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

Hallar and Flatulence

The Spanish hallar (“to find”) comes from the Latin afflare (“to blow.”) From that same Latin root we get various f-l words involving blowing, including:

  • Flatulence — A fart, after all, is just blowing some air!
  • Souffle — With the French prefix sous– (“under”), a souffle is cooked by blowing hot air under the foot!
  • Conflate — To blow different things together!
  • Inflate — To blow-up the numbers!

All of these share the f-l root. But how did this turn into the Spanish hallar? Well, first remember that the initial F- sound tended to disappear when Latin turned into Spanish; see, fig and higo or fable and hablar. Secondly, note that finding something is just blowing on it, uncovering what was below the dust you blew away!

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.

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.

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