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

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.

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-℗t root is visible in all, although the ‑p- in the ‑pt- has been lost in a few variations.

Jaula and Jail

Jaula, Spanish for “cage”, doesn’t feel or sound like a cage. Not related etymologically at all.

But it is related to the English word for a particular type of cage: jail.

Although not obvious, since the “j” is pronounced with the throat-clearing Arabic sound, both come from the French jaole (formerly geole).

You can see this in the j‑l root in both.

Pie and Pioneer

Pioneer is literally, one who does something… on foot. Thus it’s related — via the French paonier, from which we get the word — to the Spanish for “foot”, pie. Thus the p‑i-vowel opening both words!

Mentira and Amendment

Spanish for “lie” (Mentira) comes from the Latin mandacium for the same, which in turn, comes from the earlier Latin menda for “defect; fault”. But the Latin Menda comes from the Proto-Indo-European root *mend- meaning the same, fault or defect.

Thus we see an interesting transition over time: defect turned into lie. The word took on more and more agency: the problem didn’t just happen; it was an explicit lie!

The same PIE root *mend‑, in English, took a different route: via French, it turned into the modern English amend and amendment. Thus, in English, “defect” turned into the more accidental, less bad, “lets make a change!”.

We can see the parallels easily: the m‑n-t of mentira map to the (a)-m-n‑d of amend. The d- and t- transformation is very common and the sounds often interchangeable.

We also have the English mendacious that is a direct parallel to mentira… but everyone seems to have forgotten that word.

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