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Destacar and Detach

Destacar (Spanish for “to stand out”) comes from the French destachier (“to detach”) which, in turn, comes from the Latin de- (of, from) plus the old French stakon, meaning a “stake” (literally, as in a pole!).

Thus, “standing out” (destacar) is literally just detaching yourself from the rest around you — who are, presumably, much lower quality than you are!

We can see the root clearly in the d-(s)-t-c (for destacar) to d-t-ch (detach) mapping.

Don’t forget that the de- prefix in French and sometimes Spanish is just another form of the de- prefix. Thus, explaining the extra -s-. And — clearly! — attach comes as well from the same root, just without the de/des negation!

But the best modern English word from the same root is… staccato. Yup: playing the piano in staccato fashion is just, when you play each note really separated from the others!

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Embajada and Embassy

Embassy (and Ambassador) and its Spanish equivalent, Embajada (and Embajador), both come from the same ancestor, the Old French Ambactos.

What is most interesting about these two is that it is an example of the pattern where the -j- sound in Spanish maps to the -sh- sound (and its cousins, like -ss- and -ch-) in English. Remember syrup and jarabe, chess and ajedrez, sherry and jerez, and push and empujar for a few examples.

Thus, the m-b-j of emabajada maps to the m-b-ss of embassy.

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Vaca and Vaccine

The Spanish for “cow” vaca, comes from the Latin vacca, meaning the same. From that same root, we get the English…. vaccine/em.

Huh? How?

Interestingly, the first, umm, vaccine, was to give the cow-pox virus to people with small-pox! Thus, the word for cow turned into the word for vaccine!

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

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Mezcla and Promiscuous

Mezcla (Spanish for “mix”) comes from the Latin miscere, meaning, “to mix.” You can envision the sound change when you remember that the -sc- sound sounds and even looks like the letter -zc-!

From the same Latin root miscere we get the English, promiscuous — just miscere with the emphasis prefix pro-, so it literally means “to mix indiscriminately.” What does a promiscuous girl (or, ummm, guy) do if not mix with anyone without discriminating between them that much?

The m-z-c of mezcla clearly maps to the m-s-c of promiscuous.

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Sordo and Absurd

The Spanish for “deaf,” sordo, comes from the Latin for the same: sordus.

From that same root is the English… absurd.

How did this abs… umm, ridiculous etymology come about? Well, with the ab– prefix (Latin for “off” or “away from”), it meant, “that which is unheard of.” Think of it as a metaphorical version of being deaf: so absurd, you never heard about that happening in reality!

This, this is self-referential: it is an absurd etymology!

Ciento and Hundred

Today’s link is another gem: despite sounding completely different, hundred and its ciento are actually the same word. Here’s how.

The ancient Proto-Indo-European root *kmtom meant a hundred. As PIE evolved into Latin, the word stayed basically the same phonetically, turning into centum, and stayed the same (but with a soft-c pronunciation) into the Spanish, ciento.

But as PIE evolved into German, the k-/c- sounds evolved into h- sounds. Think about heart/corazon and hemp/cannabis, for example. 100 followed the same pattern, with the initial k-/c- sound turning into the h-.

Thus, the c-n-t of ciento maps exactly to the h-n-d of hundred. The t/d were interchanged but that’s a very common, similar, and more obvious pattern.

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Nacer and Renaissance

Nacer comes from the Latin for the same, nascere: “to be born.”

From the Latin nascere, with an added prefix of re– meaning “again”, we get the Renaissance — literally, “the rebirth”!

Thus, Nacer and Renaissance are close cousins, and we can see that the n-c of nacer maps to the (r)-n-s of renaissance.

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Correr – Recur

Although we’ve already discussed the etymology of correr (Spanish for “to run”) and its connection to the English horse, there is another — more obvious — connection that helps us remember it:

Recur. Recur literally comes from the Latin recurrere, meaning “to run back and forth”: re – correr. Yes, that which recurs keeps on running back and forth!

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Seguir – Persecute, Sequel

Seguir, Spanish meaning “to follow”, sounds like it has nothing to do with anything.

But it does, in a subtle way. It comes from the Latin sequi, which means “to follow.” From the same root we get:

  • Persecute – from the Latin persequi; the per means “through”, and the sequi is the same “follow”.
  • Sequel – directly from the Latin sequi for “follow”, via French.

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Bisabuelo and Bi-

Bisabuelo (Spanish for “great-grandparent”) has an origin more obvious than it seems: the bis- that begins it (adding to just abuelo, grandfather) is the same bi- that means “two” in a variety of Latin words- bilateral, bifurcate, and many more. So, bisabuelo literally means, “grandfather — twice over!”

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