both literal and metaphorical, as in, “to clamp down”) comes from the Latin cippus. Cippus itself comes from the ancient Proto-Indo-European root keipo for a “sharp piece of wood.” From that same PIE root, we get (via German) the English… chip. The c-p to ch-p mapping is clear; and next time you have a chip on your shoulder, remember that this is better than having a clamp on your shoulder!

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