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The Nerdy Way To Learn: Spanish » Patterns » CT to CH »

Noche — Noc­tur­nal

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The Span­ish for “night”, noche, is re­lat­ed (via the com­mon Latin an­ces­tor) noc­tur­nal.

Here’s the in­ter­est­ing part: the Latin sound “ct” con­sis­tent­ly changed to the “ch” sound in Span­ish. Think “lac­tose” and “leche”, or “oc­ta­gon” and “ocho”. And this is an­oth­er ex­am­ple of that pat­tern: the “ct” in “noc­tur­nal” is the same as the “ch” in “noche”!

Ocho and Oc­ta­gon

The Latin for “eight” is Oc­to, from which we get the Eng­lish Oc­ta­gon.

Since most Latin words with a ‑ct- sound, like Oc­to, had the ‑ct- turn in­to a ‑ch- as the lan­guage evolved in­to Span­ish, it is no sur­prise that eight in Span­ish is ocho.

This same pat­tern man­i­fests it­self in noche/noc­tur­nal, leche/lac­tose, and is one of our fa­vorite pat­terns here at ForNerds!

Hechizo and Fetish

The Span­ish hechizo (“spell”; noth­ing to do with the let­ters in words, but what a witch casts on you!) comes from the Latin fac­ti­cius (“made by art”; “ar­ti­fi­cial” — in­deed, that which is ar­ti­fi­cial is just some­thing not oc­cur­ring nat­u­ral­ly but in­stead made by art!).

But how did ar­ti­fi­cial change to mean “spell”? Think about it this way: cast­ing a spell goes against na­ture — it’s what the wicked, crazy and pro­found­ly un­nat­ur­al woman does! Think of the three weird sis­ters in Mac­beth, and how they un­nat­u­ral­ly stir up all the el­e­ments!

From hechizo (more specif­i­cal­ly, from it’s Por­tuguese twin cog­nate, feitiço), we get the Eng­lish fetish. How? Well, you have a fetish when the re­cip­i­ent casts a spell on you to be­come ob­sessed with the ob­ject of your fetish, right? Enough said!

That root fac­ti­cius turned in­to hechizo by chang­ing via two com­mon pat­terns: the ini­tial F in Latin tend­ed to turn in­to an H as Latin turned in­to Span­ish (com­pare fig and hi­go, or fume and hu­mo!) and the ‑ct- tend­ed to change to a ‑ch- (com­pare noche and noc­tur­al; or ocho and oc­ta­gon). Thus the h‑ch of hechizo maps to the f‑sh of fetish.

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.

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.

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