Want more Spanish etymologies? Let us know!
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

logo

The Nerdy Way To Learn: Spanish » Patterns »

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!

Llamar — Claim, Clamor

Llamar claim spanish english

The Spanish llamar (to name; commonly used to say “My name is”: “Me llamo” is literally, “I call myself…”) comes from the Latin clamare, meaning “to cry out, shout, proclaim.”

This is an example of the pattern where Latin words beginning in “Cl” are changed to the double‑l (“ll”) in Spanish. In English, these words retain the “cl” sound — from the same root we get claim and clamor.

Other examples of this pattern include llave and clef.

Jarabe — Syrup

Syrup jarabe english spanish

The Spanish for syrup, jarabe, comes from the same root as the English: the Persian/Arabic sharab, which means “a drink, or wine”.

The drastically different (at least superficially) words are explained by the sh- and related (such as, sy- ) sounds changing to the Arabic-sounding j- sound in Spanish — but not English.

Thus, the j‑r-b of jarabe maps to the sy-r‑p of syrup.

Save

Llama — Flame

Latin words that began with the fl- tended to become ll- in Spanish. This is consistent with the pattern in many other hard-constant-plus‑L words, like pl- and cl-.

Excellent example: the Latin for “flame” is flamma. This evolved into the different-but-similar Spanish for the same: llama.

Who would’ve thunk?

Nombre and Nominal

The usual Spanish word for “name”, nombre, is very closely related to the English word nominal, in an interesting way. Not only does nominally mean “relating to the name”, but there is an interesting etymological pattern between the words.

Latin words with an m‑n sound usually turned the m‑n into an mbr sound as Latin evolved into Spanish. Thus, we see curious patterns like hominem becoming hombre, and famine and hambre being closely linked.

The same pattern applies here. The Latin nominalis turned into the Spanish nombre and the English nominal — thus the n‑m-n of nominal maps exactly to the n‑mbr of nombre!

logo

© 2022 - All Rights Reserved | Contact | Privacy, Terms & Conditions | Sitemap| Resources | Etymology Dictionaries To Help Us Learn Spanish

Hat Tip 🎩 to The Marketing Scientist