Hueso (Spanish for “bone”) comes from the Latin for the same, os. The connection is particularly easy to see when we remember that the H- is perfectly silent in Spanish.
From the same root we get the English ossify — literally, to turn into bone! — but, considering about 4 people know this word, it is easy to remember hueso if we connect it to another word it is related to, albeit more distantly: oyster.
Oyster comes from the Latin for the same, Ostreum, which itself comes from the Latin word os, “bone.” What is an oyster defined by, if not, its hard, bony shell?
The o‑s root is clearly visible in all variations!
The Spanish lágrima (“tear”) comes from the Latin Lacrima, meaning the same.
From the same root we get the English… lacrimal sac. In case you forgot our high school biology class, that’s the bit by your eye that creates… tears.
The l‑c-r of lacrimal sac maps to the l‑g-r of lágrima.
Pregunta (Spanish for “question”) comes from the Latin per- (“through”) and contus (“pole”).
From the Latin root contus, we also get the English… count. But how do we get from “pole” to “counting”? Well, remember the Roman style of counting that you probably learned in elementary school, or at least I did back in the day — make a little pole on the paper for each number, and when you hit the fifth one, cross it through; then repeat — and we then remember that counting is really just lining up sticks to represent the total numbers!
We can see that the g‑n-t of pregunta maps to the c‑n-t of count.
The Spanish buitre doesn’t obviously look like the English word it means: “vulture,” both of which are from the Latin vulturis.
But looking below the surface, we see the similarity: the b‑t-r of buitre maps to the v-(l)-t‑r of “vulture.”
This isn’t obvious at first for two reasons. First, the b- to v- transition: the sounds are identical in Spanish and often interchanged with each other, so it makes sense that they swap here.
But more subtly, the ‑l- between the vowels disappeared in the Spanish version, with the ulu becoming u‑i. The vanishing of the ‑l- between the vowels is much more characteristic of Portuguese than Spanish (see almost every example in Portuguese, like comparing the Spanish vuelo with the Portuguese voo — an observation I first made in the Rio de Janeiro airport years ago!).
It might seem obvious in retrospect but it wasn’t at the time. Vulva (yes, that word!) and the Spanish for “to return”, volver, all come from the same root: the Latin volvere also meaning “to return.” Yes, the words are almost identical and the v‑l-v in both maps exactly to the other. It should have been glaringly obvious, I just never realized it! The vulva, after all, does roll back and forth! (Sorry, I couldn’t resist the comment!).
Lots of other super-interesting words come from the same root: valve, etc. Over the next weeks we’ll post them too! Volver is a particularly rich root; people have been going back and forth since time immemorial!