Saturday, July 15, 2017

The word 'insect' and related words

Eng. insect ~ Sp. insecto

This chapter deals with the story of word Eng. insect ~ Sp. insecto, as well as that of their Latin and Greek source words, as well as the many other words in both languages that contain the same roots. It is also an excellent example of a word (a noun) that is derived by ellipsis of a phrase, where it was originally an adjective, and of a word that is a calque or loan translation from a complex (multi-part, multi-morphemic) word in another language (cf. Part I, Chapter 1).

The Romans borrowed many Greek words into Latin (cf. Chapter 8), but they also sometimes engaged in loan translation or calquing of Greek complex (multi-part) words or phrases into Latin. Take the loanwords Eng. insect ~ Sp. insecto, for instance, which come from Lat. insĕctum. Lat. insĕctum was short for animal insĕctum, lit. ‘animal with a segmented (cut into) body’. In other words, insĕctum was originally an adjective, which turned into a noun (was nominalized) upon the loss of the noun it modified. That is because an insect was originally conceived as an animal whose body is cut in sections or, that is, in segments, for that is what some insects look like, with their bodies divided into head, thorax, and abdomen.

Lat. insĕctum ‘cut into’ was originally the neuter form of the passive participle (and derived adjective) of the verb insĕcāre ‘to cut into, make incision in’, formed with the prefix in and the verb sĕcāre ‘to cut, slice, divide’. We will see later that there are a few other important words derived from this verb in both English and Spanish.


The Latin root sĕc has been traced back to Proto-Indo-European ancestral language of Latin. The ancestor of this root has been reconstructed as *sek-, also meaning ‘to cut’. From this root, attached to various affixes, derive a number of words that have made it into English and Spanish:

sĭgnum ‘mark, sign, etc.’[1]
Eng. sign ~ Sp. seña & signo
sexum ‘division; sex, gender’
Eng. sex ~ Sp. sexo
secūris ‘ax, hatchet’
Sp. segur
*sago ‘saw’
Eng. saw

The Greek word for ‘insect’: ἔντομον (éntomon)

Latin insĕctum is a loan translation or calque of Greek ἔντομον (éntomon) ‘insect’ (cf. Part I, Chapter 1). Actually, the whole phrase animal insectum is a calque of Gk. ἔντομος ζῷον (éntomos zôion) ‘animal that is cut or divided into pieces’. This word, and phrase, for this class of animals was coined by the ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle (Sp. Aristóteles, Greek: Ἀριστοτέλης, Aristotélēs), who lived in the 4th century BCE (384-322 BCE).

The adjective ἔντομος (éntomos) was nominalized (turned into a noun) as ἔντομον (éntomon), from the neuter form of the adjective, which came to be the noun meaning ‘insect’ in Ancient Greek. The Greek word ἔντομος can be analyzed as consisting of the parts ἐν- (en‑) ‘in’ and‎ τόμος (tóm‑os), which is derived from the participle of the verb τέμνειν (témnein) ‘to cut, separate, etc.’, and thus meant literally ‘cut off into pieces’. The same τόμος (tómos) could be used by itself as a noun in Ancient Greek, which meant ‘section, slice, piece, cut-off part’.

The root ‑tom‑ in ἔντομος (éntomos) is an allomorph (variant) of the root ‑tem‑ in τέμνειν (témnein) (for the topic of allomorphy, see Part I, Chapter 5). This root has been reconstructed as *tem‑ (*temh₂-) in Proto-Indo-European, also with the meaning ‘to cut’. (For more words from this PIE root, see below.)

When the subfield of biology that studies insects was created in the 18th century, it was originally given the name of insectology (Fr. insectologie), a hybrid word created after the Latinate word insect and the derivational morpheme of Greek origin ‑logy (Fr. ‑logie) that means ‘study of’, from Ancient Greek -λογία (-logía). Eventually, however, came to be known as Fr. entomologie (1764) ~ Eng. entomology ~ Sp. entomología, after the Greek name for ‘insect’ and the same Greek suffix (entom-o-logy). Both words, Fr. insectologie and Fr. entomologie, were originally proposed by an early French entomologist, Charles Bonnet, who dismissed the latter word (Fr. entomologie) because it sounded ‘barbarous’ and ‘terrifying’. Despite this early dismissal, this is the word that caught on in the field of biology and Eng. entomology ~ Sp. entomología are today the names of ‘the branch of zoology concerned with the study of insects’ (COED).

The words Eng. entomology ~ Sp. entomología should not be confused with the words Eng. etymology ~ Sp. etimología, which refer to the study of the origin or words in general or of particular words. The adjectives that go with the nouns Eng. entomology ~ Sp. entomología are Eng. entomological ~ Sp. entomológico/a and the name of a practitioner of this discipline are Eng. entomologist ~ Sp. entomólogo (Eng. ‑logist is typically equivalent to Sp. ‑logo, as we have seen elsewhere).

Other words with the Proto-Indo-European root *tem-

As we saw above, the root ‑tom‑ word ἔντομος (éntomos) contains a descendant of the Proto-Indo-European root *tem‑ (*temh₂-) in Proto-Indo-European, also with the meaning ‘to cut’. There are a few more words in English and Spanish that have been traced back to that root.

