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The Nerdy Way To Learn: Spanish » Patterns »

Huso and Fuse

The Spanish huso (“spindle” — what Cinderella uses to weave!) comes from the Latin for the same: fusus.

The transition is clear when we remember that the initial F in Latin usually turned into an “h” in Spanish: fig vs higo, for example. Or herir vs interfere, for another.

From the same Latin root fusus, we also get the English… fuse. Why? Well, look at the shape: an old-school spindle looks like a big fuse!

Thus, we can see the f-s of fuse map clearly to the h-s of huso.

Camisa – Heaven

The Spanish for “shirt”, Camisa, is a distant cousin of the English Heaven. How?

Both come from the same common ancestor, the Proto-Indo-European root *kem, meaning, “to cover.” This root evolved, via German, to the English heaven (that which covers us above) and it evolved, via Latin (and even the French chemise), to the Spanish camisa (that which covers our torso!).

But they sound so different. How can that be?

The answer is that the Indo-European sound k- transformed over time into the German and then English h- sound — which remaining the same (albeit with a c- spelling) in Latin and then Spanish. Thus the c- of camisa maps to the h- of heaven.

Other examples of this pattern include cornudo/horn and horse/correr.

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.

Daño and Condemn, Damn

Daño, Spanish for “damage”, comes from the Latin for the same: damnum. From the same root we get both the English condemn and damn. But what happened to that missing ‘m’?

Interestingly, the Latin m-n sound tended to turn into a ñ sound in Spanish. This explains how autumn became otoño, for example.

We can still see this pattern preserved in the perfect mapping of d-ñ in daño to the d-mn of damn, and the same with condemn.

From the same root we also get the English indemnity, as well as damage itself, although the final -n was lost because damage entered English via French.

We can see the parallel but between daño, condemn, damage, and damnum — but how did it come to mean the formerly-vulgar, damn? Think of damn in the old sense of, sentencing someone for a crime they did: you are condemned to hell. A whole slew of English insults come from this same concept, including the word hell itself!

Decir/Dicho and Dictionary

Dictionary decir spanish english

The Spanish Decir (“to say”) comes from the Latin dictio for “word”. Its participle form is dicho — and dicho also means “saying”, in the sense of, a cliche.

Thus decir is another example of the “ct” sound in Latin turning into the “ch” sound in Spanish — and is also related to the English word… dictionary.

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