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The Nerdy Way To Learn: Spanish » Patterns »

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.

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.

Hablar and Ineffable

The Spanish hablar (“to talk”) comes from the Latin fabulare, as we’ve previously discussed. The initial F- turned into an H-, as happens only in Spanish (think fig vs higo.)

From the same root, however, also comes the English ineffable, that SAT word meaning “unable to be described in words.” So, ineffable literally means “without” (in-) and “speaking” (fabulare).

We see the h-b-l of hablar map to the (in-)f-b-l of ineffable quite clearly!

Leche – Lactose

Ah, one of our all-time favorite patterns and examples: leche, the common Spanish word meaning, “milk.”

Leche is a first cousin of the English lactose via a very interesting pattern: the -ct- to -ch- pattern.

Both come from the same Latin root, lactatio (literally, “suckling.”) The -ct- in that root remained unchanged as it entered English (because it entered via the sophisticated French) but that sound almost always turned into a -ch- sound as Latin evolved into Spanish. Thus the l-ct maps to the l-ch almost exactly.

Many other awesome words follow the same pattern: think octagon/ocho, for example. Some more coming up soon (or see the pattern page linked below).

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