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The Nerdy Way To Learn: Spanish » Patterns »

Ocho and Octagon

The Latin for “eight” is Octo, from which we get the English Octagon.

Since most Latin words with a -ct- sound, like Octo, had the -ct- turn into a -ch- as the language evolved into Spanish, it is no surprise that eight in Spanish is ocho.

This same pattern manifests itself in noche/nocturnal, leche/lactose, and is one of our favorite patterns here at ForNerds!

Valija – Valise

In some of the Spanish words, they say maleta to mean “suitcase.” But in other parts, such as Argentina, they say valija.

Valija, although it sounds different from anything English, actually is quite similar to the almost-forgotten–my grandparents still use it!– English word, that also means “suitcase” , of valise.

Although they sound different, the connection becomes clear if we remember the pattern of the sh- to j- conversion: Latin words that had an sh- sound tended to turn into the j- sound in Spanish. Think of sherry/jerez.

In this case, the French valise entered English unchanged but when the French word was borrowed into Spanish, it was Spanish-ified with the s- sound turning into a j- sound. Thus, the v-l-s maps to the v-l-j.

Bajo – Base

The Spanish bajo, for “low”, sounds unlike the similar words in English…. except for base.

Think about base as the core foundation or support — the lowest thing holding everything else up — or even in the old Shakespearean sense of “vile”, “the basest weed” —  the connection makes much more sense.

Both come from the Latin basis (meaning, “foundation”) — from which we also get the same English, basis.

And think of the bass cleff in music, for the lower notes, as well.

The surprising connection is explained easily when we understand that a lot of sh- and si- and related sounds in Latin turned into j- in Spanish. Thus, the b-s maps to b-j almost exactly.

Derecho and Direct

Derecho direct spanish english

The law and the good, in European languages, are associated with straight lines; the bad with the crooked. Think about the word crooked itself, literally! Or about right/rectangle, or the Greek ortho– for straight, hence, orthodox as well as orthodontics.

This is why it makes sense that DerechoSpanish for straight and also for law — comes from the same Latin root that gives us direct.

The “ct” in the original direct turned into a “ch” in Spanish, in the usual pattern of “ct” turning into “ch” as Latin grew into Spanish.

Hermoso and Form

The Spanish for “beautiful”, hermosa, seems unrelated to the English for the same. Or is it?

Hermosa comes from the Latin for “beautiful” formosus.

We can see this pattern because it is an example of the Initial F to H pattern, where many Latin words that began with F- turned into H- in Spanish.

Ahhh, that makes sense: Formosa, in Argentina really means, “Beautiful”, and this also explains the Portuguese for beautiful (also formosa) as well: Portuguese never lost that initial F.

The Latin formosus itself comes from the root forma, meaning, well, “form”. So, beauty, itself, is just your pure form. At least in Spanish.

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