Want more Spanish etymologies? Let us know!
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

logo

The Nerdy Way To Learn: Spanish » Patterns »

Jerez — Sherry

Sherry jerez spanish englishThe Latin sounds for “sh” — and similar variations, like “ch” and “ss” — became a “j” sound in Spanish.

Thus, the English sherry is near identical to the Spanish jerez!

These sh/j sounds were often spelt with a “x” in old Spanish; and sherry itself is named after the town it first came from, Xeres, which is near Cordova.

Nombre and Nominal

The usual Spanish word for “name”, nombre, is very closely related to the English word nominal, in an interesting way. Not only does nominally mean “relating to the name”, but there is an interesting etymological pattern between the words.

Latin words with an m‑n sound usually turned the m‑n into an mbr sound as Latin evolved into Spanish. Thus, we see curious patterns like hominem becoming hombre, and famine and hambre being closely linked.

The same pattern applies here. The Latin nominalis turned into the Spanish nombre and the English nominal — thus the n‑m-n of nominal maps exactly to the n‑mbr of nombre!

Cannabis — Hemp

Today is time for what is perhaps my all-time favorite example of how sound patterns change over time. Here we go, no more delays:

The Proto-Indo-European sound k- changed into the h- sound into German (then English) — but it remained the k- sound (often spelled with c-) into Latin then Spanish. Thus we get many great parallels we’ve discussed before, such as head/cabeza. Another example of the same pattern:

The English hemp, for everyone’s favorite weed to smoke. The Spanish for the same, which we also say in English, is cannabis.

Now look closely: if we remember that the h- in the Germanic/English words maps to the c- in Latinate/Spanish words, then it becomes very clear that the h‑m-p of hemp maps the c‑n-b of cannabis. The m/n and p/b cross and change very easily between each other, so those sound changes are much more obvious.

Who would’ve thunk!

Sospechoso — Suspect

Suspect and the Spanish equivalent, sospechoso, are easy to identify and obviously the same word, both from the same Latin root, suspectus.

That’s not the interesting part. Rather, as Latin evolved into Spanish, the Latin sound ‑ct- turned into the Spanish ‑ch- sound. Think lactose/leche or octagon/ocho.

And suspect falls exactly into this pattern: the English s‑s-p-ct maps exactly to the Spanish s‑s-p-ch.

Daño and Condemn, Damn

Daño, Spanish for “damage”, comes from the Latin for the same: damnum. From the same root we get both the English condemn and damn. But what happened to that missing ‘m’?

Interestingly, the Latin m‑n sound tended to turn into a ñ sound in Spanish. This explains how autumn became otoño, for example.

We can still see this pattern preserved in the perfect mapping of d‑ñ in daño to the d‑mn of damn, and the same with condemn.

From the same root we also get the English indemnity, as well as damage itself, although the final ‑n was lost because damage entered English via French.

We can see the parallel but between daño, condemn, damage, and damnum — but how did it come to mean the formerly-vulgar, damn? Think of damn in the old sense of, sentencing someone for a crime they did: you are condemned to hell. A whole slew of English insults come from this same concept, including the word hell itself!

logo

© 2022 - All Rights Reserved | Contact | Privacy Policy, Terms & Conditions | Sitemap| Resources | Etymology Dictionaries To Help Us Learn Spanish

Hat Tip 🎩 to The Marketing Scientist