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The Nerdy Way To Learn: Spanish » True Spanish Etymology Stories »

Coima and Calumny

Coima (Spanish for “a bribe” and an unfortunately common word) comes from the Latin calvor, which means, “to cheat, deceive, trick”.

From that root, we get the English… calumny, which means “slander” (in case you forgot your SAT words or didn’t go to Law School!).

It is easy to see how a word meaning “cheating” transformed into both bribery on one hand, and slander on the other.

The c-m of coima maps to the c-(l)-mn of calumny, with the “l” having been slurred out over time.

Jueves – Thursday

Thursday jueves spanish englishThursday and Jueves, like the other days of the week, come from the Germanic and Latin names for the same God: the King of the Gods, the God known as “Zeus” to the Greeks, and sometimes as “Jupiter.”

The King of the Gods was often called “Jove” (we still remember this in English: sometimes people euphemistically say, “By Jove!”) — hence, Jueves. And the Germanic equivalent of the same God is Thor — and Thursday is literally, “Thor’s Day”!

Aliento and Exhale

The Spanish aliento (“breath”) comes from the Latin for anhelitus (“panting; exhalting”) which itself comes from the older Latin anhelo (“difficulty breathing”). Anhelo, in turn, comes from halo (even older Latin for breath), prefixed with the negative an- prefix and from halo which we get (via French) the English inhale and exhale.

But what’s confusing here is the Latin anhelitus transforming into the Spanish aliento . The easy way to see it is to remember that: most solo h- in Latin became silent in Spanish and then eventually, disappeared. (When ‘h’ does remain in Spanish, it is still silent!). So, (h)-l of aliento maps to the (in)-h-l of inhale and similarly (ex)-h-l of exhale.

Cuello and Collar, Accolades

Cuello (Spanish for “neck”) comes from the Latin collum, also meaning “neck.” From collum, we get the English… collar. We can see the c-ll mapping in both.

More interesting, though, is from that same root, we also get the English accolades, which is just collum with the classic Latin ad- (“towards”) prefix.

How did we get from “towards the neck” to “giving honors and awards”? Well, accolades was originally used in the sense of, resting the sword on your shoulder–like the King does to you when he turns you into a knight. Being knighted was the ultimate honor you could receive, with the king bestowing it by placing the sword on your shoulder.

Since medieval times, apparently, honors have become increasingly easy to give and receive, since know we get accolades for every little “job well done”!

Miel and Mellifluous

The Spanish for “honey,” miel, comes from the Latin mel — also meaning honey. We can see the m-l root obviously and simply in both!

(The –fluous ending comes from the Latin fluere, meaning “to flow” — and we can also see the f-l root there!)

So, mellifluous words are… flowing like honey.

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