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

Esconder and Abscond

Esconder (Spanish for “to hide”) comes from the Latin ab– (“away”) and condere (“to put together”). Hiding is, after all, just a form of putting yourself away from everyone else!

From the same root we get the less common English abscond, “to secretly run away to avoid capture.” That is just hiding–but taken to the extreme!

Rubio and Ruby

The Spanish rubio (meaning “blond,” as in the hair color) comes from the Latin rubeus, meaning “red”.

How did “red” come to mean “blond”? In a world where everyone has very dark black hair… it’s easy to see how everyone could conflate blond hair and red hair. The Romans didn’t know the Irish!

From the same Latin root, we get various English words including Ruby, the stone and guess what color it is? And also Rubric, which were originally religious directions that were written in… guess what color ink?

Espuma and Scum

Espuma (Spanish for “foam”) is a (surprising) cousin of the English, scum.

Both come from the same Indo-European root skeu-, which meant, “to cover, hide.” In the Germanic side of Indo-European, this evolved into skuma — literally “foam” — which then evolved into scum.

Transition from the meaning of “foam” in the old Germanic to the current meaning happened because of the sense of “foam”: the layer above the liquid” turned into “a layer of dirt on top of something cleaner”. And that then evolved into just pure dirt. Words degrade over time, at least in English.

The Indo-European skeu- separately evolved into espuma (via the Latin spuma, also just meaning neutrally “foam”) which — still today — retains the more neutral connotation of just foam.

Asqueroso and Scar

Asqueroso is the common Spanish word meaning “disgusting.” ¡Qué asqueroso! is the common Spanish exclamation of disgust, as is its closely-related cousin, ¡Que asco!

Asqueroso (and asco) come from the Latin eschara, meaning, “scab” (which itself is from the Greek eskhara meaning the same).

From the same Latin (and Greek) root, we also get the English… scar.

So, in Spanish, something that is so disgusting literally scars you!

We can see the mapping in the s-qu-r of asqueroso to the s-c-r of scar.

Pan – Companion

The Spanish for “bread,” pan, sounds nothing at all like its English equivalent.

But it is, indeed, a close cousin of another English word: companion.

All over the ancient world, bread was the sign of friendship and peace. Hence English phrases like, to “break bread.”

In Ancient Rome, your friend — literally, your companion — was someone you broke bread with. Companion, com – pan, con – pan = with bread.

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