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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).

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!

Sospe­choso — Sus­pect

Sus­pect and the Span­ish equiv­a­lent, sospe­choso, are easy to iden­ti­fy and ob­vi­ous­ly the same word, both from the same Latin root, sus­pec­tus.

That’s not the in­ter­est­ing part. Rather, as Latin evolved in­to Span­ish, the Latin sound ‑ct- turned in­to the Span­ish ‑ch- sound. Think lac­tose/leche or oc­ta­gon/ocho.

And sus­pect falls ex­act­ly in­to this pat­tern: the Eng­lish s‑s-p-ct maps ex­act­ly to the Span­ish s‑s-p-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”!

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