Monday, May 27, 2019

Intimate intimacy

[This entry is an excerpt from Chapter 53, "Intimate intimacy", of Part II of the open-source textbook Spanish-English Cognates: An Unconventional Introduction to Spanish Linguistics.]

Eng. intimate and Sp. íntimo


The words intimate and intimacy are quite fashionable in the English-speaking world today. Here we are going to explore the origin and meaning of these words, along with those of their closest relatives in Spanish, íntimo/a and intimidad, which are not exact cognates but, rather, paronyms, since they have different endings (but the same stem and very similar meanings). We will explore the reasons for these differences and similarities below.

Figure 230: Young men engage in cuddling, a form of physical intimacy[i]

The English adjective intimate [ˈɪntɪmət] was borrowed in the first half of the 17th century with the meaning ‘closely acquainted, familiar’, which is still the main meaning of the word, as in intimate friends. A close, related meaning for this adjective is ‘having an informal friendly atmosphere’ (COED). A second, albeit related sense is ‘private and personal’, as in intimate details, which can be used euphemistically for ‘having a sexual relationship’ (COED). Since the early 20th century, the adjective intimate is also used euphemistically in connection to women's underwear and nightclothes, a synonym of lingerie, as in the phrase intimate apparel. This last phrase has been calqued in Spanish as ropa íntima (or moda íntima), though a preferred term is surely ropa interior.

The word intimate would seem to have been borrowed from the passive participle intĭmātus of the Latin verb intĭmāre which meant ‘to put or bring into’ and later also ‘to announce, publish, make known, intimate’. However, as you can see, the meaning of the English word intimate does not seem to be related to this verb at all. That is because the meaning of intimate was really taken from the Latin adjective that the Latin verb was derived from, namely intĭmus, an adjective that meant originally ‘from the deepest part’ and then also ‘inmost, deepest, profound; close, tight (in friendship)’. It seems like whoever borrowed this word wanted to actually borrow Lat. intĭmus, but they went for the form of a related verb’s passive participle instead.

The Spanish equivalent of the English adjective intimate is íntimo/a, which is indeed derived from the ‘right’ word, namely the Latin adjective intĭmus. The meanings of Eng. intimate and Sp. íntimo are very close, however, as we shall see. We say that these words are paronyms and not cognates because their source is not exactly the same source-word, but closely related ones.

The Latin adjective intĭmus (fem. intĭma, neut. intĭmum) meant ‘inmost, innermost, most secret, most profound, most intimate’. This adjective was originally a superlative of the Latin adverb intus ‘within, inside’, which is derived from the preposition in ‘in’ (for more on Latin comparatives and superlatives, see X). The Latin adjective intĭmus used as a noun meant ‘close friend’.

As we said, Lat. intus was an adverb derived from the preposition in and the ablative termination -tus. It meant ‘on the inside, within’, but also ‘to the inside, into, within, in’ and even ‘From within’ (L&S). Latin intus has left no descendants in Romance languages and, contrary to all appearances, it is not related to English into, which is a combination of the prepositions in and to. Actually, the Latin preposition in (source of Spanish en) and the English preposition in, are related, since they both descend from a Proto-Indo-European preposition that has been reconstructed as *h₁én (same meaning). (It was *in in Proto-Germanic, giving us German and Dutch in, and Danish and Norwegian i. Other cognates of these prepositions are Irish i, Welsh yn, Ancient Greek ν (en), and modern Greek εν (en).

The Latin root int‑ of the adverb intus is also found in the Latin verb intrāre ‘to go or walk into, to enter’, the source of the cognates Sp. entrar (patrimonial) ~ Eng. enter (loan from French). Actually, this verb was derived from the preposition intrā ‘within, inside; during’. This intrā comes from an earlier *interus, which is also the source of Lat. interior, source of Eng. interior ~ Sp. interior. The ultimate source of this word is Proto-Indo-European *h₁énteros ‘inner, what is inside’ (note that despite the similarity, this is not the source of Sp. entero ‘whole’, which comes from Lat. integrum, accusative wordform of Lat. integer ‘complete, whole, intact’; cf. learned Sp. íntegro ‘whole, entire, etc.’). (Eng. entire comes from the same Latin source. It is a loanword from patrimonial French entier, with the same meaning. Eng. integer, meaning primarily ‘a whole number’, is a loanword from this Latin word and its Spanish equivalent is número entero.)

