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The Nerdy Way To Learn: Spanish »

Apostar – Position, Posit

Apostar, Spanish for “to bet”, sounds nothing like bet or any related English word.

But it turns out to be a close cousin of Posit and Position: Betting is indeed just an extreme form of putting forth a position or positing something — literally putting your money where your mouth is.

All come from the same Latin, positionem, which come from the Latin root verb ponere (“to put”)  from which we also get the Spanish for the same, poner.

Reluctant and Luchar

Luchar, Spanish for “to fight”, doesn’t sound like its cousin reluctant – although of course everyone is reluctant to fight. But the relationship is closer than it seems.

Reluctant comes from the Latin roots re- (“against”) and luctari (“to fight”). Reluctance is to fight against what should be done — literally.

From luctari, we also get the Spanish for exactly the same, “to fight.”

But they don’t sound similar. How did luchar evolve?

Interestingly, in most Latin words that had a -ct- sound, this -ct- sound evolved into -ch- as Latin evolved into Spanish. Think about night/noche and eight/octagon. The same pattern explains luctari turning into luchar.

We see this relationship clearly with the l-ct to l-ch mapping between the two.

Hongo – Fungus

The Spanish hongo, for “mushroom,” doesn’t sound anything like its English counterpart “mushroom.” But it does come from the Latin fungus from which we get the English synonym for mushroom… fungus.

The relation between hongo and fungus is easy to remember if we remember that, as Latin evolved into Spanish, the initial f- (followed by a vowel) usually transformed into an h-. Thus, the f-n-g for fungus maps exactly to the h-n-g of hongo.

Leer and Religion

It seems like a paradox: leer (Spanish for, “to read”) is a cousin of religion! But they are actually closely related–despite the too-common belief that religion is thoughtless!

Religion comes from the Latin, re- (“again”) combined with legere (“to read.”) Thus, religion is literally, reading the same thing again and again: a form of reading ritual.

From the Latin legere, the -g- disappears over time and we get the Spanish… leer, “to read.”

Thus the r-l-g of religion maps to the l- of leer.

It’s funny that, today, religion and reading are too often seem as opposites. For most of history, the educated classes were the priests and scholars; this is why the old American universities, for example, were predominantly founded by religious groups!

Cuerno and Horns

Cuerno horns spanish english

The Spanish for “horn”, cuerno (and its variations, like the ever-present cornudo), and the English horn are both originally the same word in the ancient languages.

Huh?

One of the most interesting sound shifts is the Indo-European “k-” sound remained the same into Latin and then Spanish (the Latin cornu for the same) but became an almost-silent “h-” in the Germanic languages.

Thus the c-r-n in Spanish parallels exactly the h-r-n in English.

There are lots of awesome and subtle examples of this pattern, such as Corazon/Heart.

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