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

Pelo and Fight

Pelo (Spanish for “hair”) is a surprisingly militaristic word. Pelo comes from the Latin for the same, pilus–a hairy word, indeed.

But pelo, in the ancient language become a common word to mean a tiny amount, like we might say a “spec” in modern English. Apparently, the Romans lost their hair early!

So, as a euphemism for “a tiny amount”, it became the standard word in Latin for… a small group of soldiers: a pilum.

Then, over the centuries, the word for a group of soldiers came to mean the word for… fighting. Surprise, surprise. Therefore, that’s why the Spanish for “to fight” is… pelear.

Thus pelo (“hair”) and pelear (“to fight”) are almost the same word, in Spanish! Who would’ve thunk!

Rencor and Rancid

The Spanish for “anger,” rencor, has a fun English cousin: rancid.

Both words come from the Latin rancere, meaning “to stink.”

Thus, literally, both rotten food stinks and, anger stinks.

We can see the relationship clearly if we see the r-n-c mapping between the words.

Mil and Mile

The Spanish for a “thousand,” mil, comes from the Latin milia, meaning the same.

Here’s the interesting part: the ancient Romans would put a stake in the ground every thousand paces outside the city, to mark how far away you go. And that’s why, from the Latin word for a thousand, we get the English… mile.

Bonus: million comes from the same root–and literally means, “a thousand thousand!”

Demasiado and Master

The Spanish demasiado (“enough!”) comes from the Latin adverb magis, meaning “more!”.

From that same root magis, we also get the English… master.

It goes to show you: a master is really someone who, as Depeche Mode said, just can’t get enough.  So they keep going and going and going, until they’ve become a master.

The m-s root maps clearly to both words.

Romper and Corrupt

The Spanish for “to break”, romper, has a curious English cousin: corruption.

Corrupt comes from the Latin root com- (which just intensifies the following phrase) plus the Latin rumpere, meaning “to break” – just like the almost-identical Spanish romper (unsurprisingly, since the Spanish is descended from the Latin).

The connection is obvious if we see the unchanged r-m-p root in both words.

That which is corrupt, after all, is — definitionally — just broken.

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