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

Apel­li­do and Re­peal

The Span­ish apel­li­do, for “last name” (“sur­name” to the Brits) has a cousin in the Eng­lish re­peal and ap­peal.

All of these come from the Latin ap­pel­lare, mean­ing, “to call.”

The Span­ish makes sense: your last name is which tribe the world calls you by!

The Eng­lish ap­peal is, in­deed, when you call for a high­er au­thor­i­ty for help. And re­peal is when you call back, push back to those who tried to do some­thing to you.

The p‑l map­ping is con­sis­tent amongst all the vari­a­tions, with slight changes in spelling (sin­gle l vs dou­ble l, for ex­am­ple).

Cer­ca and Cir­cle, Cir­cus

The Span­ish cer­ca (“near”, as in the com­mon phrase, cer­ca de) comes from the Latin cir­cus, mean­ing ring. From that same root, we get the Eng­lish… cir­cus (which does have a cir­cu­lar ring as its defin­ing fea­ture!) as well as cir­cle (in the same shape!). The c‑r-c root is clear­ly vis­i­ble in all!

Mul­lir and Mol­li­fy

The Span­ish mul­lir (“to soft­en”) comes from the Latin mol­lis, mean­ing, “soft.” From that same Latin root we get the Eng­lish… to mol­li­fy. To mol­li­fy in Eng­lish is usu­al­ly used in the sense of, “to ap­pease” — and it’s note­wor­thy that that ap­peas­ing IS soft­en­ing. You need to be strong to not ap­pease the bad guy, af­ter all.

The m‑ll root is clear­ly vis­i­ble in both words.

Pre­gun­ta and Count

Pre­gun­ta (Span­ish for “ques­tion”) comes from the Latin per- (“through”) and con­tus (“pole”).

From the Latin root con­tus, we al­so get the Eng­lish… count. But how do we get from “pole” to “count­ing”? Well, re­mem­ber the Ro­man style of count­ing that you prob­a­bly learned in el­e­men­tary school, or at least I did back in the day — make a lit­tle pole on the pa­per for each num­ber, and when you hit the fifth one, cross it through; then re­peat — and we then re­mem­ber that count­ing is re­al­ly just lin­ing up sticks to rep­re­sent the to­tal num­bers!

We can see that the g‑n-t of pre­gun­ta maps to the c‑n-t of count.

Al­muer­zo and Morsel

Al­muer­zo (Span­ish for “lunch”) comes from the Latin mor­sus, “a small bite.” Lunch is just a re­al­ly small bite of food!

From the same root mor­sus, we al­so get the Eng­lish for a small bit of food: a morsel. Ah­hh! The (al)-m-r‑z of al­muer­zo maps to the m‑r-s of morsel.


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