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The Nerdy Way To Learn: Spanish » Patterns »

Sueño and In­som­nia

Sueño (Span­ish for “dream”) and in­som­nia come from the same root: the Latin som­nus, mean­ing, “sleep.”

The evo­lu­tion is easy to spot if we re­mem­ber that the ‑mn- sound in Latin usu­al­ly trans­formed in­to the ñ in Span­ish. See damn and daño, for ex­am­ple. Or au­tumn and otoño as well.

Thus, the s‑mn of in­som­nia maps to the s‑ñ of, sueño.

Cuer­no and Cor­nu­copia

We’ve pre­vi­ous­ly dis­cussed cuer­no (Span­ish for horn) and its re­lat­ed Span­ish words–and here’s an­oth­er: cor­nu­copia, which lit­er­al­ly means… the “horn of plen­ty.” We see the h‑r-n map to the c‑r-n again here!

Puñal and Pu­gna­cious

The Eng­lish for ea­ger-to-fight, pu­gna­cious, con­tains the ‑gn- pat­tern in­side it: a give-away to the pat­tern that ‑gn- words in Latin turned the ‑gn- in­to a ‑ñ- in Span­ish yet re­mained the same in­to Eng­lish.

There­fore, pu­gna­cious maps per­fect­ly to puñal, the Span­ish for… “dag­ger.” It makes sense that “dag­ger” and “ea­ger to fight” come from the same root, af­ter all. And that root, in this case, is the Latin pugnare, mean­ing, “to fight.”

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.

Llave — Clef

Key llave spanish english

The Latin words that be­gan with “cl” changed, pret­ty con­sis­tent­ly, to “ll” as Latin changed in­to Span­ish.

To­day’s ex­am­ple of this: the Latin word for “key” was clavis. This be­came the mod­ern Span­ish word for “key”, llave.

There are, how­ev­er, a few in­ter­est­ing oth­er de­scen­dants of clavis, and thus dis­tant rel­a­tives of llave. They in­clude:

  • the Span­ish cla­vo, mean­ing, “nail”. It’s a more ed­u­cat­ed word, com­ing to Span­ish via Latin schol­ars lat­er on, so it did­n’t lose the nat­ur­al cl- sound the way the tra­di­tion­al words did.
  • Eng­lish words like clef and en­clave. Yes, in mu­sic you talk about the “key” and the “clef” and they come from the same word orig­i­nal­ly!
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