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The Nerdy Way To Learn: Spanish »

Torta and Tart

Torta (Spanish for “cake”) comes from the Latin torta, meaning “a loaf of bread that’s round”. Bread, after all, was a treat, until sugar conquered our diet!

From that same Latin root, we also get the English… tart. A pop tart is a type of cake, after all!

The t-r-t root is clearly visible in both.

Caja – Case, Cash, Capsule

The Spanish caja (“box”) comes from the Latin capsa for the same.

This gives us a surprising connection to some English words that, on the surface, sound very different than caja:

  • Case — In the sense of, well, a box.
  • Capsule — Still retains the -ps- of the original Latin.
  • Cash — Originally meant “money box”. Funny how the name of the container turned into the name of the thing itself.

The Latin turned into the Spanish through an interesting pattern: the -sh- sound in Latin consistently turned into the -j- sound in Spanish (at first retaining the original pronunciation, but then under the influence of Arabic, grew to the throat-clearing sound). With caja, we have a slight variation of the pattern, where the -ps- sound turned into the -j- sound. Thus, the c-ps maps exactly to c-j.

Pecho and Pectoral Girdle

The Spanish for “chest”, pecho, sounds completely different than the English chest.

But it is related to the English word for the chest bones: the Pectoral Girdle.

The relationship is the Latin -ct- words transforming into -ch- as Latin turned into Spanish. Thus, the pect- maps to pech- exactly. The English word, on the other hand, is taken – unchanged – directly from the Latin.

Also from the same root, in Spanish, es pechuga — the common word for the common food, “chicken breast”!

The same pattern we see in noche/nocturnal, leche/lactose, etc.

Veda and Veto

Veda (Spanish for “closed season” such as, the time of year when you can’t hunt for your favorite beast) comes from the Latin vetare, which meant, “to forbid”.

In fact, from the same Latin root, we get the English… veto. Veto is actually the first person conjugation in Latin: “I forbid!”

We can clearly see the that the v-d of veda maps to the v-t of veto.

Sentir – Resent, Sentence, Send

The Spanish sentir (“to feel”) doesn’t bear an obvious relation to the same English word. But looks can be deceiving:

Sentir comes from the Latin for the same, sentire, which in turn comes from the Proto-Indo-European root *sent, meaning, “to go” — feels are thus, definitionally, fleeting, things that come and go.

From the Latin sentire, we get a bunch of similar words in English, including:

  • Sentence — which originally meant, “a thought, judgment, opinion.” A sentence is a judgment indeed!
  • Sense — which is a feeling!
  • Resent — these are just your feelings, magnified with a re!
  • Scent — to smell something is to have a feeling for it, too!

And a few others, including assent, consent, dissent and, most obviously, sentiment.

From the original Proto-Indo-European root *sent, meaning “to go” — via German, that turned into some simpler English words that we can now consider distant cousins of Sentir: send. Feelings do come and go!

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