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

Remo and Row

Remo (Spanish for the very common word “oar”) is a cousin of, well, the English row.

Remo comes from the Latin for the same, remus, while the English came from the German ruejen; both of those come from Proto-Indo-European *ere, meaning “to row”.

We can see the r- maps to the r- in each and it does make sense. After all, you do use an oar to row.

Llenar and Expletive

Llenar comes from the Latin plere (“to fill”), as we’ve previously discussed. But here’s another English word that comes from the same Latin root: expletive, yes, that euphemism for vulgar words!

Expletive literally means to “fill” with the expansive ex- prefix which, taken together, mean, “to fill out your words.” An expletive is literally filling conversation with words when you don’t know what else to say!

Hincha — Inflation

The Spanish hinchar means “to inflate, puff up” and from it we get the much more common Spanish hincha meaning: “a fan”. A fan, therefore, is literally someone who puffs himself all up over his team!

Interestingly, hinchar is directly related to inflate, in a subtle way: both come from the Latin inflare meaning the same as hinchar.

How did this word evolve into somethings so different? It’s not so different as it sounds if we remember that the Spanish h- is silent: so the in-ch‑a maps closely to the in-fl‑a. The ch/fl mapping isn’t common at all, but if we sound it out, we can hear that they sound similar.

Next time you get all excited about your favorite team, remember that it is this excitement of making more and more is exactly what causes… inflation.

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.

Limpio and Lymph

Limpio (Spanish for “clean”) comes from the Latin limpid (“clear”). The transition is easy to see: cleaning something is broadly, making it look clear again, right?

From that same Latin root, we also get the English lymph — as in the lymph nodes we studied in high school biology. What is a lymph? The clear liquid circulating in the body. Oh, there it is again: it’s clear.

The l‑m-p root is clear in all!

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