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

Dar and Man­date, Tra­di­tion

The com­mon Span­ish word dar (“to give”) comes from the Latin for the same, dare.

From the Latin root, we get the Eng­lish… man­date (“to give with your hand” — thus re­lat­ed to mano as well): what is a man­date if not a writ­ten or­der to give to some­one? The best man­dates are when you de­liv­er them your­self any­way, not through in­ter­me­di­aries. The dare con­nec­tion ex­plains where the ‑d- af­ter the hand comes from!

An­oth­er Eng­lish word from the same root: tra­di­tion. That word comes from the Latin tradere, lit­er­al­ly, “to hand over” — the tra- is the same trans- root (“over”), while the dere is the same “give.” In to­day’s way of walk­ing, we’d say that tra­di­tion is what is hand­ed down to us: it is what is giv­en to us. Lit­er­al­ly. ANd you can see the ‑d- in the word from dare as well clear­ly!

Ten­er — Tenet, ‑tain

Hold tener spanish english

The Span­ish ten­er (to hold) comes from the Latin tenere for the same.

From the same root tenere, we get the Eng­lish tenet — think about it, you hold your be­liefs.

And it gets even bet­ter: from tenere, we al­so get the Eng­lish suf­fix ‑tain, as in main­tain, sus­tain, con­tain, de­tain, ob­tain, and en­ter­tain. And the -tain words map al­most iden­ti­cal­ly to the Span­ish suf­fix of the same, the same -ten­er!

For ex­am­ple, mano, the Span­ish for hand, is the same mano in main­tain (or man­ten­er, in Span­ish) — which thus lit­er­al­ly means, “to hold in your hand”!

Azul and Azure

The Span­ish for “blue,” azul, is orig­i­nal­ly an Ara­bic word re­fer­ring to a par­tic­u­lar type of valu­able blue stone, the lapis lazuli. In Span­ish, the word de­grad­ed over time, and the l- was lost (as though it was the the french l’ for “the”) and we were just left with azul for just “blue.”

The Eng­lish for azure — which is re­al­ly just a shade of blue! — comes from the same root, al­though azure still re­tains a lux­u­ry con­no­ta­tion that was lost with the sim­ple blue im­pli­ca­tion of azul in Span­ish.

Many lan­guages, in­clud­ing Span­ish, have an ‑l- and ‑r- shift, where, over time, the ‑l- and ‑r- sounds are swapped. We see this here, as the a‑z-l root of azul maps to the a‑z-r root of azure.

Va­ca and Vac­cine

The Span­ish for “cow” va­ca, comes from the Latin vac­ca, mean­ing the same. From that same root, we get the Eng­lish.… vaccine/em.

Huh? How?

In­ter­est­ing­ly, the first, umm, vac­cine, was to give the cow-pox virus to peo­ple with small-pox! Thus, the word for cow turned in­to the word for vac­cine!

We can see the v‑c root clear­ly in both.

Mi­rar and Ad­mire, Mir­ror, Mir­a­cle

The Span­ish mi­rar, “to look at” has two cu­ri­ous cousins in Eng­lish: ad­mire, mir­ror and mir­a­cle.

All come from the same Latin root, mi­rari, which meant “to won­der at”. We can see how they are all re­lat­ed to this same sen­ti­ment of awe and won­der:

  • Mi­rar is now just to look at some­one but orig­i­nal­ly meant, to look at with won­der. Look­ing at some­one is a form of won­der­ing about about them.
  • Ad­mire is re­al­ly a form of won­der­ment as well. The ad- pre­fix means “at”, so ad­mi­ra­tion is al­ways won­der that is di­rect­ed at some­one.
  • Mir­ror too comes from the same root and look­ing in the mir­ror is thus the most con­ceit­ed act of be­ing in awe of your­self!
  • Mir­a­cle, as well as its Span­ish ver­sion mi­la­gro, al­so comes from the same root: a Mir­a­cle is re­al­ly just some­thing that caus­es in­tense won­der!

The m‑r root is present in all ver­sions, in Eng­lish and Span­ish, so the pat­tern is easy to spot.

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