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

Hacerand Fact

The Eng­lish fact comes from the Latin fac­tum, mean­ing “some­thing that hap­pened.” It is thus an ex­act cog­nate to the Span­ish hac­er, mean­ing “to make.” How?

The root of both is the Latin facere, mean­ing “to do.” Fact, and the Latin fac­tum, is just the same word in a dif­fer­ent tense.

The Latin facere turned in­to the Span­ish hac­er, al­though they su­per­fi­cial­ly sound dif­fer­ent. Their re­la­tion be­comes ob­vi­ous once we re­mem­ber that Latin words that be­gan with an ini­tial f- al­most al­ways turned in­to an ini­tial h- when Latin evolved in­to Span­ish.

There­fore the f‑c-r of facere maps ex­act­ly to the h‑c-r of hac­er.

This pat­tern ex­plains many words such as hi­er­ro/fer­rari, hervir/fever, huir/fugi­tive, ho­ja/fo­liage!

Hechizo and Fetish

The Span­ish hechizo (“spell”; noth­ing to do with the let­ters in words, but what a witch casts on you!) comes from the Latin fac­ti­cius (“made by art”; “ar­ti­fi­cial” — in­deed, that which is ar­ti­fi­cial is just some­thing not oc­cur­ring nat­u­ral­ly but in­stead made by art!).

But how did ar­ti­fi­cial change to mean “spell”? Think about it this way: cast­ing a spell goes against na­ture — it’s what the wicked, crazy and pro­found­ly un­nat­ur­al woman does! Think of the three weird sis­ters in Mac­beth, and how they un­nat­u­ral­ly stir up all the el­e­ments!

From hechizo (more specif­i­cal­ly, from it’s Por­tuguese twin cog­nate, feitiço), we get the Eng­lish fetish. How? Well, you have a fetish when the re­cip­i­ent casts a spell on you to be­come ob­sessed with the ob­ject of your fetish, right? Enough said!

That root fac­ti­cius turned in­to hechizo by chang­ing via two com­mon pat­terns: the ini­tial F in Latin tend­ed to turn in­to an H as Latin turned in­to Span­ish (com­pare fig and hi­go, or fume and hu­mo!) and the ‑ct- tend­ed to change to a ‑ch- (com­pare noche and noc­tur­al; or ocho and oc­ta­gon). Thus the h‑ch of hechizo maps to the f‑sh of fetish.

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?

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.

Es­trel­la Fugaz and Fugi­tive

A “shoot­ing star” in Span­ish is an es­trel­la fugaz. Since es­trel­la means “star”, then fugaz is the par­al­lel to “shoot­ing.”

Fugaz comes from the Latin fugere which means, “to run away; flee” — from which we get the Eng­lish fugi­tive.

The map­ping is ob­vi­ous with the f‑g re­tained in both ver­sions.

Thus, in Span­ish, a shoot­ing star is lit­er­al­ly, a flee­ing star. But flee­ing from what?

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