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

Hervir and Fever

Hervir boil spanish english

Hervir (Spanish for, “to boil”) comes from the Latin fervere (“to be hot, burn, boil”).

The best part: from this same root, we also get the English… fever!

This is thus another example of the pattern where Spanish lost the initial F and replaced it with the (unspoken) “H”: Hoja-Foliage, Huir-Fugitive, etc.

Higado – Fig

“Fig” comes from the Latin “Ficus” — obvious enough!

But, curiously, the Spanish word is “Higado”. Huh?

This is just a simple example of the Initial F to H pattern. In lots of Latin words, the first F became an H when Latin evolved into Spanish. Think fact/hecho or hablar/fable.

An easy way to figure out what an H- word in Spanish is: change the initial H to an F and see what English word sounds similar.

Hambre – Famine

Famine hunger spanish english

The Spanish hambre, for “hunger”, makes sense if you know two different patterns.

Firstly, the initial f-to-h pattern: words that began with an f- then a vowel in Latin tended to have the f- turned into an h- when Spanish evolved into Latin. Huir and Fugitive is another example of that pattern.

Secondly, the mn-to-mbr pattern: when the letters in Latin “m” and “n” appear together, often separated by a vowel, they usually became “mbr” as a unit in Spanish.

Thus the f-m-n of famine maps directly to the h-m-b-r of hambre.

Hierro and Ferrari

Hierro ferrari english spanish

Hierro is just Spanish for “iron”.

Here’s where it gets interesting: the Latin words beginning with f- generally turned into the silent h- in Spanish but not in the other Romantic languages, and thus hierro (from the Latin ferrum) is related to:

  • Ferrocarril — Spanish for railroad. It maps almost perfectly to the English: ferro for ferrum, “iron”; and carril for road, way, or path (think of the common Spanish word for path or way, carrera).
  • Ferrari — the luxury sports car from Italy, is named after their founding family’s last name. And that last name, in Italian, originally meant… iron-worker.

Hoja and Foliage

Hojas leaves

The Initial F, followed by a vowel, disappears: So, “hoja“, meaning “leaf” (in all senses: the autumn trees, the piece of paper) is thus, from the same Latin root as “foliage“, the green plant leaves!

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