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The Nerdy Way To Learn: Spanish » Patterns »

Guardar – Ward

The Spanish Guardar, meaning “to watch over or care for”, and the similar Guardia (the ER! Emergency Room) are both cousins of the English ward and warden. Huh?

Both come from the same Proto-Indo-European root, *wardo, also meaning “to take care of”.

But, as Latin turned into Spanish, the initial W- sound turned into a G- sound but remained the same in English.

Therefore, the Latin-ish G-R-D maps to the Germanic W-R-D. Ahhhh!

Pegar and Pituitary and Fat

The Spanish pegar (“to paste”) comes from the Latin pix, meaning “tar.” That makes sense: “paste” looks like just a more diluated “tar.”

But pix itself comes from the Proto-Indo-European root pei(e), which meant, fat — think of animal fat, for example. It makes sense that this word evolved into a word meaning “tar”: that’s a bit what animal fat looks like.

From this same root pei(e), we get a few notable English words:

  • Fat — Fat itself comes from this root! This is through the PIE p- sound transforming into the f- sound as it evolved into German and English. Think about father/padre, for example.
  • Pituitary — The same root came back in, via an educated Latin, to mean, the pituitary gland. Why? Because the ancients believed that this slimy gland is what produced mucous/snot — the smile of the nose. A bit like tar, isn’t it? We can see the P- root preserved here, too.

Pluma and Fleece

Pluma, Spanish for “feather”, sounds nothing like the English feather.

But it is a cousin to the English fleece.

Both come from the same Indo-European root *pleus-, which meant “feather” or to “pluck.”

But they sound so different! That is because the Indo-European p- sound stayed the same into Latin then Spanish, but changed into a f- in the Germanic branch (including English).

Thus the p-l of pluma maps to the f-l of fleece.

Celoso and Jealous, Zeal

The Spanish celoso and the English for the same, jealousy, come from the same Greek root: zelos.

But how did this happen? They should so different!

The answer is that the Latin (and Greek) words with a -ch- sound and variations (like -sh-, the soft -j-, -z-, etc) usually turned into the hard, guttural, throat-cleaing -j- sound in Spanish. Think about sherry and jerez, for example, or quash and quejar, or soap and jabón.

Thus, the c-l-s of celoso maps to the j-l-s of jealous.

Curiously, the ancient Greek form — zelos — meant jealousy, but in the more positive sense of enthusiasm and friendly rivalry. In a word: zeal — which also comes from the same root!

Hombre and Ad Hominem, Hominid

Hombre, Spanish for “man”, comes from the Latin for the same, hominid. From the same root, we get the English hominid and the classic ad hominem attack.

Here’s the interesting part: the m-n sound in Latin consistently changed into the -mbr- sound in Spanish. Thus, we have parallels like nombre and nominal. And hombre maps exactly to this pattern with both ad hominem and hominid.

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