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

Vinculo and Wind

The Spanish vínculo (“a link, connection, something that binds something to something else”) comes from the Latin for the same, vinculum.

A distantly related word is the English wind — not in the sense of what blows in your face on a windy day but rather in the sense of winding a clock (remember those ancient clocks?). Wind (again, in this sense) comes from the Proto-Indo-European *wendh- (“to turn, weave, or wind”)  from which we also get the Latin vinculum and finally the Spanish vínculo.

We can we can see that the v-n of vínculo maps to the w-n of wind.

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.

Desmayar and Dismay

Desmayar, meaning “to faint” is — unexpectedly! — related to the English word, dismay.

Both come from the same Old French root, esmaier, which meant “to trouble, disturb”. (This, in turn, comes from the Latin ex-magare, in which the magare means, “to be powerful” and is related to the English, “might” and “may.”)

Thus, both fainting and being in total shock (dismayed!) are both just ancient manifestations of being troubled at something.

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.

Sombra and Sombrero

Every English speaker knows the Spanish word for the big Mexican hats, sombrero. This word makes it easy to remember the word from whence it came: sombra, the Spanish word meaning… shade. The s-mb-r root is clear in both words!

For those of us, including me, who love less common words, another cousin word is the English penumbra, for something that’s partially covered by a shadow. The umbra is from the Latin for “shadow”, from which we also got sombra in Spanish, with the sub– prefix.

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