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

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!

Caro and Whore, Cher

To­day’s is a good one!

The Span­ish caro (sim­ply, “ex­pen­sive”) has a fun prove­nance: from the an­cient (pre-Latin) Pro­to-In­do-Eu­ro­pean root karo- that meant… whore. Yes, the an­cient word karo turned in­to the al­most-as-an­cient Latin word carus mean­ing “ex­pen­sive,” from which we get the mod­ern Span­ish word caro, still mean­ing “ex­pen­sive.”

So the pros­ti­tutes of the an­cient world, ap­par­ent­ly, weren’t cheap!

In­ter­est­ing­ly, we can even see a lin­guis­tic con­nec­tion be­tween the words. The k- sound in Pro­to-In­do-Eu­ro­pean stayed the same sound as it evolved in­to Latin and then Span­ish (al­though usu­al­ly writ­ten with a c-); but as Pro­to-In­do-Eu­ro­pean evolved si­mul­ta­ne­ous­ly in­to an­cient Ger­man and then in­to Eng­lish, that k- sound be­came the silent or al­most-silent h- or wh-. Think when and cuan­do, for ex­am­ple. So, we can see there­fore that the c‑r of caro maps to the wh‑r of whore.

The fun­ni­est part, how­ev­er, is that the an­cient Latin carus, for ex­pen­sive, as Latin evolved in­to French, turned in­to the French… cher, for “dear”: in the sense of, “My dear friend!”. The ex­act op­po­site of a whore! Thus, in French, pros­ti­tute be­came ex­pen­sive which be­came that which is dear to you!

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.

Cabeza and Head

The In­do-Eu­ro­pean root ka­put, mean­ing “head”, led to words for the head in al­most every west­ern lan­guage, with no change.

The ka­put turned in­to the al­most-iden­ti­cal ca­put in Latin; and then that evolved, through very mi­nor changes, to the al­most-the-same cabeza in Span­ish. The main sound shift is the p to b, but those are very clear­ly aligned signs that of­ten swap.

Ka­put, how­ev­er, evolved in­to the Ger­man kopf — which then be­came the Eng­lish head. How so?

The Ger­man­ic sound “k-”, as Ger­man evolved in­to Eng­lish, gen­er­al­ly be­came the “h-” sound in Eng­lish. Take cen­tu­ry/hun­dred or horn/cor­nudo or, my fa­vorite, hemp/cannabis as oth­er ex­am­ples.

Thus, the c‑b(-z) of cabeza maps to the h‑d of head. In the Eng­lish pat­tern of short, pow­er­ful words, the fi­nal sound was lost as well, to give us the sim­ple, straight­for­ward head.

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.

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