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

Etapa and Staple

Etapa (Spanish for “stage, level”) comes from old Dutch word (remember, the whole Spanish-Netherlands 80 years war? They did influence each other a lot!) stapel meaning, “deposit; store.”

The English staple comes from the Old German stapulaz (“pillar”) — from which we also get the Dutch stapel and then the Spanish etapa!

But how did a word meaning “pillar” become “stage” or “staple”? Well, a pillar holds up the next level — the next stage! (Think of floors in a building as being stages of development. Ultimately we reach the penthouse!). Or think about the pillar — that which holds everything else up so it doesn’t fall — is the staple of the building, the most basic building block, to ensure it doesn’t collapse!

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

Lágrima and Lacrimal Sac

The Spanish lágrima (“tear”) comes from the Latin Lacrima, meaning the same.

From the same root we get the English… lacrimal sac. In case you forgot our high school biology class, that’s the bit by your eye that creates… tears.

The l-c-r of lacrimal sac maps to the l-g-r of lágrima.

Revancha and Vindicate

The Spanish revancha (“revenge”) comes from the Latin vindicare, meaning — surprisingly — “to vindicate.”

Revenge, after all, is just one way to vindicate yourself!

If we remember the reinforcing re– prefix, we can see that the v-n-ch of revancha maps to the v-n-(d)-c of vindicate.

Acatar and Capture

The Spanish Acatar (meaning “to follow, obey, respect”) comes from the Latin captare, meaning “to capture, take hold of”. From that root, we get a few English words, including:

  • Capture — surprise, surprise.
  • Capable — if you’re capable, you take hold of the solutions!
  • Captive — if you’re captive, someone else has taken hold of you!
  • Cater — the caterer is literally the person who takes hold of the food for you.

The c-(p)t root is visible in all, although the -p- in the -pt- has been lost in a few variations.

Parto and Post-Partum Depression

Parto (Spanish for “birth”) comes from the Latin partus, “brought forth”. That makes sense: a baby is just brought forth into the world.

From the same Latin root, we get the English partum for “birth”. But that word is really only used in one contemporary word today: post-partum depression, the depression a woman gets after childbirth. Yes, post-partum is merely “after-birth”.

The p-r-t root is clearly visible in both words.

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