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The Nerdy Way To Learn: Spanish » Patterns » Initial F to H »

Hi­jo — Fil­ial, Af­fil­i­ate

The Span­ish for “son”, hi­jo, does­n’t sound like any­thing in Eng­lish. But it is a close cousin of the Eng­lish syn­onym for broth­er­li­ness: fil­ial.

Both come from the Latin for “son,” fil­ius. The trans­for­ma­tion to Span­ish came about through two in­ter­est­ing pat­terns: the ini­tial f- in Latin usu­al­ly turned in­to an h- in Span­ish (such as, hac­er and fact, or hablar and fa­ble). The oth­er pat­tern is less com­mon: the ‑li- sound turned in­to a ‑j- sound — it’s just a less com­mon sound! Thus the f‑li maps to h‑j al­most ex­act­ly.

From the Latin fil­ius, we get a few oth­er Eng­lish words, in­clud­ing: af­fil­i­ate: an af­fil­i­ate is, in a way, a child you rear!

From the same root we al­so get the Eng­lish fe­tus, fe­cund and even fem­i­nine. These come, via the Latin fil­ius, from the Pro­to-In­do-Eu­ro­pean root *dʰe­h₁y-li-os, mean­ing, “suck­er” — in the lit­er­al sense of, “one who sucks.” Chil­dren, in­deed, are de­fined by their suck­ing their moth­ers; so your hi­jo is lit­er­al­ly, “the one who sucks.” And, some might ar­gue, even af­fil­i­ates them­selves usu­al­ly do suck!

Huir and Fugi­tive

Fugitive huir 3

The Span­ish “Huir” comes from the same Latin root as “fugi­tive”, “fugi­tivus”, mean­ing, “to flee”.

Pat­tern: Latin words that be­gan with an ‘F’ tend­ed to lose that ini­tial ‘F’ sound and be­came silent (yet rep­re­sent­ed in writ­ing with an ‘H’) as vul­gar Latin turned in­to Span­ish.

Hu­so and Fuse

The Span­ish hu­so (“spin­dle” — what Cin­derel­la us­es to weave!) comes from the Latin for the same: fusus.

The tran­si­tion is clear when we re­mem­ber that the ini­tial F in Latin usu­al­ly turned in­to an “h” in Span­ish: fig vs hi­go, for ex­am­ple. Or herir vs in­ter­fere, for an­oth­er.

From the same Latin root fusus, we al­so get the Eng­lish… fuse. Why? Well, look at the shape: an old-school spin­dle looks like a big fuse!

Thus, we can see the f‑s of fuse map clear­ly to the h‑s of hu­so.

Hi­lo and File

The Span­ish hi­lo (cord; thread; string) comes from the Latin for the same, filum. The words sound very dif­fer­ent, un­til we re­mem­ber that, words in Latin that be­gan with a f- tend­ed to change to h- in Span­ish: hi­jo/fil­i­um, and ho­ja/fo­liage, for ex­am­ple. Now the hi­lo/filum make sense!

In­ter­est­ing­ly, how­ev­er, from that same Latin root filum, we get var­i­ous Eng­lish words that al­so qui­et­ly show they are de­scen­dants of the word for cord or thread. In­clud­ing:

  • File (as a verb; to file your nails or pa­pers) — what is fil­ing if not us­ing a thread to short­en or sep­a­rate dif­fer­ent items?
  • Pro­file — With the Latin root pro- (put forth!), what is pro­fil­ing it not draw­ing out or drag­ging out in­for­ma­tion about some­one?

Herir and In­ter­fere

Herir (Span­ish for, “to round”; most com­mon­ly heard in the form, “heri­do”, a wound) is a sur­pris­ing cousin of… in­ter­fere. How so?

In­ter­fere comes to us from the French en­tre- (“be­tween”) and ferir (“to hit”). In­ter­fer­ing with some­thing is re­al­ly just hit­ting it right in the mid­dle of it, break­ing it up! Ferir comes from the Latin, for the same, Ferire.

Cu­ri­ous­ly, Ferire evolved in­to Span­ish Herir — the Ini­tial “F” turn­ing in­to a “H”. It turns out, this is a com­mon pat­tern as Latin evolved in­to Span­ish — but in no oth­er lan­guage! Just look at Fil­ial and Hi­jo, or File and Hi­lo, or Fig and Hi­go.

Thus, the h‑r of herir maps to the (int)-f‑r of in­ter­fere.

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