Reflexes of the root *tem in Greek

As we saw above, the Greek word τόμος (tómos), which came to be primarily a noun meaning ‘slice, piece’, is derived from the verb τέμνειν (témnein) ‘to cut, etc.’. The root of the word τόμος (tóm‑os) is also found in the New Latin word (1935) Eng. tomography ~ Sp. tomografía, ‘a technique for displaying a cross section through a human body or other solid object using X-rays or ultrasound’ (COED) (tom-o-graphy).

Going back to Gk. ἔντομος (éntomos), we find that the same stem, with a different prefix, has given us quite a common word, namely Eng. atom /ˈæ.təm/ and Sp. átomo /ˈa.t̪ These words come ultimately from the Ancient Greek adjective ἄτομος (átomos) ‘uncut, indivisible’, formed with the negative prefix ἀ- (a-) ‘not’ and the same participial stem τόμος (tóm‑os). The neuter form of this adjective was ἄτομον (átomon), which could be used as a noun in Greek.

This adjective was borrowed into Latin as atomus, which could be either an adjective meaning ‘indivisible’ or a noun meaning ‘atom’, as used in philosophy (‘particle incapable of being divided’). This was the word used by Ancient Greek pre-Socratic philosopher Democritus (Gk. Δημόκριτος, Dēmókritos) to refer to indivisible parts of nature in his philosophy. The term was revived in the early 19th century when scientists came to the realization that nature is indeed composed of atoms, for an atom is ‘the smallest particle of a chemical element, consisting of a positively charged nucleus (containing protons and typically also neutrons) surrounded by negatively charged electrons’ (COED).

In addition to meaning ‘section’ (etc.), Greek τόμος (tómos) also came to mean ‘roll of papyrus’. This word was borrowed into Latin as tŏmus meaning ‘a cut, a piece’, but also ‘a roll of paper’ and, eventually, ‘a part, book, tome of a larger written work’. This Latin word was borrowed into English and Spanish with that last meaning, ‘one of the books in a work of several volumes’ (AHD), giving us Eng. tome (early 16th century) ~ Sp. tomo. The meaning of Eng. tome has diverged somewhat from its original meaning since it has come to mean ‘a book, especially a large, scholarly one’ (COED) or ‘a large heavy book’ (DOCE) and this word is used mostly humorously. On the other hand, Sp. tomo still has the original meaning of ‘volume’, as in La Enciclopedia Británica consta de veinte tomos ‘The Encyclopædia Britannica contains twenty volumes’. Thus, these two words, although obviously historically related (cognates) and related in meaning, cannot be said to be good friends.

Another pair of words that contain this same root are Eng. epitome /ə.ˈpɪ.tə.mi/ ~ Sp. epítome /e.ˈpi.t̪ These words come from Latin ĕpĭtŏmē (also nom. ĕpĭtŏma), meaning ‘an abridgement, summary’, a loanword from Ancient Greek ἐπιτομή (epitomḗ), with the same meaning. Originally, this Greek word meant ‘surface-incision’ since it is derived from the verb ἐπῐτέμνειν ‘to cut upon the surface, make an incision’ and, from there, ‘to cut short, abridge’. This verb was formed from the same basic verb τέμνειν (témnein) ‘to cut, separate, etc.’, with the added prefix ἐπί (epí) ‘upon’. Eng. epitome can still mean ‘a summary of a written work’ (COED), but that meaning is quite rare. Its main meaning is ‘a representative or example of a class or type’ (COED), as in Roses are the epitome of romance. Sp. epítome, on the other hand, does not have this derived, primary meaning that Eng. epitome has. Besides ‘summary’, the other major meaning of Sp. epitome is the name of a rhetorical figure of speech which consists of repeating the first words of a long series of words to add clarity to what has been said. Thus, these are another pair of words that are barely good friends nowadays, despite their common origin and despite sharing a sense, ‘summary or abridgement’, one that is minor probably in both languages.

The cognates Eng. anatomy ~ Sp. anatomía refer nowadays to ‘the branch of biology and medicine concerned with bodily structure, especially as revealed by dissection’ and, derived from that sense, to ‘the bodily structure of an organism’ (COED). These words are loanwords from Late Latin anatomia, which is a loanword from an unattested Ancient Greek *ἀνατομία (*anatomía), derived (by the suffix ‑ία, ‑ia, that created abstract nouns), from the noun ἀνατομή (anatomḗ), meaning ‘dissection’. This noun was derived from the root of the verb τέμνειν (témnein) ‘to cut, etc.’ with the prefix ἀνά (aná) ‘up’ (cf. Eng. to cut up).

The cognate nouns Eng. dichotomy /daɪ̯.ˈkɒ.tə.mi/ ~ Sp. dicotomía /di.ko.t̪o.ˈmi.a/ also ultimately come from Greek. The meaning of these words is ‘a division or contrast between two things that are opposed or entirely different’ (COED). These two words were borrowed directly from Ancient Greek διχοτοµία (dikh‑o‑tom‑ía) ‘a cutting in two, in half’. The second part of this word (-tomia) is the same as that of the word anatomia we just saw. The first part comes from the root of διχῆ (dikhê) ‘in two, apart, asunder’. Eng. dichotomy came into the language before 1600 and Sp. dicotomía is first attested two hundred years later, a little bit after its French cognate dichotomie is first attested. The Greek noun διχοτοµία (dikhotomía) is derived from the attested adjective διχότοµος (dikhótomos) ‘halved, cut in half’. From this adjective come the cognate adjectives Eng. dichotomous ~ Sp. dicótomo/a, which mean ‘divided or dividing into two parts’ or ‘of or pertaining to dichotomy’ (RHWU).

