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

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).

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”!

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.

Pecho and Pectoral Girdle

The Spanish for “chest”, pecho, sounds completely different than the English chest.

But it is related to the English word for the chest bones: the Pectoral Girdle.

The relationship is the Latin ‑ct- words transforming into ‑ch- as Latin turned into Spanish. Thus, the pect- maps to pech- exactly. The English word, on the other hand, is taken — unchanged — directly from the Latin.

Also from the same root, in Spanish, es pechuga — the common word for the common food, “chicken breast”!

The same pattern we see in noche/nocturnal, leche/lactose, etc.

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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