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

Disheveled and Cabello

Disheveled — as in, having messy hair! — comes from the same Latin root as the Spanish cabello, meaning “hair” or “a head of hair.” Both of these come from the Latin capillus, meaning hair.

We can see the pattern more clearly if we remember the dis- prefix at the beginning of disheveled: thus the (d)-sh-v-l of disheveled maps to the c-p-ll of capello.

Also from the same Latin root capillus, we get the English capillary. A capillary, after all, looks just like a thin strand of hair.

Aliento and Exhale

The Spanish aliento (“breath”) comes from the Latin for anhelitus (“panting; exhalting”) which itself comes from the older Latin anhelo (“difficulty breathing”). Anhelo, in turn, comes from halo (even older Latin for breath), prefixed with the negative an- prefix and from halo which we get (via French) the English inhale and exhale.

But what’s confusing here is the Latin anhelitus transforming into the Spanish aliento . The easy way to see it is to remember that: most solo h- in Latin became silent in Spanish and then eventually, disappeared. (When ‘h’ does remain in Spanish, it is still silent!). So, (h)-l of aliento maps to the (in)-h-l of inhale and similarly (ex)-h-l of exhale.

Mosca and Mosquito

Everyone’s favorite bug, the Mosquito, comes from–at least etymologically–the Spanish mosca (meaning “fly”) and the Spanish suffix -ito (the diminutive). We only wish that mosquitos were merely harmless little flies!

We can see the m-s-c root in both words.

Rezar – Recite

Rezar pray spanish english

The Spanish for “to pray” is rezar. Although not obvious at first, it is from the Latin recitare, from which we get the English — surprise, surprise — recite. The “cit” grouping was conflated into a “z” sound, so the English (and Latin) r-cit-r maps to the Spanish r-z-r.

Mismo and Lorem Ipsum

The Spanish mismo for “same; self” comes from the Latin metipsimus meaning “same”. That word, in turn, comes from the combination of the Latin roots: met (just giving emphasis) and ipse (“himself; itself”) and the suffix -issismus (also adding emphasis; think “-ism” in English).

Here’s where it gets interesting: from that same Latin root, we get… lorem ipsum, the Latin phrase (still used in English!) that we use as the filler text when we don’t know what else to write, before the real wording comes in. Where does lorem ipsum itself come from? Well, Google around, there’s a lot written about that; but the exact phrase itself means “pain onto himself” (with the lorem short for dolorem — thus related to the Spanish dolor for “pain”!). So, we can see how the ipse that turned into mismo also retained without change in lorem ipsum.

Not to mention… ipse dixit!

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