Want more Spanish etymologies? Let us know!
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.
logo

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

Hermoso and Form

The Spanish for “beautiful”, hermosa, seems unrelated to the English for the same. Or is it?

Hermosa comes from the Latin for “beautiful” formosus.

We can see this pattern because it is an example of the Initial F to H pattern, where many Latin words that began with F- turned into H- in Spanish.

Ahhh, that makes sense: Formosa, in Argentina really means, “Beautiful”, and this also explains the Portuguese for beautiful (also formosa) as well: Portuguese never lost that initial F.

The Latin formosus itself comes from the root forma, meaning, well, “form”. So, beauty, itself, is just your pure form. At least in Spanish.

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?

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.

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!

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.

logo

© 2019 - All Rights Reserved | Contact | Privacy, Terms & Conditions | Sitemap | Etymology Dictionaries To Help Us Learn Spanish | Resources