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The Nerdy Way To Learn: Spanish »

Suelo, Subsuelo and Sole, Soil

Suelo is Spanish for “floor” although it is not too common (piso is the more common word). But, very common is subsuelo — the sub-floor, that is: the basement.

This is, unexpectedly, related to a few English words.

Suelo comes from the Latin solum, meaning “ground.”

From solum, we get two English words:

First, soil — yes, the soil is what is on the ground below you!

Second, sole — as in the sole of your shoe. This, too, is below you as you walk.

In both, we clearly see the s-l root staying consistent.

Horno – Furnace

The Spanish horno, for “oven,” sounds unrelated to any English counterpart.

But it is in fact a close cousin of furnace. Both come from the Latin formus, meaning “warn”.

How did such dissimilar words end up such close cousins?

Because most Latin words that began with an f- followed by a vowel ended up evolving in Spanish (alone among the romantic languages) into an h-. Thus the h-r-n of horno maps almost exactly to the f-r-n of furnace. In both cases, the original -m- evolved into an -n- in the root. But that is a very common transition too, with both sounds being so similar.

Remo and Row

Remo (Spanish for the very common word “oar”) is a cousin of, well, the English row.

Remo comes from the Latin for the same, remus, while the English came from the German ruejen; both of those come from Proto-Indo-European *ere, meaning “to row”.

We can see the r- maps to the r- in each and it does make sense. After all, you do use an oar to row.

Aguja, Agujero and Acuity, Acrid

Aguja (Spanish for “needle”) and the similar Agujero (“hole”) both come from the Latin acus, also “needle.”

From the same Latin root, via Latin, we get the English acuity. Being sharp with your wit and observations is just another form of being sharp!

Another descendent (just slightly more distant!) is acrid — because that which is bitter is really sharp on the tongue.

The a-c root in English maps to the a-g root in Spanish. The c- and g- transformation is a very common one too; both sounds are very similar!

Falta and Fault

Falta (“lack of”) is an interesting word in Spanish because, it is one of those words, along with cornudo that is a grammatical construction that, literally, is less common in the English but rather, in English, the same point is made very commonly in a different way. Falta is very common in Spanish: La casa falta calefacción is literally “the house lacks heating” but the way an English speaker would make that point — since few today says “lacks” in every day speech! — would be, The house doesn’t have heating.

Falta comes from the Latin Fallita, which mean, “a fault.” Indeed, Fault itself comes from the same root — and we can see that with the f-l-t mapping in both. Fallita itself comes from the older Fallere (“to disappoint”) from which we get many English and Spanish words such as fail and fallar.

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