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The Nerdy Way To Learn: Spanish » Patterns » F to P »

Pie — Foot

Foot pie Spanish English

The Eng­lish foot comes from the In­do-Eu­ro­pean root *ped. Think ped­al.

In­ter­est­ing­ly, the “p” sound con­sis­tent­ly trans­formed in­to an “f” in the Ger­man­ic lan­guages — but re­mained a “p” in the Lati­nate lan­guages.

This is why, foot is equiv­a­lent to pie.

Oth­er ex­am­ples of this pat­tern in­clude fa­ther and padre, and the Eng­lish far is from the same root as the Latin per.

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Cin­co — Five

The re­la­tion be­tween “five” in Span­ish (cin­co) and Eng­lish is one of the more sur­pris­ing re­la­tion­ships: they are in­deed di­rect sec­ond cousins!

Both come from the same Pro­to-In­do-Eu­ro­pean root, *penkwe, mean­ing the same, five. (The greek for five al­so comes from the same: think about pen­ta­gon, for ex­am­ple).

The in­ter­est­ing part is this: the p- sound in Pro­to-In­do-Eu­ro­pean evolved in­to the Ger­man­ic and then Eng­lish f- sound. Think about fa­ther and padre, for ex­am­ple or foot and pie. Five and cin­co fol­low this pat­tern too, but in a more sub­tle way.

The Pro­to-In­do-Eu­ro­pean for the same, *penkwe, evolved in­to the Latin word for “five”: quinque. The qu- was pro­nounced in a hard way like a k- and then, as Latin evolved in­to Span­ish, the k- was soft­ened in­to the soft c- in cin­co. So p- to k- to c-. You can see it through the sim­i­lar sounds.

In­deed, the pat­tern is most ob­vi­ous in the rep­e­ti­tion of the sounds in both works cin-co as the c/k sound twice, at the start of each syl­la­ble. And the fi-ve as the f- sound (and its close­ly re­lat­ed, usu­al­ly iden­ti­cal and of­ten in­ter­change­able sound of v-) at the start of each of its syl­la­bles as well.

Pe­gar and Pi­tu­itary and Fat

The Span­ish pe­gar (“to paste”) comes from the Latin pix, mean­ing “tar.” That makes sense: “paste” looks like just a more dilu­at­ed “tar.”

But pix it­self comes from the Pro­to-In­do-Eu­ro­pean root pei(e), which meant, fat — think of an­i­mal fat, for ex­am­ple. It makes sense that this word evolved in­to a word mean­ing “tar”: that’s a bit what an­i­mal fat looks like.

From this same root pei(e), we get a few no­table Eng­lish words:

  • Fat — Fat it­self comes from this root! This is through the PIE p- sound trans­form­ing in­to the f- sound as it evolved in­to Ger­man and Eng­lish. Think about father/padre, for ex­am­ple.
  • Pi­tu­itary — The same root came back in, via an ed­u­cat­ed Latin, to mean, the pi­tu­itary gland. Why? Be­cause the an­cients be­lieved that this slimy gland is what pro­duced mucous/snot — the smile of the nose. A bit like tar, is­n’t it? We can see the P- root pre­served here, too.
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