Reflexes of the root *tem in Latin

Latin also inherited a verb derived from the Proto-Indo-European root *tem-. Its infinitive form was temnĕre and its meaning had changed to ‘despise’. There are no descendants of this verb in English or Spanish. There is one descendant, in English, of a verb derived from it by prefixation. The Latin verb contemnĕre also meant ‘to scorn, despise’ (the prefix con- added an intensive meaning to the whole). Its passive participle, contemptus 'scorned', was turned into a noun in Latin with the meaning ‘scorn’. This noun was borrowed into English in the late 14th century as contempt /kən.ˈtɛmpt/ (Sp. desprecio, desdén). Its meaning is ‘the feeling that someone or something is worthless or beneath consideration’ (COED). In a legal context, in means ‘the offence of being disobedient to or disrespectful of a court of law’ (COED; also known as contempt of court; Sp. desacato (al tribunal)).

There are two other Latin words that may or may not be derived from the same root: Lat. tempus ‘time’ (regular root: tempor‑) and Lat. templum ‘temple, shrine, sacred place, open area, especially for augury’. The former is the source of Sp. tiempo (cf. Eng. temporal ~ Sp. temporal and Eng. temporary ~ Sp. temporario). The latter is the source of Sp. temple and Eng. temple ‘a building devoted to the worship of a god or gods’ (COED). Because of the meaning changes involved, it is not clear whether these words come from the PIE root *tem‑, or from the PIE root *temp- ‘to stretch, string’.

The Latin verb tondēre ‘to shave, shear, clip, etc.’ (passive participle: tōnsus) is also thought to come ultimately from the PIE root *tem‑, actually from an extended version *tend‑. This verb has no reflexes in English or Spanish, but a noun derived from it does. From the stem tōns‑ of the passive participle tōnsus, Latin derived the noun tōnsūra (tōns‑ūr‑a) with the noun-forming suffix ‑ūr‑, which meant ‘a shearing, clipping’. This noun has resulted in the cognates Eng. tonsure /ˈtɒn.ʃəɹ/ ~ Sp. tonsura, which refer to ‘the act of shaving the head or part of the head, especially as a preliminary to becoming a priest or a member of a monastic order’, as well as ‘the part of a monk's or priest's head that has been shaved’ (AHD).
The cognates Eng. contemplate ~ Sp. contemplar come ultimately from the Latin first conjugation deponent verb contemplārī ‘observe, note or notice’ or ‘to gaze at’. This verb is derived from the Latin noun templum, so to the extent that templum could possibly be derived from the root *tem‑, then so could this verb. The main meaning of both of these verbs is ‘to look at attentively and thoughtfully’ (AHD). However, Eng. contemplate has acquired two additional senses that its Spanish counterpart does not have. The first one is ‘to consider carefully and at length; meditate on or ponder’ (AHD), as in to contemplate a problem from all sides, which can be translated into Spanish as meditar sobre. The second one is ‘to have in mind as an intention or possibility’ (AHD), as in to contemplate getting married (cf. Sp. considerar, pensar en).

Other words with the Latin root sĕc

Sp. segar and some false cognates

As we have seen, the root sĕc‑ of the Latin verb sĕcāre ‘to cut, slice, divide’ is found in the word insĕctus (in-sĕc-t-us). This verb is the source of patrimonial Sp. segar ‘to reap, cut, mow’, that is, its primary, literal meaning is ‘to cut the harvest or grass with a sickle, scythe or other relevant instrument or machine’ (‘cortar mieses o hierba con la hoz, la guadaña o cualquier máquina a propósito’, DLE). The change from intervocalic Latin ‑c‑ to Old Spanish ‑g‑ is just what we would have expected in a patrimonial Spanish word, one that descended by word of mouth.

The passive participle of the Latin verb sĕcāre is sĕctus in the masculine and sĕcta in the feminine, which meant ‘cut off, divided’ and could be used as an adjective. Curiously, this word does not seem to be the source of Eng. sect ~ Sp. secta, though the form and the meaning of these words both suggest that such a derivation is plausible, for a sect is ‘a religious group or faction’ cut off from or ‘regarded as heretical or as deviating from orthodox tradition’ (COED) or a ‘subgroup of a religious, political, or philosophical belief system, usually an offshoot of a larger group’ (WP).

The source of Eng. sect ~ Sp. secta seems to have been a different word sĕcta in Latin. It seems that in Latin, there was another, homonymous word sĕcta that was a feminine variant form of the passive participle sĕcūta ‘followed’ of the third conjugation deponent verb sequī ‘to follow’ (source of the patrimonial Spanish verb seguir ‘to follow’). This other Latin sĕcta came to be used as a noun meaning ‘a way, road, path’ and, from it, eventually, ‘doctrine, school, sect’. It is possible, however, that the form of this variant form was influenced by the form of the passive participle of the verb sĕcāre. This Latin sĕcta and sequī contain the PIE root *sekw‑ meaning ‘to follow’ that we saw earlier.

