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Suerte and Sort

You would­n’t think that suerte (Span­ish for “luck”) would be re­lat­ed to the Eng­lish sort. They sound sim­i­lar — both with an s‑r map­ping to each oth­er — but the de­f­i­n­i­tions are com­plete­ly dif­fer­ent. How could they be re­lat­ed?

Both come from the Latin sortem mean­ing, “fate, lot” (“lot” in the sense of “your lot in life”).

The evo­lu­tion of sortem in­to the Span­ish suerte is straight­for­ward: “luck” is just a less meta­phys­i­cal ver­sion of “fate” — fate with­out at­tribut­ing it to The Gods.

But the same evolved in­to the Eng­lish sort be­cause, your fate, your lot in life sort­ed you in­to a class, a rank. In the hi­er­ar­chi­cal view of the world (which the Ro­mans had) every­thing and every­one ex­ist­ed in de­grees. So your fate was al­so your por­tion: what you were giv­en. Thus, the rank­ing of every­thing by de­grees is… a sort­ing.

This, too, ex­plains the oth­er de­f­i­n­i­tion of the word lot: not on­ly your fate, but the por­tion that has been al­lo­cat­ed to you.


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