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

Apretar and Pectoral

Apretar (Spanish for “to squeeze”) comes from the Latin pectus, meaning, “chest.” Think of having a heart attack: your chest feels squeezed. It’s not a coincidence that doctors in the USA today still call a heart attack, angina pectoris — that is, “angina of the chest” since pectoral in English today still means “relating to the chest”! The p-t maps to the p-ct, with the -ct- just simplifying into its first -c- sound.

Related: see also Pecho/Pectoral. From the same pectus root, we see other interesting words, following the ch/ct pattern.

Demasiado and Master

The Spanish demasiado (“enough!”) comes from the Latin adverb magis, meaning “more!”.

From that same root magis, we also get the English… master.

It goes to show you: a master is really someone who, as Depeche Mode said, just can’t get enough.  So they keep going and going and going, until they’ve become a master.

The m-s root maps clearly to both words.

Olvidar and Obliterate

The Spanish for “to forget”, olvidar, has an interesting cousin in English: obliterate.

Both come from the same Latin root, obliterare, which means, “to cause to disappear; erase; blot out”, but was used in Latin slang to mean “to be forgotten.” You can see this in the o-v-d of olvidar mapping to the o-(b)-l-t of obliterate.

That which is forgotten is, in a sense, obliterated. As the Greeks reminded us: Chronos was a monster who ate his own children. All shall be forgotten!

Obliterare, in turn comes from the Latin root ob– (“against”) and littera (“letter”). Erasing is really just going against the letter itself, after all!

Gratis and Gratify, Gratuity

Gratis (Spanish for “free,” in the sense of “free beer”, not “free speech”) is a close cousin of the English gratify and gratuitous (and its cousin gratuity).

Upon realizing this, it suddenly becomes obvious: all share the gr-t root, plus vaguely related meanings. All come from the Latin gratus, meaning, “pleasing.”

It parallel becomes more obvious when we think of the connection of the English words to the original meaning of “pleasing”: that which is gratifying is pleasing, and you leave a gratuity when you are pleased. And gratis, free, is a reward to those who want to please others!

Anillo and Anus

Let’s try not to laugh with this one.

The Spanish ending -illo is a common diminuitive, meaning a smaller version of something. A vecino is a neighbor; a vecinillo is the cute word that Flanders calls his neighbors in the Spanish translation of the Simpsons.

So: anus means anus. And anillo — the very common Spanish word meaning “ring” — is thus really just “little anus.”

Yes, in Spanish, a ring is just a small anus.

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