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The Nerdy Way To Learn: Spanish » Patterns » H to C »

Cuer­no and Horns

Cuerno horns spanish english

The Span­ish for “horn”, cuer­no (and its vari­a­tions, like the ever-present cor­nudo), and the Eng­lish horn are both orig­i­nal­ly the same word in the an­cient lan­guages.

Huh?

One of the most in­ter­est­ing sound shifts is the In­do-Eu­ro­pean “k-” sound re­mained the same in­to Latin and then Span­ish (the Latin cor­nu for the same) but be­came an al­most-silent “h-” in the Ger­man­ic lan­guages.

Thus the c‑r-n in Span­ish par­al­lels ex­act­ly the h‑r-n in Eng­lish.

There are lots of awe­some and sub­tle ex­am­ples of this pat­tern, such as Corazon/Heart.

Cor­rer — Horse

The Span­ish cor­rer, “to run” seems com­plete­ly un­re­lat­ed to the Eng­lish horse. Looks can be de­ceiv­ing.

Cor­rer comes from the Latin for the same, cur­rere. Cur­rere, in turn, comes from the Pro­to-In­do-Eu­ro­pean root *kurs, which al­so means, “to run” — just like horse does! Both have the same com­mon an­ces­tor.

The weird thing is: how did the PIE *kurs turn in­to horse, they sound so dif­fer­ent.

The ex­pla­na­tion is that, in the Ger­man­ic lan­guages like Eng­lish, the k- sound turned in­to the h- sound. But in Span­ish, the orig­i­nal k- sound re­mained, al­though usu­al­ly writ­ten with a c-.

This ex­plains many par­al­lel words that have c- and h- sounds that map to each oth­er be­tween Span­ish and Eng­lish, like heart/cora­zon and head/cabeza.

Cuer­no and Cor­nu­copia

We’ve pre­vi­ous­ly dis­cussed cuer­no (Span­ish for horn) and its re­lat­ed Span­ish words–and here’s an­oth­er: cor­nu­copia, which lit­er­al­ly means… the “horn of plen­ty.” We see the h‑r-n map to the c‑r-n again here!

Cannabis — Hemp

To­day is time for what is per­haps my all-time fa­vorite ex­am­ple of how sound pat­terns change over time. Here we go, no more de­lays:

The Pro­to-In­do-Eu­ro­pean sound k- changed in­to the h- sound in­to Ger­man (then Eng­lish) — but it re­mained the k- sound (of­ten spelled with c-) in­to Latin then Span­ish. Thus we get many great par­al­lels we’ve dis­cussed be­fore, such as head/cabeza. An­oth­er ex­am­ple of the same pat­tern:

The Eng­lish hemp, for every­one’s fa­vorite weed to smoke. The Span­ish for the same, which we al­so say in Eng­lish, is cannabis.

Now look close­ly: if we re­mem­ber that the h- in the Germanic/English words maps to the c- in Latinate/Spanish words, then it be­comes very clear that the h‑m-p of hemp maps the c‑n-b of cannabis. The m/n and p/b cross and change very eas­i­ly be­tween each oth­er, so those sound changes are much more ob­vi­ous.

Who would’ve thunk!

Corazón and Heart

So, this is one of my per­son­al all-time fa­vorite et­y­molo­gies. Just sayin’.

The Span­ish for “heart,” corazón, and the Eng­lish heart it­self, both come from the same orig­i­nal root.

Huh? How? But they’re so dif­fer­ent!

Both come from the Pro­to-In­do-Eu­ro­pean *kerd-, mean­ing the same. The key to un­der­stand­ing this one is re­mem­ber­ing the pat­tern that the k- sounds from PIE tend­ed to re­main the same in Latin, but changed to the h- sound as it evolved in­to Ger­man and then Eng­lish. Take, for ex­am­ple, hun­dred/cen­tu­ry, for ex­am­ple.

Thus, the h‑r-t of heart maps to the c‑r-z of corazón.

From the same root is… courage. yup, that c‑r is the same c‑r. So courage is in­deed some­thing that comes from the heart.

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