Eng. section ~ Sp. sección

There are some pairs of cognate words that are indeed derived from the stem sĕct‑ (sĕc‑t‑) of the Latin verb sĕcāre. One of them is Eng. section /ˈsɛk.ʃən/ ~ Sp. sección /sek.ˈθi̯on/. They mean primarily ‘any of the more or less distinct parts into which something is or may be divided or from which it is made up’ (COED). They come from Latin word whose regular stem is sĕctiōn- (nom. sĕctĭo, acc. sĕctĭōnem), which is formed from the stem sĕct‑ and the noun-forming suffix ‑iōn‑. This Latin noun meant ‘a cutting, cutting off, cutting up’, among other things. It was borrowed into English directly from Latin in the late 14th century. In Spanish, it is first attested in the beginning of the 18th century and it was probably borrowed through French. From this noun, English developed the verb to section (same pronunciation as the noun) and Spanish the synonymous verb seccionar.

A pair of words related to this one are Eng. intersection ~ Sp. intersección, which are loans from Lat. intersĕctiōn‑, formed with the prefix inter ‘between’. They are derived from the verb intersĕcāre ‘to cut between, intersect, cut asunder’. The English verb intersect is a back-formation from this noun from the early 17th century, which translates into Spanish as cruzar or atravesar (in mathematics, the verb intersecar(se) has been borrowed from English with a specialized, technical meaning). English also derived a noun intersect from the verb intersect in the mid-17th century for use in geometry, with the meaning ‘point of intersection’ (OED).

Another pair of words that is related to Lat. sĕctiōn- are Eng. dissection ~ Sp. disección, which come from Lat. dissĕctiōn‑, containing the prefix dis ‘apart’, from the Latin verb dissĕcāre ‘to cut in pieces’ (dis‑sĕc‑ā‑re). By back-formation, English has derived the verb dissect /ˌdaɪ̯.ˈsɛkt/ from the noun dissection. This verb means ‘methodically cut up (a body or plant) in order to study its internal parts’ and, more generally, ‘analyze in minute detail’ (COED). Spanish has also created its own equivalent diseccionar, though it is probably less common than the verbal expression hacer la/una disección ‘to do a dissection’.

Eng. sector ~ Sp. sector

Another pair of words derived from the stem sĕct‑ of the Latin verb sĕcāre are Eng. sector /ˈsɛk.təɹ/ ~ Sp. sector /sek.ˈt̪oɾ/. The Latin word sĕctor (regular stem: sĕctōr‑) originally was an agent noun derived from the passive participle stem sĕct‑ (sĕc‑t‑) of the verb sĕcāre and the agentive suffix ‑ōr‑. Thus, the meaning of this word in classical Latin was ‘cutter’, i.e. ‘one who cuts’ (sĕc‑t‑ōr‑). However, in Late Latin, this word came to mean ‘section of a circle’, as in a piece from a pizza pie. This new sense was actually a semantic calque from the equivalent Greek word τοµεύς, which literally meant ‘cutter’, but which had been used by Archimedes and later geometers with the senses ‘section of a circle’, as well as ‘section of a sphere’.[2]

The cognates Eng. sector ~ Sp. sector can have this meaning in mathematics as well. The main meanings of these words, however, are ‘a part of an area of activity, especially of business, trade, etc.’, as in the business sector, and ‘one of the parts into which an area is divided, especially for military purposes’, as in the American sector of Berlin (DOCE).

Eng. segment  ~ Sp. segmento

Finally, there is another common set of cognates that are derived from the root sĕc‑, namely Eng. segment /ˈsɛɡ.mənt/ ~ Sp. segmento /seɡ.ˈmen.t̪o/. They come from Lat. sĕgmĕntum ‘a cutting, slice, piece’, i.e. ‘a part cut off’ (sĕg‑mĕnt‑um).

Lat. sĕgmĕntum is a synonym of Lat. fragmĕntum, which has given us Eng. fragment ~ Sp. fragmento. The two words are formed with the same suffix ‑mĕntum (‑mĕnt‑um), but the latter is derived from the verb frangĕre ‘to break’ instead of the verb sĕcāre ‘to cut’ (cf. Part II, Chapter X). The suffix ‑mĕntum formed abstract nouns from verbs and sometimes also from adjectives.

English borrowed the word segment in the 16th century and it appears for the first time in Spanish in the early 18th century. Note that in this word, the ‑c‑ at the end of the root in the Latin word becomes ‑g‑, that is, a voiceless velar stop consonant /k/ becomes voiced /ɡ/, presumably under the influence of the following m.

Both English and Spanish have derived verbs from these nouns. In the mid-19th century, English created the verb to segment, which is pronounced with final stress: /səɡ.ˈmɛnt/ (cf. Part I, Chapter 7). This verb can be either transitive or intransitive, for it means either ‘to separate or divide into segments’ (RHW), and it is used primarily in embryology. Spanish has created the verb segmentar.

[1] It is not clear if the first of these words, Lat. sĭgnum, comes from the PIE root *sek‑ ‘to cut’ or from the PIE root *sekw‑ ‘to follow’.

[2] The two senses can be fleshed out thus, according to the OED: (1) ‘A plane figure contained by two radii and the arc of a circle, ellipse, or other central curve intercepted by them’ and (2) ‘a solid generated by the revolution of a plane sector about one of its radii’.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

The names of the days of the week, Part 9: Sp. 'domingo' and related words

[This entry comes from a section of Chapter 20 ("The names of the days of the week") of Part II of the open-source textbook Spanish-English Cognates: An Unconventional Introduction to Spanish Linguistics.]

