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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).

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.

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.

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!

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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