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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!

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.

Hervir and Fer­vor

Fer­vor is re­al­ly just an in­tense pas­sion heat­ing up. Thus we should­n’t be sur­prised that it comes from the Latin root fer­vere (“to boil”), from which we get the Span­ish for the same (“to boil”), hervir.

The seem­ing­ly un­re­lat­ed words are con­nect­ed through the com­mon trans­for­ma­tion of Latin words be­gin­ning with an f- in­to an h- in Span­ish, such as fig and hi­go, and fa­ble and hablar.

Thus, the f‑r-v of fer­vor maps to the h‑r-v of hervir.

Hu­mo and Fumes

If he is fum­ing, he is smok­ing — lit­er­al­ly. And it is, sub­tly, the same word in Span­ish.

“To fume” comes from the Latin root fu­mus (“smoke”) from which we al­so get the com­mon Span­ish word for “smoke”, hu­mo. But they don’t sound alike, so how are they re­lat­ed?

The Span­ish hu­mo is a great ex­am­ple of the pat­tern of the Ini­tial F turn­ing in­to an H in Span­ish, alone among the lan­guages of the world. Many Latin words that be­gan with an F, and come to us in Eng­lish through the Lati­nate F form, be­came the equiv­a­lent word but with an H- in Span­ish. Take her­mano and fil­ial, for ex­am­ple. Or fact and he­cho.

Oth­er Eng­lish words from the same root fu­mus in­clude fu­mi­ga­tion (ah­h­hh!) and the less com­mon fetid. Fetid is a dirty, Shake­speare­an word, af­ter all.

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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