The Spanish for “foam”, espuma, comes from the Latin for the same: spuma. And this Latin comes from the Proto-Indo-European root *(s)poi-moi from which we also get the English… foam.
How so? Because the PIE root p- very consistently became an f- as it evolved into German then English, but this transformation never happened when it became Latin and then Spanish. Note words like foot/pie and father/padre.
Thus the f‑m of foam maps to the (s)-p‑m of espuma very clearly!
Pluma, Spanish for “feather”, sounds nothing like the English feather.
But it is a cousin to the English fleece.
Both come from the same Indo-European root *pleus‑, which meant “feather” or to “pluck.”
But they sound so different! That is because the Indo-European p- sound stayed the same into Latin then Spanish, but changed into a f- in the Germanic branch (including English).
Thus the p‑l of pluma maps to the f‑l of fleece.
It is both surprising and funny that in Spanish, a Flea Market is translated to be, literally, exactly the same: Mercado de Pulgas.
But it is even more surprising (although probably less funny) that flea and its Spanish translation, pulga, are close cousins — despite the different sounds.
Both derive from the Indo-European *plou. To understand this transformation, we should remember that the Indo-European p- sounds stayed the same in Latin (and thus Spanish) but became an f- sound in German (and thus English).
Therefore, the f‑l of flea maps exactly to the p‑l of pulga!
Father is one of the most basic words in every language and a traceable pattern throughout the Indo-European languages.
The original PIE sound “p-” changed in all the Germanic languages to “f-”. This is referred to as “Grimm’s Law”, from the fairy-tale fabulist who first noted this pattern.
In the Latin languages such as Spanish, the original “p-” sound was preserved. Thus, the Spanish padre’s p‑d-r root maps to the English father’s f‑th‑r root.
The Spanish pudrir, “to rot,” has a surprising connection to the English, foul, a word meaning the same but sadly very underused these days — although still when quoting Macbeth: fair is foul and foul is fair!
Both come from the same Indo-European root *pu, meaning, “to rot.”
But the English one sounds so different because, in the Germanic branch of Indo-European, the p- sound turned into the f- sound. But now in the Latin branch.
Thus the initial f+vowel of foul maps to the initial f+vowel of pudrir.
From the same root are more fun words including defile, putrid, and pus. What wonderful imagery!