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The Nerdy Way To Learn: Spanish »

Barato and Barter

The Spanish for “cheap,” barato, and the English barter both come from the same root, the Old French barater, meaning, “to barter, cheat, deceive, haggle.”

The word, over time, lost most of its negative connotation in both languages — neither barato nor barter are particularly strong negative words — although both have that touch of uneasiness, that we try to feel we are better than.

Trazar and Trace

The Spanish trazar (“to draw up”) comes from the Latin tractus (“drawing.”) From that same root we get a few English words, including, trace. The t-r-z to t-r-c mapping is very clear here.

What’s more interesting are the other words that come from the Latin tractus. These include:

  • Trait — A trait, after all, is just an outline of your personality
  • Train — Think of the word “draw,” but in the other sense: the horse draws the carriage.
  • Trattoria — The Italian restaurant draws you in with its awesome food!
  • Tract — When you’ve drawn out your borders over land
  • Treat — When you’ve drawn what you want out of the patient

Meterse and Omit, Submit, Admit, Permit

The Spanish meterse (“to get involved with”) comes from the Latin mittere (“to let go.”) They sound like they might be opposites, but they’re broadly aligned: it’s all about going somewhere, figuratively. Getting involved with something is just getting to your destination!

From this Latin root, we get a whole slew of English words, such as:

  • Omit
  • Submit
  • Admit
  • Permit

Basically, all the -mit words–even the awesome, but usually forgotten, manumit!

What all of these words have in common is, going in a particular direction: the permission to go there; the acceptance to go there; the submission to see if you can go there; and even the opposite, just not going there at all!

Note that also from the same root we get the noun version of these words, in which (surprisingly) the -mit morphed into -mission. Thus: manumission, dismiss, mess and mission.

Sentarse and Saddle

Sentarse, Spanish for “to sit”, comes from the root *sed-, meaning the same.

The surprising English cognate is… saddle. A saddle is what you do sit in, indeed!

This mapping is not obvious at first, but you can see that the s-d root of saddle maps to the s-(n)-t of sentarse. Anglo-Saxons are shorter and to the point–as usual.

English does have another word from the same root, but it comes via the Latin and is thus more pretentious and closer to the Spanish: sedentary. A veritable SAT word!

Brindar, Brindis and Bring

Brindis (a “toast”, in the sense of saluting someone before you drink alcohol) and brindir (“to provide”) both come from the same origin — through a funny story.

In 1527, the German king Charles V sacked Rome — and the soldiers, when sacking the city, screamed out in victory constantly, “Ich bring dir’s!”, meaning, “I’m bringing it!” (“It” here refers to victory, the new king, a new beginning, etc.) This phrase then became popular and repeated around Rome (in Italian), in different senses: it became the toast that everyone used to the new king; and it also entered popular usage in the same sense, of bringing or providing. Then, the word was copied from Italian into Spanish. And, separately, bring, although a German word, is the same word in English. Remember, English is a Germanic language, after all (despite all those French words since 1066 and all that!).

We can thus see the br-n-d of brindis and brindar map to the br-n-g of bring quite clearly. The d/g sounds often swap places as well, thus making the g/d switch make sense: they do sound quite similar, after all.

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