Learning Spanish & Etymology Pattern-Matching for Nerds

Enviar and Envoy

Enviar (Spanish for “To send”) comes from the Latin for the same, inviare. From that same root, we get the English… envoy. An envoy just sends a message, after all!

The e-n-v root is self-evident in both words. And the Latin inviare comes from the root via for “road”, from which we get endless English words, including… via!

Vestirse and Vest, Invest, Travesty, Transvestite

Vestirse (Spanish for, “to get dressed”) comes from the Latin for the same, Vestire. Some fun English words that come from the same root include:

Vest– It makes sense since it is an article of clothing!

Invest– This originally meant, “to clothe” and was used in a metaphorical sense meaning, “to surround”. Your investors do surround you every moment–literally!

Travesty– This one is less obvious. Travesty originally meant, “dressed in a way to purposefully look ridiculous”. Ah! It does tie in to clothing!

Transvestite– Dressed in the clothing of… oh you know how this one ends 🙂

Casarse – Husband, Shack Up

Casarse shack up spanish english

“To marry”, in Spanish, is casarse.

The funny part: casarse comes from the common Spanish word for “house”, casa. That makes sense: getting married is fundamentally about two people building a house together, metaphorically and literally.

In English, although marry is unrelated, two English words convey the same concept. Husband, in English, comes from the Old English “hus – bondi”, which mean, “House Dweller”: so the Husband is the one who lives in the house!

Even better: American slang hands down to us a lower version of the same concept, the slang phrase, “to shack up”, meaning, well, to either live together in sin — premaritally — or more recently, to have sex in a one-night stand. A shack, after all, is just a poor house.

Mullir and Mollify

The Spanish mullir (“to soften”) comes from the Latin mollis, meaning, “soft.” From that same Latin root we get the English… to mollify. To mollify in English is usually used in the sense of, “to appease” — and it’s noteworthy that appeasing IS softening. You need to be strong to not appease the bad guy, after all.

The m-ll root is clearly visible in both words.

Soler and Insolent

Insolent derives from the Latin prefix in– (meaning, “the opposite of,” of course) and the Latin root solere, meaning, “to be used to (doing something).” So, an insolent man is literally someone who is used to not doing the things he is expected to do. That sounds pretty insolent to me!

From the same Latin root, we get the Spanish soler meaning “to be used to (doing something)” just like the original Latin root, before the negation. So next time you hear in Spanish, Suelo… (“I’m used to…”) you should think, “Don’t be insolent!”. No one will get the pun other than you, me, and our fellow ForNerds fans.

Note that this has no relation to the Spanish suelo meaning, “ground”, which comes from the Latin solum.

Lunes and Monday

Monday lunes spanish english

The days of the week in Spanish and English parallel each other in weird, eerie detail.

Lets start with the most obvious: Monday. It was originally the Moon-day — the day to worship the Moon.

The Latins felt the same way — and thus Lunes comes from Luna, the Latin for moon!

Stay tuned for the next installments, where it gets more interesting. A hint: Thursday = Thor’s Day; Jueves = Jove’s Day.

Ligar and Allegiance

Allegiance is a very Roman idea: strong loyalty to your team, your empire.

So it’s not surprising that the word itself comes from the Latin, ligare — to bind. Your allegiance is what binds you or ties you to your team.

From the Latin ligare, we get the Spanish… ligar, meaning the same, tying or binding!

Thus, the l-g root is clearly visible in both versions.

Tornar and Tornado

Tornar (“to turn”) has given us directly an English word: tornado. A tornado turns, doesn’t it? Since this word came into English directly from Spanish – the word is unchanged from its Spanish participle form. We can see the t-r root clearly in all. And, if we go back a bit further, both words are also related to the English… turn.

Vinculo and Province

The Spanish vínculo (which we’ve previously discussed) comes from the Latin vincere — “to conquer.” (We previously reviewed the Proto-Indo-European root, which gave us the Latin word; the Latin is the intermediary word between the PIE and the English!).

From that same root, we also get…. province (along with the prefix pro-, “before.”)

But how did “conquer” evolve into these words? Province is easy: a province is literally, land you’ve conquered!

And that helps explain vínculo: somewhere you conquer, you make a deep connection with that place. Even turning it into a province.

We can clearly see the v-n-c root in both words.

Gustar – Disgust, Gusto

The common Spanish word gustar (to like — actually, literally, “to be pleasing to”) sounds completely different from the English “like” and “pleasing.” But it is closer to the English than it seems.

It comes from the same gustare, meaning, “to taste.” Interestingly, as the Latin turned into Spanish, the word became more euphemistic: to “taste” turned into to “like”, which is much better.

From the same Latin root, we also get some similar English words:

  • Disgust — The Latin dis- means to dislike (dis-like!), so disgust is literally the opposite of gustar: to not gustar!
  • Gusto — To do something with gusto is to do it with enthusiasm. And enthusiasm is just a manifestation of liking or being pleasing — you only do something with gusto if you really like it!

what is the etymological way to learn spanish?

Nerds love to pattern-match, to find commonalities among everything. Our approach to learning languages revolves (the same -volve- that is in “volver”, to “return”) around connecting the Spanish words to the related English words via their common etymologies – to find the linguistic patterns, because these patterns become easy triggers to remember what words mean. Want to know more? Email us and ask:

patterns to help us learn spanish:

Buy the Book!

For Nerds Learning Spanish via Etymologies

Want To Know More?

Here at ForNerds, we love meeting and talking to other people who love learning Spanish, etymologies, and any other topic in nerdy ways. Drop us a note and say hi!

Buy the book!