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The Nerdy Way To Learn: Spanish »

Semana and September

Semana (Spanish for “week”) comes from the Latin septimana for the same. Septimana itself comes from the Latin root septem meaning… seven. There are, after all, seven days in the week–by definition!

From the same root, we get the English September. But something isn’t right. Isn’t September the ninth month, not the seventh month? Huh?

The fascinating explanation is that the ancient calendar had ten months, the first of which is… March. So, the numbering is all two behind. This explains not only why September is two off, but so is October (from the root oct- meaning “eight”, not “ten”) as well as November (nov- for “nine”, not “eleven”) and December (dec- for “ten”, not “twelve.”)

Pais and Pagan

País (Spanish for “country”) comes from the Latin pagus meaning “countryside”. From that same root, we also get the English… pagan.

Funny how, beliefs in traditional gods was a feature of people living far from the cities… even back then. The more things change, the more they remain the same!

Only the initial p- sound has been retained in both.

Empatar and Pact

Empatar (Spanish for “to tie” — in the sense of, both teams scoring equally) comes from the Latin pactum for, well, “pact, deal”.

The connection between teams being tied and a pact is interesting: both imply an equality. A pact is a deal that both teams benefit from equally, because if they didn’t, they just wouldn’t enter into the pact! Without equality between the sides, it’s not a pact; it’s a “treaty”!

The p‑t of empatar maps to the p‑ct of pact, with the ‑ct- sound being simplified into just ‑t-, as often happened.

Faro — Lighthouse

Lighthouse faron spanish english

Lighthouse in Spanish is Faro. Seems totally random, doesn’t it? Well…

The greatest and most famous lighthouse in history was, of course one of the 7 Wonders of the World, the infamous Lighthouse at Alexandria, in ancient Egypt.

And the ancient Latins — knowing all about and in awe of the amazing lighthouse- referred to it by the title of the man who built it which was, of course, the King of Egypt. And they called their Kings, Pharaohs!

Pharaoh — yes, the same Pharaoh featured in the Old Testament who enslaved the Jews and thus of course gave them the holiday of Passover — in Spanish is written faraón. Thus, giving rise to the word faro for lighthouse.

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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