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The Nerdy Way To Learn: Spanish »

Asqueroso and Scar

Asqueroso is the common Spanish word meaning “disgusting.” ¡Qué asqueroso! is the common Spanish exclamation of disgust, as is its closely-related cousin, ¡Que asco!

Asqueroso (and asco) come from the Latin eschara, meaning, “scab” (which itself is from the Greek eskhara meaning the same).

From the same Latin (and Greek) root, we also get the English… scar.

So, in Spanish, something that is so disgusting literally scars you!

We can see the mapping in the s-qu-r of asqueroso to the s-c-r of scar.

Cumplir and Accomplish, Complete

Cumplir, the common Spanish meaning, “to finish [doing something]” is — in a moment of, “ah! It’s obvious now that you’ve told me!’ — a close cousin of the English, accomplish.

Both come from the Latin meaning “to complete,” accomplere, which comes from the older Latin root complere, meaning, “to fill up” — from which we also get the English complete.

Thus, the c-m-pl of cumplir maps to the c-m-pl of accomplish. Not to mention, the c-m-pl of complete as well.

Lado, Lateral, Latitude

The Spanish lado (“side”) comes from the Latin latus (“wide”).

There are many surprising English words from the same Latin root. “Surprising” largely because the l-t sound was preserved in English, but evolved into the similar l-d sound in Spanish–thus making the connection less obvious and still interesting.

Some examples include:

  • Lateral, and its variations such as, unilateral, bilateral and multilateral.
  • Latitude: the latitude is literally the width from one side to the other.
  • Dilate: a dilation is indeed a widening.
  • Relate: literally means, “to go back to the side”; relating to someone is going to their side of the fence!
  • Elation: From the Latin ex-latus (and ex- is, of course, “above”); thus literally, “rising above the sides”.
  • Collateral: From com + latus (com is Latin for “with, together”, like the Spanish con-); thus literally meaning, “side by side”.
  • Translate: Since trans– is Latin for “across”, a translation is literally, “bringing something from one side across to another.”

Disheveled and Cabello

Disheveled — as in, having messy hair! — comes from the same Latin root as the Spanish cabello, meaning “hair” or “a head of hair.” Both of these come from the Latin capillus, meaning hair.

We can see the pattern more clearly if we remember the dis- prefix at the beginning of disheveled: thus the (d)-sh-v-l of disheveled maps to the c-p-ll of capello.

Also from the same Latin root capillus, we get the English capillary. A capillary, after all, looks just like a thin strand of hair.

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.

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