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

Prestar and Presto

Prestar (Spanish for “to lend”) has its English equivalent in… presto!

It does make sense: Presto! Money just appears out of nowhere!

There is a deeper connection. Both come from the Latin praesto, meaning, “ready”, which also came to mean, “provide”. Provide, over the years, turned into “lend” as Latin evolved into Spanish: the lender is the provider, after all. Thus, “ready” turned into “provide” which turned into “lend”!

From the same Latin root, we also get the English press–but not in the common sense of pressing a button. But in the almost forgotten, more esoteric sense of forcing into military service. I remember learning in an 18th century British history class that the British crown used the impress men into military service–no, they weren’t trying to impress them (make yourself sound great) but instead to impress them (draft them!). This press and impress, in these particular senses, also come from praesto.

Levantar – Elevator

The Spanish levantar –“to rise” (in all senses: to rise in the morning when you wake up, the sun rises, etc) — sounds pretty random. Nothing to do with rising up, right?

It turns out to be from the Latin root levare, from which we get a whole host of words that, in different senses, implies the same. These include:

  • Leaven — as in, leaven bread: the bread rises!
  • Lever — the lever is what you use to rise something!
  • Carnival — the “carne” is from the Latin caro used for “meat” while the -val comes from the same levare. Yes, a carnival is about rising flesh!
  • Relief, Relieve — these words literally mean: to lighten up!
  • Elevate — Yes, the elevator takes you up!

Traba and Tavern

The Spanish for “obstacle”, traba, comes from the Latin trabis, meaning… “wood”.

The same Latin room, trabis, evolved in Latin to mean “timber or a beam of wood” and from there, over time, evolved into the English (via French) tavern. What is a tavern if not an old wooden house?

So next time you’re drinking in a tavern, remember that the tavern is an obstacle to your productivity! But that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Rasgar and Section

The Spanish for “to scratch”, rasgar, comes from the Latin secare, “to cut.”

From the same root, we also get the English Section.

A section, indeed, is just a cut into different parts. And a scratch is really almost a cut as well!

We can see the parallel in mapping the s-ct of section to the s-g of rasgar. Although the -ct- sound didn’t commonly turn into a -g-, we can hear the guttural connection if we sound it out.

Ubicar and Ubiquitous

Ubicar (Spanish for “to put somewhere” or “to place”) comes from the Latin ubi, meaning “where.”

From the Latin ubi, we get a bunch of location-related words in English, such as, ubiquitous — which actually means, “everywhere!” Something that is ubiquitous really is everywhere.

The u-b-c of ubicar maps clearly to the u-b-qu of ubiquitous.

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