From Lat. diēs sōlis to Lat. diēs dŏmĭnĭca

The word for Sunday in Spanish is domingo. As in the case sábado, the word for Saturday, domingo is also not related to the classical Latin name for this day. The traditional Latin name was diēs sōlis ‘day of the sun’, where sōlis was the genitive case wordform of the third declension noun sōl ‘sun’ (cf. Sp. sol). The sun was one of the seven ‘Classical Planets’ after which the days of the week were named and, of course, it was also one of the Roman deities.

Curiously, the Roman sun god was a minor deity during most of the Roman period, only to become a major one in the late 3rd century CE, when Sol ‘Sun’, at that time known as Sol Invictus ‘unconquered sun’, became a patron god of soldiers and was made the official sun god by emperor Aurelian in 274.[1] The cult of Sol continued for some time even after Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire a hundred years later.

The word domingo has a Christian origin, just like the word for Saturday does. In this case, however, the source word is fully Latin and not a loanword from Hebrew as in the case of sábado. Sp. domingo comes from Church Latin through Vulgar Latin. The Church Latin name for the first day of the week, which was consecrated to Jesus Christ, was diēs dŏmĭnĭca ‘day of the Lord’ (accusative diĕm dŏmĭnĭcam). Lat. dŏmĭnĭca was a feminine adjective here, not a genitive case wordform as in the case of the words modifying the word diēs for the other days of the week. It was feminine because the word diēs ‘day’ that it modified was (primarily) feminine, though it was masculine in some contexts (cf. §20.2 above). Because of this, there was another version of the phrase diēs dŏmĭnĭca, one in which diēs was treated as masculine, and thus the accompanying adjective was masculine: diēs dŏmĭnĭcus (accusative: diĕm dŏmĭnĭcum). This is the variant that Sp. domingo comes from.

The gender difference that we have just mentioned helps explain some differences in the endings of the name for this day of the week in different Romance languages. Other differences, of course, stem from the presence or absence of a reflex of the word diēs in the word for ‘Sunday’ and from whether that word came before or after the adjective. The following are some of the words for ‘Sunday’ in several Romance languages and their sources. (For simplicity, the Vulgar Latin form given is the accusative one. Do note, however, that the final ‑m was not pronounced in Vulgar Latin.)

Vulgar Latin (accusative)
Romance reflexes
*dŏmĭnĭcam diĕm
Sicilian duminicadìa
*diĕm dŏmĭnĭcum or ‑am
Cat. diumenge, Occ. dimenge, Fr. dimanche
It. domenica
Sp. domingo

As we can see, Sp. domingo comes from Lat. dŏmĭnĭcum, which was short for diĕm dŏmĭnĭcum. The two things that we need to explain now are, first, what dŏmĭnĭcum meant exactly in Latin and, second, how we get from Lat. dŏmĭnĭcum to Sp. domingo.

The adjective (masc.) dŏmĭnĭcum (feminine: dŏmĭnĭcam) ‘of the Lord’ (nominative: dŏmĭnĭcus - dŏmĭnĭca) was derived from the noun dŏmĭnus (dŏmĭn‑us) by means of the first/second declension adjectival suffix ‑ĭc‑: dŏmĭn‑ĭc‑um. The word dŏmĭnus had different senses, such as ‘master, possessor, ruler, lord, proprietor, owner, boss’. In general, it was used as a term to address one’s superior. The word’s basic association is with the ‘master of the house’, which is not surprising since the word contains the same root dŏm‑ as the noun dŏmus (dŏm‑us) that meant ‘house’. The feminine form dŏmĭna can be translated as ‘lady of the house’.

‘lord of the house, owner, boss’
‘of the lord of the house, of the owner’

Although dŏminĭcus is clearly derived from dŏmĭnus, it does not seem that Lat. dŏmĭnus is derived directly from dŏmus. Rather, the two seem to derive from the Proto-Indo-European verbal root *demh₂‑ ‘to tame, domesticate’.

When Christianity came to the Roman world, the word dŏmĭnus came to be used to refer to the single Christian God, in both of its instantiations, the Father and the Son (Jesus Christ), translating the equivalent Greek word κῡ́ριος (kū́rios) ‘lord, master, guardian, ruler, owner’ which had been used for the same purpose in Christianity to refer to God and, therefore, to Jesus Christ. In many cultures the word for ‘owner’, ‘master’, ‘superior’, ‘lord’, ‘husband’ was one and the same.[2] Latin dŏmĭnus and Greek κῡ́ριος were equivalent to (or clones of) Hebrew אֲדוֹנָי or אֲדֹנָי (ăḏônāy), literally ‘My Lord(s)’, an expression which was used by the Jews during prayer to avoid using the name of God, which is taboo in this religion.[3]

From Lat. dŏmĭnĭcum to Sp. domingo

So how do we get from Lat. dŏmĭnĭcum to Sp. domingo? There are three sound changes that are very common and regular in the derivation:
  • Between two vowels, the c [k] is voiced and becomes g [ɡ], as expected (cf. Part I, Chapter 10, §
  • The intertonic i is dropped (syncope): a word-internal vowel next to a stressed vowel was typically dropped (cf. Part I, Chapter 10, §10.3.4)
  • The (final) short ŭ always becomes o (cf. Part I, Chapter 10, §10.3.2)
  • The final m is always dropped (cf. Part I, Chapter 10, §10.4.1)



