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

Tirar and Retire, Tirade

The Spanish tirar, meaning “to throw, to pull”, has two unexpected cousins: the English retire and tirade.

The two English words come from the same root, also meaning the same. Thus, retire literally means, to pull back (the Latin root re- means “back”): to go on a tirade is literally just throwing out lots and lots of words!

Oddly, no one knows where this whole family of words comes from. No obviously similar cognate exists in Latin.

Cosecha and Collect

Cosecha (Spanish for “harvest”) comes from the Latin collectus, meaning, “collected.”

This makes sense: a harvest is, well, just collected.

Although the English collected is almost identical to the Latin, we can see how the Latin changed into the Spanish: the -ll- turned into an -s-, in a curious change. But — as is more common — the -ct- became a -ch- (think nocturnal/noche or octagon/ocho). Thus, the c-ll-ct of collect maps to the c-s-ch of cosecha.

Despedirse and Repeat

The Spanish despedirse (“to say goodbye; leave”) comes from the Latin petere (“to seek.”) With the des– prefix, despedirse literally means: to seek away from. You say goodbye when you’re looking for something else, away from where you are now.

From the Latin root, we get a few English words including:

  • Petulant. The petulant kid never stops seeking more and more.
  • Perpetual. What is doing something perpetually if not, looking for something and never getting what you want?
  • Repeat. That’s when you keep on looking for something over and over, and never find it.
  • Compete. It’s when you’re looking for something — and so is someone else.

Facil – Difficult

The everyday Spanish word facil, meaning “easy” is the exact opposite — literally — of the English, difficult.

Both come from the latin facere, meaning, “to do” (hence the Spanish hacer and the English fact, as well).

So, facil — easy — is literally, doing! Doing is easy, we hope.

Difficult is really just de-facil : that is, not facil. Now that is easy, indeed!

The connection becomes clear when we remember the f-c-l root in both words!

Pregunta and Count

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.

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