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

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.

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.

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.

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.

Hi­jo — Fil­ial, Af­fil­i­ate

The Span­ish for “son”, hi­jo, does­n’t sound like any­thing in Eng­lish. But it is a close cousin of the Eng­lish syn­onym for broth­er­li­ness: fil­ial.

Both come from the Latin for “son,” fil­ius. The trans­for­ma­tion to Span­ish came about through two in­ter­est­ing pat­terns: the ini­tial f- in Latin usu­al­ly turned in­to an h- in Span­ish (such as, hac­er and fact, or hablar and fa­ble). The oth­er pat­tern is less com­mon: the ‑li- sound turned in­to a ‑j- sound — it’s just a less com­mon sound! Thus the f‑li maps to h‑j al­most ex­act­ly.

From the Latin fil­ius, we get a few oth­er Eng­lish words, in­clud­ing: af­fil­i­ate: an af­fil­i­ate is, in a way, a child you rear!

From the same root we al­so get the Eng­lish fe­tus, fe­cund and even fem­i­nine. These come, via the Latin fil­ius, from the Pro­to-In­do-Eu­ro­pean root *dʰe­h₁y-li-os, mean­ing, “suck­er” — in the lit­er­al sense of, “one who sucks.” Chil­dren, in­deed, are de­fined by their suck­ing their moth­ers; so your hi­jo is lit­er­al­ly, “the one who sucks.” And, some might ar­gue, even af­fil­i­ates them­selves usu­al­ly do suck!


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