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The Nerdy Way To Learn: Spanish » Patterns »

Ducha — Duct, Douche

Ducha, Span­ish for “show­er”, sounds un­re­lat­ed to the Eng­lish for the same. But it does have a less ob­vi­ous cousin in Eng­lish: duct; both do con­duct wa­ter, to­wards a par­tic­u­lar di­rec­tion!

And yes, from the same root we al­so get, via French, douche, as in, douchebag.

Duct and Ducha both come the same Latin root, duc­tus, “lead­ing”. More on that one an­oth­er day.

The trans­for­ma­tion hap­pened due to the al­ways-fun pat­tern of the ‑ct- words in Latin turn­ing in­to ‑ch- words in Span­ish. Thus, the d‑ct in Latin and Eng­lish maps al­most ex­act­ly to the d‑ch in Span­ish.

Hacerand Fact

The Eng­lish fact comes from the Latin fac­tum, mean­ing “some­thing that hap­pened.” It is thus an ex­act cog­nate to the Span­ish hac­er, mean­ing “to make.” How?

The root of both is the Latin facere, mean­ing “to do.” Fact, and the Latin fac­tum, is just the same word in a dif­fer­ent tense.

The Latin facere turned in­to the Span­ish hac­er, al­though they su­per­fi­cial­ly sound dif­fer­ent. Their re­la­tion be­comes ob­vi­ous once we re­mem­ber that Latin words that be­gan with an ini­tial f- al­most al­ways turned in­to an ini­tial h- when Latin evolved in­to Span­ish.

There­fore the f‑c-r of facere maps ex­act­ly to the h‑c-r of hac­er.

This pat­tern ex­plains many words such as hi­er­ro/fer­rari, hervir/fever, huir/fugi­tive, ho­ja/fo­liage!

Camisa — Heav­en

The Span­ish for “shirt”, Camisa, is a dis­tant cousin of the Eng­lish Heav­en. How?

Both come from the same com­mon an­ces­tor, the Pro­to-In­do-Eu­ro­pean root *kem, mean­ing, “to cov­er.” This root evolved, via Ger­man, to the Eng­lish heav­en (that which cov­ers us above) and it evolved, via Latin (and even the French chemise), to the Span­ish camisa (that which cov­ers our tor­so!).

But they sound so dif­fer­ent. How can that be?

The an­swer is that the In­do-Eu­ro­pean sound k- trans­formed over time in­to the Ger­man and then Eng­lish h- sound — which re­main­ing the same (al­beit with a c- spelling) in Latin and then Span­ish. Thus the c- of camisa maps to the h- of heav­en.

Oth­er ex­am­ples of this pat­tern in­clude cor­nudo/horn and horse/cor­rer.

Lleno — Plen­ty

Llenar — Span­ish mean­ing “to fill” — comes from the Latin plenus, mean­ing “full”.

This, there­fore, con­nects it to the Eng­lish for the same, from the same root: Plen­ty. Not to men­tion, the less com­mon Eng­lish word ple­nary.

These words sound so dif­fer­ent yet they’re so sim­i­lar. Here’s how: Latin words that be­gan with pl- usu­al­ly turned in­to ll- when Latin evolved in­to Span­ish. But as these words moved in­to Eng­lish via French, they re­mained un­changed.

This ex­plains not just llenar/plenty but ex­plains a bunch of oth­er words, in­clud­ing llama/flame.

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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