There is actually one thing that is not as expected in the word domingo and that is the i sound/letter. A short Latin ĭ always changed to e in Spanish patrimonial words. In other words, if this was a strictly patrimonial word, as the other sound changes imply, the word for Sunday in Spanish should have been domengo. Because of this, we know that the original Latin word, dŏmĭnĭcum, still uttered in some contexts, such as in religious ones, during the days of Old Spanish, must have influenced the word’s pronunciation. That is, as far as the short ĭ is concerned, i is a spelling pronunciation of the type we expect in learned words, not in patrimonial ones. Such blends of patrimonial and learned words are known as semi-learned words (Sp. semicultismos). Many semi-learned words stem from words that were used in formal, church contexts (cf. Part I, Chapter 10, §10.2.4).

English and Spanish words from the Latin root dŏm-

Lat. dŏmus ‘house’ is the simplest Latin word with the root dŏm‑. This word is also cognate with Greek δόμος (dómos), also meaning ‘house, dwelling’. The following Latin words that contained this root have left descendants in English and/or Spanish:

dŏmus ‘house’ is the source of It. duomo ‘cathedral’ (‘God’s house’); since Italian cathedrals had a high round cupula, English borrowed the word dome with the sense of ‘a rounded vault forming the roof of a building or structure’ (COED); Spanish does not have a cognate of this word and the word for ‘dome’ in Spanish is cúpula. Spanish ended up replacing Latin dŏmus with the Latin word casa ‘house’, a word that originally meant ‘hut, cottage’.

dŏmĭnus ‘lord, owner, etc.’: it has two patrimonial descendants in Spanish: Sp. dueño, which just means ‘owner’ nowadays, and the title don, as in don Juan.

Lat. dŏmĭnus lost the intervocalic ‑ĭ‑, resulting in dŏmnus, and ‑mn‑ always became ñ in Old Spanish (after assimilation to ‑nn‑), cf. Part I, Chapter 10.

Sp. don has o instead of ue because this vowel was unstressed when this word was used as a title and only stressed Lat. ŏ changed to ue in Old Spanish. It also displays final vowel apocope, common in stress-less masculine words that precede other words (e.g. uno, alguno, etc.).

The feminine form of Lat. dŏmĭnus was dŏmĭna, which has given us the feminine noun dueña ‘owner’, as well as the feminine title doña. In Old French, dŏmĭna became dame, meaning Old French dame ‘lady, mistress, wife’. This word was borrowed into English in the early 13th century.

dŏmestĭcus (fem. dŏmestĭca) was an adjective that meant ‘of or belonging to the house, the household, one’s family; domestic, familiar’. The ‑estĭcus part of the word is said to contain the Latin suffixes ‑t‑ and ‑ic‑ (plus the inflectional ending ‑us or ‑a), often lumped together as ‑ticus, but rest of the morphemes came about (in particular the source of the medial ‑es‑) is lost in the history of the word.[4]

Eng. domestic is an early 15th century loanword from Fr. domestique, which was a loanword from the Latin word. It is first of all an adjective, one that meant primarily ‘of or relating to the family or household’, as in domestic chores, or ‘tame or domesticated’ when referring to animals, as in domestic cat (AHD). These last two senses of the English word domestic translate as doméstico/a in Spanish, e.g. tareas domésticas and gato doméstico.

There are, additionally, to other major senses of the Modern English adjective domestic. One is ‘produced in or indigenous to a particular country’, as in domestic flights, which translates primarily as nacional, as in vuelos nacionales. Another one is ‘fond of home life and household affairs’ (AHD), as in domestic person, which translates into Spanish as hogareño/a or casero/a.

There is a noun derived from this adjective, namely the noun domestic, meaning ‘household servant’, which is a dated if not archaic word today. The equivalent in Spanish would be criado/a. Spanish still uses the phrase empleado doméstico (fem. empleada doméstica) or empleado/a del hogar for someone who works in a household for a variety of chores.

dŏmāre ‘to tame; to subdue, conquer’: it gave us Sp. domar ‘to tame, break in’, typically a horse.

From the stem dŏm‑ and the suffix ‑(ā)‑bĭl‑, we get the adjective dŏmābĭlis ‘tameable, breakable’, source of Sp. domable (same meaning). The negative of this word was indŏmābĭlis ‘untamable, unruly, etc.’, source of Sp. indomable ‘untamable, unbreakable, indomitable, etc.’ (see below).

The passive participle of this verb was dŏmĭtus ‘tamed’ (dŏm‑ĭt‑us). From the negative form of this word, indŏmĭtus, comes the Spanish adjective indómito/a ‘indomitable’ (incapable of being subdued, overcome or vanquished) (for Eng. indomitable, see below).

dŏmĭtāre ‘to tame’: this verb was a frequentative version of domāre, and it is source of Eng. daunt (from Old French danter) ‘intimidate, overwhelm’

Derived from this verb is the Late Latin adjective dŏmĭtābĭlis ‘capable of being subdued, overcome, or vanquished’ (dŏmĭt‑ā‑bĭl‑is) and from the negative, comes Eng. indomitable ‘untameable’, equivalent to Sp. indómito/a or indomable (see above).

dŏmĭnārī ‘to be lord and master, to have dominion’ and ‘to rule, dominate, to govern’; this first conjugation deponent verb is the source of Eng. dominate ~ Sp. dominar and of the derived nouns Eng. domination ~ Sp. dominación; the derived adjectives Eng. dominant ~ Sp. dominante.

