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

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.

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!

Hem­bra and Fem­i­nine

The Span­ish hem­bra, for “fe­male” (usu­al­ly in re­gards to an­i­mals) sounds noth­ing like the Eng­lish fem­i­nine. But it turns out that they are et­y­mo­log­i­cal­ly iden­ti­cal.

Both come from the Latin for fe­male, fem­i­ni­na. Hem­bra sounds so dif­fer­ent be­cause the f‑m-n root is changed to h‑mbr via two dif­fer­ent pat­terns:

  • The f‑to‑h pat­tern, where words be­gin­ning in the Latin f- change to an h- in Span­ish, such as fil­ial and hi­jo, or hac­er and fact — chang­ing the ini­tial h- of fem­i­ni­na to h-.
  • The m‑n to ‑mbr- pat­tern, where Latin words with the m‑n to­geth­er usu­al­ly changed to an ‑mbr- in Span­ish, like il­lu­mi­nate and alum­brar — chang­ing the m‑n of fem­i­ni­na to the ‑mbr- of hem­bra.

These two, tak­en to­geth­er, show a clear map­ping of f‑m-n to h‑mbr.

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!

Cien­to and Hun­dred

To­day’s link is an­oth­er gem: de­spite sound­ing com­plete­ly dif­fer­ent, hun­dred and its cien­to are ac­tu­al­ly the same word. Here’s how.

The an­cient Pro­to-In­do-Eu­ro­pean root *km­tom meant a hun­dred. As PIE evolved in­to Latin, the word stayed ba­si­cal­ly the same pho­net­i­cal­ly, turn­ing in­to cen­tum, and stayed the same (but with a soft‑c pro­nun­ci­a­tion) in­to the Span­ish, cien­to.

But as PIE evolved in­to Ger­man, the k-/c- sounds evolved in­to h- sounds. Think about heart/cora­zon and hemp/cannabis, for ex­am­ple. 100 fol­lowed the same pat­tern, with the ini­tial k-/c- sound turn­ing in­to the h-.

Thus, the c‑n-t of cien­to maps ex­act­ly to the h‑n-d of hun­dred. The t/d were in­ter­changed but that’s a very com­mon, sim­i­lar, and more ob­vi­ous pat­tern.


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