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

Man­cha and Im­mac­u­late

The Span­ish man­cha (“spot” or “stain”) comes from the Latin for the same, mac­u­la.

From the Latin mac­u­la, we get the Eng­lish… im­mac­u­late — which lit­er­al­ly means (know­ing the nega­tion pre­fix of im-) “with­out a stain.” So the im­mac­u­late con­cep­tion tru­ly was per­fect!

How this sound changed was in­ter­est­ing: of­ten Latin words with a ct- or cl- or oth­er hard let­ters af­ter a c- sound turn in­to a suave ch in Span­ish. For a dis­tant ex­am­ple, see duct and ducha, or noc­tur­nal and noche. (The ct- is much more com­mon than the cl‑, but they’re cousins!) Thus, we can see the m‑ch of man­cha map­ping to the (im-)m‑cl of im­mac­u­late.

Dere­cho and Di­rect

Derecho direct spanish english

The law and the good, in Eu­ro­pean lan­guages, are as­so­ci­at­ed with straight lines; the bad with the crooked. Think about the word crooked it­self, lit­er­al­ly! Or about right/rec­tan­gle, or the Greek or­tho- for straight, hence, or­tho­dox as well as or­tho­don­tics.

This is why it makes sense that Dere­choSpan­ish for straight and al­so for law — comes from the same Latin root that gives us di­rect.

The “ct” in the orig­i­nal di­rect turned in­to a “ch” in Span­ish, in the usu­al pat­tern of “ct” turn­ing in­to “ch” as Latin grew in­to Span­ish.

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.

Decir/Dicho and Dic­tio­nary

Dictionary decir spanish english

The Span­ish De­cir (“to say”) comes from the Latin dic­tio for “word”. Its par­tici­ple form is di­cho — and di­cho al­so means “say­ing”, in the sense of, a cliche.

Thus de­cir is an­oth­er ex­am­ple of the “ct” sound in Latin turn­ing in­to the “ch” sound in Span­ish — and is al­so re­lat­ed to the Eng­lish word… dic­tio­nary.

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