From the French version of this verb, dominer, a derived verb prédominer ‘to exert a strong influence’ was developed in 14th century. This verb was borrowed as Eng. predominate ~ Sp. predominar. Derived from these verbs are the adjectives Eng. predominant ~ Sp. predominante and the nouns Eng. predominance ~ Sp. predominancia.

Lat. domino is the first person singular of the present tense of the verb dŏmĭnārī, and thus it means ‘I rule, I dominate, I am lord’. From this word came the name of a game known as Eng. dominoes ~ Sp. dominó, played with small rectangular blocks (Eng. domino, Sp. ficha de dominó) Eng. domino /ˈdɒ.mɪ.noʊ̯/ and dominoes entered the language around 1800 from French domino. Sp. dominó also reflects the pronunciation of this French word with final-syllable stress.

dŏmĭnĭum ‘rule, dominium, ownership’, ‘property’ (as well as ‘feast, banquet’). This noun is the source of Eng. domain, as well as the learned Eng. dominium and Sp. dominio. Sp. dominio means both ‘domain’ and ‘dominium’.

Eng. domain (pronounced /də.ˈmeɪ̯n / or /ˌdoʊ̯.ˈmeɪ̯n/) is an early 15th century loanword from Middle French domaine ‘domain, estate’, which descends from Lat. dŏmĭnĭum. When this word is used in reference to lands, a somewhat archaic and literary use, it typically translates into Spanish as dominios, in the plural, e.g. my domain = mis dominios. The sense ‘a sphere of activity or knowledge’ (COED) does not translate as dominio, but as campo or ámbito. The word is also used in the field of information technology with the meaning ‘a distinct subset of the Internet with addresses sharing a common suffix’ (COED). That sense does translate as Sp. dominio, since this use of the Spanish word is a calque from the English word.

Eng. dominium entered the language as a legal term in the 19th century with the meaning ‘complete power to use, to enjoy, and to dispose of property at will’ (RHW), a legal meaning that the Latin source word also had.

The word condominium is a New Latin derivation from the Latin word dŏmĭnĭum. It was apparently first coined in the 18th century in German, from where the word spread to other European languages, such as Eng. condominium and Sp. condominio. It was originally a term used in international law with the meaning ‘joint rule or sovereignty’. In the 1960s, the word condominium started to be used in American English to refer to ‘apartment in a building with several apartments, each of which is owned by the people living in it’ (DOCE), i.e. a part of a co-owned building. The word can also be used to refer to the whole building that is co-owned. This word was eventually shortened to condo. This sense of the word condominium has not spread to all dialects of English. In Britain, for example, they refer to a condo as a flat. In Spanish, the most common equivalents are piso and apartamento.

Late Lat. dŏmĭnĭcālis ‘of or pertaining to Sunday’: adjective derived from the name of the day by means of the adjectival suffix ‑āl‑. This word is the source of learned Sp. dominical and Eng. dominical. Sp. dominical is the adjective for the noun domingo, the name of the day so, for instance, servicio dominical means just ‘Sunday service’ and escuela dominical ‘Sunday School’. In the realm of the press, dominical is used in Spanish as a noun that refers to a Sunday newspaper or a Sunday supplement of a newspaper. Eng. dominical is quite fancy and rare and it means ‘relating to the Lord’s day’ or ‘relating to Jesus Christ as Lord’ (M-W).

dŏmĭnĭcus/a ‘of the owner, lord, master; imperial’ in an adjective formed with the first/second declension adjectival suffix ‑ĭc‑. This is the same word that gave us Sp. domingo ‘Sunday’, as we saw earlier. It was also turned into personal names in Medieval Latin: masculine Dominicus and feminine Dominica, Sp. masc. Domingo / fem. Dominga. The English equivalents (cognates) of these names are masculine Dominic and feminine Dominique, both of which are loanwords from French. Dominicus (Sp. Domingo) was the adopted name of the Spanish founder of the Dominican religious order, after whom the Dominican Republic was named (see below).

Late Lat. dŏmĭnĭcānus (fem. dŏmĭnĭcāna): an adjective formed from the adjective dŏmĭnĭcus with the adjectival suffix ‑ān‑: dŏmĭnĭc‑us + ‑ān = dŏmĭnĭc‑ān‑us. This word was created to refer to ‘a member of the religious order founded by St. Dominic’ (Sp. Santo Domingo) (see above). This mendicant Catholic religious order is also known as Order of Preachers (Sp. orden de predicadores, from Latin ordo praedicatorum). The priests in this order are known as Dominican friars or Dominicans in English and as dominicos in Spanish.

