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

Creer — In­cred­i­ble

The Span­ish creer, “to be­lieve”, is easy to re­mem­ber once we re­al­ize it comes from the same root as… in­cred­i­ble. Both are from the Latin cred­i­bilis (mean­ing “worth of be­liev­ing”), and the in- pre­fix is a nega­tion, so that which is in­cred­i­ble is lit­er­al­ly… un­be­liev­able. And thus creer is al­so a first cousin to be­ing… cred­i­ble. Ah­hh!

Cuel­lo and Col­lar, Ac­co­lades

Cuel­lo (Span­ish for “neck”) comes from the Latin col­lum, al­so mean­ing “neck.” From col­lum, we get the Eng­lish… col­lar. We can see the c‑ll map­ping in both.

More in­ter­est­ing, though, is from that same root, we al­so get the Eng­lish ac­co­lades, which is just col­lum with the clas­sic Latin ad- (“to­wards”) pre­fix.

How did we get from “to­wards the neck” to “giv­ing hon­ors and awards”? Well, ac­co­lades was orig­i­nal­ly used in the sense of, rest­ing the sword on your shoulder–like the King does to you when he turns you in­to a knight. Be­ing knight­ed was the ul­ti­mate hon­or you could re­ceive, with the king be­stow­ing it by plac­ing the sword on your shoul­der.

Since me­dieval times, ap­par­ent­ly, hon­ors have be­come in­creas­ing­ly easy to give and re­ceive, since know we get ac­co­lades for every lit­tle “job well done”!

Bus­car and Pos­tu­late

Bus­car (Span­ish for “to ask for”) comes from the Latin poscere (“to ask ur­gent­ly”). In the tran­si­tion from Latin to Span­ish, the word was def­i­nite­ly weak­ened since bus­car does­n’t have any ur­gent im­pli­ca­tion.

From this Latin root, we al­so get the Eng­lish word… pos­tu­late. Pos­tu­lat­ing is re­al­ly just for­mu­lat­ing a the­sis and want­i­ng re­spons­es — which is just a so­phis­ti­cat­ed form of ask­ing a ques­tion!

We can see the b‑s-c of bus­car maps to the p‑s-t of pos­tu­late.

Vez and Vice-Ver­sa

Vez (Span­ish for “turn (in a line/queue)”, as in “next in line”) comes from the Latin for the same: vi­cis.

From this root vi­cis we get a few Eng­lish words, in­clud­ing:

  • Vice-Ver­sa — with ver­sa (“against”), so this lit­er­al­ly means, “it’s your turn against him!”
  • Vi­cis­si­tude — thought about this way, vi­cis­si­tudes are re­al­ly just peo­ple tak­ing turns back and forth, right?
  • Vice — as in “Vice Pres­i­dent”. He whose turn is next!
  • Vic­ar­i­ous — it’s some­one else’s turn in­stead of yours!
  • Vic­ar — he’s re­al­ly just the guy whose turn it is to sub­sti­tute for the re­al priest!

The v‑c root is vis­i­ble in all vari­a­tions.

Carne and Car­ni­val

The Span­ish carne (“meat”) is sur­pris­ing­ly re­lat­ed to… car­ni­val.

The orig­i­nal car­ni­val — the wild an­nu­al Feb­ru­ary par­ties in the Ro­man Catholic coun­tries — were, af­ter all, a meat mar­ket in many sens­es of the word!

Al­so re­lat­ed, more lit­er­al­ly, is the Eng­lish car­nage.

You can see the c‑r map­ping in both the Eng­lish and Span­ish words clear­ly.


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