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

Acontecimiento and Contagion

The Spanish acontecimiento (“something that happened; event”) comes from the Latin contigere (“to touch”).

How did that transformation happen? An event is something that you touch, at least metaphorically, or that touches you. Something that happens that doesn’t touch you is just in your mind: not a real event!

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

  • Contact — That is literally touching, right?
  • Contagious — How do you get something that is contagious? Through touching!
  • Contiguous — Two things that are contiguous are touching each other!
  • Contingent — One thing that is contingent upon another is a metaphorical form of touching it as well.

We can see the c-n-t root in both the Spanish and English words.

Luna – Lunatic

Okay, put the Spanish for “moon”, Luna, being related to Lunatic, in the category of, “It’s so obvious you never realized it until someone once pointed it out to you!”.

Nighttime has historically, since ancient times, been associated with danger and the crazy riskiness that comes alongside it. This is manifested in many forms, including the Luna/Lunatic parallel.

Think, also, about parallel English cliches like, “shooting for the moon”: someone who is trying something that is so risky and unlikely to succeed that you must be insane to even try it!

Esposa – Spouse

Esposa spouse english spanish

Esposa and spouse both come from the same root, and both mean the same thing — that one was obvious!

However, it gets more interesting: both come from the Latin spondere, meaning, “to bind”.

From this root we also get the Spanish word esposas, which means (in addition to meaning just “wives”), also means… handcuffs.

Yes, in Spanish, “handcuff” and “wife” are the same word. It gets the point across clearly, doesn’t it?

Pollo and Poultry

Pollo (Spanish for “chicken”) is a close cousin of the English poultry.

Both come from the Latin pullus meaning “a young animal”.

The p-l mapping in both is obvious. And this mapping falls into the category of “completely and utterly obvious once you’ve heard it… but you never thought of it or realized it until someone told you”.

Vinculo and Wind

The Spanish vínculo (“a link, connection, something that binds something to something else”) comes from the Latin for the same, vinculum.

A distantly related word is the English wind — not in the sense of what blows in your face on a windy day but rather in the sense of winding a clock (remember those ancient clocks?). Wind (again, in this sense) comes from the Proto-Indo-European *wendh- (“to turn, weave, or wind”)  from which we also get the Latin vinculum and finally the Spanish vínculo.

We can we can see that the v-n of vínculo maps to the w-n of wind.

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