When the Dominican Republic (Sp. República Dominicana) was established in the early 19th century in the eastern part of the island of Hispaniola, it was named after its main city, Santo Domingo, which was named after St. Dominic (see above), the founder of the Dominican Order.[5]

The cognate adjectives cum nouns Eng. Dominican ~ Sp. dominicano/a are now used to refer to ‘a person from the Dominican Republic or of its descent’ as well as to ‘a person from the Commonwealth of Dominica or of its descent’ (WKT). Dominica is a small, sovereign island country in the Caribbean, more specifically in the Windward islands of the Lesser Antilles archipelago.

The Dominican Republic got its name when in the mid-nineteenth century the Spanish side of the island of Hispaniola became independent from the French speaking side, which came to be known as Haiti. The whole island shared by the Dominican Republic and Haiti has gone by several different names since the Spanish first arrived, starting with La Española (Eng. Hispaniola), which was given to it by Columbus himself in 1492.[6]

Soon after that it became known as Isla de Santo Domingo, after the capital city. Santo Domingo, the first major Spanish settlement in the Americas, was founded and named by Bartolomé Colón, brother of Christopher Columbus (Cristóbal Colón in Spanish), in 1496 in honor of the Spanish saint Santo Domingo de Guzmán, Saint Dominic in English, founder of the Dominican religious order. The city now has 3 million inhabitants, or almost one third of the country’s total population. As we mentioned earlier, the name of the country derives from the name of the capital city and the name of the island for several centuries. Dominicans to this day often refer to the whole country as Santo Domingo, the modern official name for the country, República Dominicana, being a relatively recent creation.

Eng. Sunday

Finally, Sunday, is of course the day of the Sun, as the word transparently shows. In Old English it was Sunnandæg, a calque or loan translation of Latin diēs sōlis ‘day of the sun’. Old English Sunnan was the genitive case wordform of the word Sunne (in the nominative case). Unlike in Spanish, where the original Latin name for this day was replaced by one inspired by Christianity, English has kept the calqued name to this day

[1] The epithet invictus ‘unconquered, invincible’ was not part of the god’s name and it was used for other deities as well, such as Jupiter or Mars. It is not clear whether the original sun god, sometimes referred to as Sol Indiges, meaning either ‘the native sun’ or ‘the invoked sun’ (it is not clear which), was considered to be the same as the latter one, which was sometimes referred to as Sol Invictus. What is clear is that the later cult of Sol (Invictus) was imported by soldiers from the east, where he was an important god of a city in Syria, either Emesa or Palmyra. An important date in the cult of Sol Invictus was the winter solstice, around December 21, after which days get longer. At one point, December 25 became the assigned date for this celebration. Many think that the Roman Christian Church elected this day to celebrate Christ’s birth (Christmas) because of its association with the very popular Sol Invictus. By the way, invictus ‘unconquered’ is the negated form (in‑) of the word victus ‘conquered’, which is the passive participle of the verb vincĕre ‘to conquer’ (source of Sp. vencer). From a verb derived from vĭncĕre, convĭncĕre ‘to convince; to conquer; to convict’, we get the cognates Eng. convince ~ Sp. convencer (and Eng. convict). From the same root come Eng. province ~ Sp. provincia, Eng. provincial ~ Sp. provincial (false friends), for example.

[2] In Spanish, the equivalent word is señor, which is used equally to address men ‘worthy of respect’ and God. When Christianity came to the English-speaking world, the Latin term dominus was translated as lord, a word that was used to address powerful people. It comes from Old English hlāfweard (later hlāford), which was a compound word of hlāf ‘bread, loaf’ and weard ‘ward, guardian, keeper’. That was because powerful people provided their followers with food. The word lady comes from Old English hlǣfdīġe ‘bread-kneader’.

[3] Most of the books of the Jewish Bible (the Christians’ Old Testament) have יהוה as the name for God. However, ‘conservative Jewish traditions do not pronounce יהוה, nor do they read aloud transliterated forms such as Yahweh’ (WP). Instead, when speaking it out, the replace that word with hakadosh baruch hu ‘The Holy One, Blessed Be He’, Adonai ‘The Lord’, or HaShem ‘The Name’.

[4] The suffix ‑ic‑ itself was originally just ‑c‑, as in rāu‑c‑us ‘hoarse; harsh; raucous’ < rau‑is ‘hoarseness’, and mar(t)‑c‑us (cf. Mark) < mart‑ (cf. mars mart‑is). The suffix ‑ĭc‑ is just that ‑c‑ suffix to which a linking vowel ‑ĭ‑ was added. And ‑tĭc‑ was another extension of this adjectival suffix.

[5] St. Dominic is also known as Dominic of Osma, Dominic of Caleruega, Dominic de Guzmán, and Domingo Félix de Guzmán. He was a Castilian priest who lived 1170-1221. He is the patron saint of astronomers.

[6] The English name Hispaniola for the island is based on a Latinization of the name La Española by a 16th century Italian author, Peter Martyr d’Anghiera, who wrote in Latin about the conquest and whose book happened to be translated to English early on. This resulted in Hispaniola being adopted as the official English name of the island. This author also wrote that the indigenous Taino name for the island was Quizqueia, though there is no other confirmation of this claim. Since 1988, there is a Quisqueya University in Haiti (in French: Université Quisqueya), a private Haitian university located in Port-au-Prince, the capital of Haiti.

The word 'insect' and related words

Eng. insect ~ Sp. insecto This chapter deals with the story of word Eng. insect ~ Sp. insecto , as well as that of their Latin and ...