Spanish is a very rich language and since it comes from Latin some of its words have very interesting etymologies. If you like lingüistics and want to learn more about Spanish language, here a few things you probably didn’t know:
- The word cálculo (calculus), cálculo biliar (gallstone) and cálculo renal (kidney stone) all come from the Latin word calculus which means “little stone”. That is why kidney stones and gallstones are called like that in Spanish. Mathematic calculus is called like that because kids used to learn how to count using stones.
2. The word placebo (which is the same in Spanish and English language) is the Latin future tense verb placebo which means “I will give pleasure”.
3. All the Spanish words that end with a tonic /i/ (like leí (read), fuí (went)) are always written with an i except for muy (very), which should actually be written mui.
4.The word jabalina has two meanings. One meaning is “javelin” and the other is “a female wild pig”, yet both meanings have different etimologies and are therefore not the same word. The first jabalina (javelin) comes from the Celtic word gabalos which means “trident” and the second jabalina (female wild pig) comes from the Arabic word ǧabalī which means “from the mountain”.
5. The name caqui (khaki) is not the same word when talking about the color and the fruit. The one that refers to the color comes from the Hindi word khaki, which comes from the Pahlavi word hak “dust”. The second one, which refers to the fruit, comes from the Japanese name for that fruit: kaki. In Spanish the word is most commonly written caqui, but the spelling kaki is also accepted.
6. Here are some words for the passing of time that we don’t really use (and most people don’t even know they exist: triduano (three days), cuatriduano (four days), endécada (a period of 11 years), vicenal (something that takes 20 years), sesquicentenario (150th anniversary).
7. The correct quotation marks in Spanish the angular ones («»), not the English ones (“”).
8. Mamotreto is a word that comes from the Greek mammothreptos meaning “raised (threptos) by his/her grandmother (mamme)”. That’s why this word en Spanish means something chubby or voluminous, because of the amount of food grandmothers feed their grandchildren.
9. Many Spanish words that have the letters -mbr- com from a Latin word with -min- like: hambre (hunger) from the Latin faminem, hembra (female) from the Latin feminam, hombre (man) from the Latin hominem, lumbre (fire) from the Latin luminem, alambre (wire) from the Latin araminem or cumbre (summit) from the Latin culminem.
10. When a vowel has an accent mark and you prolonge that vowel (like you would when speaking) you have to give every vowel its accent mark, for example: Ya están aquííííííí (They are here).