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Bolsa and Bourse, Purse

The Spanish bolsa has two common definitions — both with noteworthy and related etymologies.

Bolsa commonly means “purse.” And indeed, both come from the same root: the Greek byrsa, meaning “hide, leather.”

We can see the connection if we remember that the -b- and -p- sounds are often interchangeable, as are the -r- and -l- sounds. Thus the b-l-s of bolsa maps to the p-r-s of purse.

Similarly, bolsa has a second definition in Spanish: the “stock market.” It makes sense if we think about the bolsa and the purse as, the places where money is kept. And in English, a less-common synonym for stock market is bourse — and we see this same word in French all the time, the Bourse de Paris. With bourse, only the -p- and -b- are interchanged, not the -r- and -l-, thus mapping the b-l-s to b-r-s.

Cuidar and Agitate

Cuidar, Spanish for “to take care of” or “to be careful” and commonly used in the warning cuidado, comes from the Latin cogitare, “to think”: cogito ergo sum, as they say.

The Latin cogitare comes from the Latin prefix com with agitare, “to turn in the mind” which comes from agere, “to move”. From this we get the English… agitate!

So we have an interesting evolution: from moving to thinking (a moving of the mind) to… being careful. Being careful is then the same thing as being thoughtful — at least in Spanish.

Interestingly, the original root has been mostly lost in the modern cuidar, with the c-a-g-t root turning into c-d. But you can still see the outline at the extremes.

Nube – Nuance

It is obvious that nube (spanish for “cloud”), and its cousin nebuloso (“cloudy”),are related to the English nebulous: a SAT word meaning “unclear”, just like the sky is when it’s cloudy. This one is easy.

But did you realize that nube is also related to the English nuance?

Nuance comes from the Latin nubes, meaning “cloud” – from which we also get the almost-identical Spanish word.

Although this is less obvious, we can see the pattern here: a nuance is a slight shade of meaning, just how the cloud adds a slight shade to sky.

Nuances, therefore,by definition, stop the clarity of sunshine from shining in, and just cloud our judgments!

Recruit and Crecer

The English recruit and the Spanish crecer (“to grow”) seem like they have nothing to do with each other. But looks can be deceiving!

“Recruit” comes from, via French, the roots re- (“again”) and theh Latin crescere, meaning “to grow” — from which we get the Spanish for the same.

Therefore, a recruit is literally a “new growth” — it is how the next generation is reborn!

Interestingly, we also get from the same root the English crescent as well.

Disfrazar and Friction, Traffic

The Spanish disfrazar (“to dress up”, as in a costume) comes from the Latin fricare meaning “to rub; to rub off.”

From this same Latin root, we get the English friction — and what is friction if not, rubbing against something to wear it down?

We also get the English traffic (the tra– comes from a shortened version of the trans– “across” prefix). And what is traffic if not, friction across the road?

The fr-z of disfrazar maps to the fr-ct of friction and just the ff of traffic.

But the question is: how did the word for “rubbing” turn into the word for “dressing up in a costume”? That part is interesting: the Latin fricare (“to rub off”) turned into the Late Latin frictiare, meaning, “walking and leaving footprints (just like animals do).” Leaving tracks as you walk gave away who you are and where you’re going, letting you be followed. But with the de– prefix (meaning “not”) which negates that, disfrazar (literally, de– “not” and frictiare “leaving a trail behind you as you walk”) together meant: not being able to be tracked or followed. Hence, a costume.


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