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

Cuel­lo and Col­lar, Ac­co­lades

Cuel­lo (Span­ish for “neck”) comes from the Latin col­lum, al­so mean­ing “neck.” From col­lum, we get the Eng­lish… col­lar. We can see the c‑ll map­ping in both.

More in­ter­est­ing, though, is from that same root, we al­so get the Eng­lish ac­co­lades, which is just col­lum with the clas­sic Latin ad- (“to­wards”) pre­fix.

How did we get from “to­wards the neck” to “giv­ing hon­ors and awards”? Well, ac­co­lades was orig­i­nal­ly used in the sense of, rest­ing the sword on your shoulder–like the King does to you when he turns you in­to a knight. Be­ing knight­ed was the ul­ti­mate hon­or you could re­ceive, with the king be­stow­ing it by plac­ing the sword on your shoul­der.

Since me­dieval times, ap­par­ent­ly, hon­ors have be­come in­creas­ing­ly easy to give and re­ceive, since know we get ac­co­lades for every lit­tle “job well done”!

Asien­to, Su­per­seer and Se­date, As­sid­u­ous

Su­per­seer (Span­ish for, “to dis­con­tin­ue; cease”) comes from the Latin su­per­sedere which in term is a com­bi­na­tion of the pre­fix su­per- (“above”) and sedere (“to sit”). When you stop do­ing some­thing — you’re now, lit­er­al­ly, sit­ting on top of it. At least in Span­ish.

From the Latin sedere root, we get var­i­ous Eng­lish words re­lat­ed to sit­ting, in­clud­ing:

  • Se­date — when you’re on a seda­tive, you’re just sit­ting around!
  • As­sid­u­ous — this orig­i­nal­ly meant “con­stant­ly sit­ting down”, but came to mean, “very busy” (since you sit down when you work) and thus the busy peo­ple are the as­sid­u­ous ones!
  • Ob­sess — with the ob- pre­fix (“against”), it’s lit­er­al­ly, “some­one sit­ting op­po­site you” — which is what you do when you’re ob­sess­ing over some­one, watch­ing their every move close­ly.
  • Su­per­sede — lit­er­al­ly, “to sit on top of” — very sim­i­lar to, “go­ing over their heads!
  • Seden­tary — the lifestyle of sit­ting down. Sounds fa­mil­iar!
  • Siege — you sit in your cas­tle when it’s un­der siege!
  • Re­side — what do you do in your res­i­dence if not, sit around?

From the same Latin root sedere we al­so get the Span­ish… asien­to, the com­mon word for, seat. Now that makes sense, does­n’t it?

The s‑n-t/d root is vis­i­ble in most of these words. Note that in su­per­seer, the mid­dle ‑n- dis­ap­peared: hence the ‑e- on both sides!

Asun­to and As­sump­tion

Asun­to (Span­ish for “sub­ject,” in the sense of, “theme”) come from the Latin for the same, as­sump­tus (“tak­en”) — from which we get the al­most iden­ti­cal Eng­lish, as­sume.

In­ter­est­ing­ly, as­sump­tion orig­i­nal­ly had a ful­ly re­li­gious con­no­ta­tion, some­thing we of­ten for­get or I some­times vague­ly re­mem­ber to­day: you’re re­ceived in­to heav­en. An as­sump­tion, in its mod­ern sense, is re­al­ly just a re­li­gious be­lief ac­tu­al­ly!

The Latin root as­sump­tus it­self comes from ad- (“up, to”) and sumere (“to take”) — so when you as­sume, you’re re­al­ly “tak­ing it up”!

The a‑s-t of asun­to maps clear­ly to the a‑ss-(m)-t of as­sump­tion.

Char­lar and Char­la­tan

Char­lar (Span­ish for “to chat”) comes from the Ital­ian cia­r­la — as does the Eng­lish… char­la­tan. We can see the ch-r‑l root in both eas­i­ly.

In­ter­est­ing­ly, the Eng­lish word has tak­en a neg­a­tive turn while the Span­ish, not so much. I would at­tribute this to the An­glo-Sax­on cul­ture’s look­ing down on­to talk with­out ac­tion, while the Latin cul­ture’s fo­cus on talk even if it means in­ac­tion.

Al­so from the same root is the Eng­lish, cha­rade. Cha­rade, like char­la­tan, con­tains the neg­a­tive con­no­ta­tions of the ap­pear­ance, not re­al­i­ty.

Cosecha and Col­lect

Cosecha (Span­ish for “har­vest”) comes from the Latin col­lec­tus, mean­ing, “col­lect­ed.”

This makes sense: a har­vest is, well, just col­lect­ed.

Al­though the Eng­lish col­lect­ed is al­most iden­ti­cal to the Latin, we can see how the Latin changed in­to the Span­ish: the ‑ll- turned in­to an ‑s-, in a cu­ri­ous change. But — as is more com­mon — the ‑ct- be­came a ‑ch- (think noc­tur­nal/noche or oc­ta­gon/ocho). Thus, the c‑ll-ct of col­lect maps to the c‑s-ch of cosecha.


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