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

Espalda and Spatula

The Spanish espalda (“back”, meaning the part of your body where your spine is!) comes from the Latin spatula meaning also “back” (same sense) or “short wooden blade.”

It’s hard to predict what English word came from the same root? Spatula! It’s easy to see how this evolved: a short wooden blade can look like your shoulder. (Hence the French word for “shoulder” is épaule!)

The s‑p-t of spatula maps clearly to the s‑p-(l)-d of espalda.

Domingo — Sunday

Sunday domingo english spanish

In the final of our day-of-the-week comparisons, we have Sunday.

In the Latin languages, it is domingo, or a variation of it. These all come from the Latin for God — Deus. Sunday, after all, is the traditional Christian day of prayer and worship for God. It is literally God’s Day.

In the Germanic tradition — well, in the ancient German pantheon of nature Gods, the main God was the Sun himself. Our Sunday is quite literally “sun” — “day”: the day of the sun. The parallel thus continues!

Rechazar and Cazar

The Spanish rechazar (“to reject”) doesn’t sound like anything in English. At least not obviously.

The word, however, comes from more basic Spanish word cazar (“to hunt”), which we’ve previously discussed here — related to the English “chase.”

But how did the word for “hunt” become “reject”?

Well, lets think about it: you hunt after your opponent, your enemy, the big bad bear you’re trying to kill. You hunt after that which you reject. Hunting could then be seen as the strongest form of rejection!

Vecino and Vicinity

The Spanish for “neighbor”, vecino, comes from the Latin vicinus for “neighborhood”. From that root, we also get the similar… vicinity.

After all, what is your neighbor, if not someone who is in the same vicinity as you!

This one is in the class of very obvious ones (the v‑c-n root is clear in both) but you don’t realize it until someone tells you.

Jueves — Thursday

Thursday jueves spanish englishThursday and Jueves, like the other days of the week, come from the Germanic and Latin names for the same God: the King of the Gods, the God known as “Zeus” to the Greeks, and sometimes as “Jupiter.”

The King of the Gods was often called “Jove” (we still remember this in English: sometimes people euphemistically say, “By Jove!”) — hence, Jueves. And the Germanic equivalent of the same God is Thor — and Thursday is literally, “Thor’s Day”!

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