Lat. intus is cognate with Ancient Greek ντός (entós) a preposition/postposition and adverb meaning ‘within, inside’. The ancestor of both of these words has been reconstructed as Proto-Indo-European *h₁éntos, from Proto-Indo-European *h₁én, the source of Lat. in, as well as Eng. in. Lat. in is, of course, the source of Sp. en ‘in’.

Lat. *interus, the source of Lat. intrā and interior, was cognate with the Greek adjective *ντερος (énteros) ‘inside’. Greek converted the neuter form of this adjective, ντερον (énteron), into the Greek word for ‘intestine’. In New Latin medical terms, the combining forms of this word, enter‑ and entero‑, are used in dozens of medical terms such as gastroenterology, the name of ‘the branch of medicine dealing with the study of disorders affecting the stomach, intestines, and associated organs’ (AHD).

The word for ‘intestine’ in Latin has a similar, though not totally analogous source. The word in Latin was Lat. intestīnum ‘an intestine, a gut’, which is the source of the cognates Eng. intestine [ɪnˈtɛstɪn ] ~ Sp. intestino. Actually, the word was typically used in the plural, intestīna, meaning ‘the intestines, entrails, bowels’ (L&S). The Latin word intestīnum is a conversion from the neuter form of the adjective intestīnus/a/um ‘inward, internal’ (int‑est‑īn‑us). The cognate adjectives Eng. intestinal [ɪnˈtɛstɪnəl] ~ Sp. intestinal come from medieval or modern Latin intestinālis, an adjective derived from the noun intestīnum by means of the third declension adjectival suffix ‑āl‑(is). The word intestine was borrowed into English probably in the late 16th century. The Spanish word intestino is attested in the mid-13th century as entestinos, and as estentinos in a Leonese source of the same time, which means that intestino is probably a semi-learned word. Note that the descendants of  Lat. intestīnum are also often used in the plural: Eng. the intestines & Sp. los intestinos.

The exact derivation of Lat. intestīnus from the adverb intus is not clear. Besides the morpheme int‑ we can detect the adjectival suffix ‑īn  and the inflection ‑us. However, the source of the middle part ‑est‑ is lost in time. By the way, the word for ‘intestine’ in Old English was hrop, the ancestor of the Modern English word ‘rope’. To this day, rope is a dialectal word in English for ‘a gut, entrail, or intestine, esp. of an animal or bird. Chiefly in plural’ (OED).

We should also mention that the adjective from which the Latin source of Eng. intestine and Sp. intestino was derived has also been borrowed by these two modern languages, though it is a fancy word not known to all speakers. Actually, many dictionaries do not even mention this sense. The AHD defines the adjective intestine as ‘Internal; civil’ and gives as an example the intestine affairs of the nation. Spanish too has the adjective intestino/a with the same meaning as its English cognate. The DLE defines this word as ‘interior, interno’ and ‘civil, doméstico’ and María Moliner adds that this adjective is only used with the nouns such as discordia, querella, or lucha as a synonym of interno, giving us the example un país arruinado por las discordias intestinas ‘a country ruined by internal discord’.

As we said, the Spanish paronym of the English adjective intimate is the adjective íntimo, which is first attested in the mid-15th century and which first appeared in a dictionary in 1607, namely in Tesoro de las dos lenguas francesa y española by César Oudin. We know that French borrowed this Latin word in the second half of the 14th century, so it is quite likely that it entered Spanish through French. Notice that this word first appeared in a dictionary in one for French and Spanish. And it would not be too risky to venture to guess that Eng. intimate is a modified loanword from the French word as well, since it is not attested until the middle of the 17th century.

Note that the meanings and uses of Eng. intimate and Sp. íntimo are very similar but not identical. The most common nouns that are found in collocation with this adjective are amigo, as in amigo íntimo, which can translate into English as intimate friend, but (very) close friend is probably a better translation. Sp. íntimo is also used to refer to diaries, as in diario íntimo, and the best translation for this expression is probably private diary, not intimate diary. Eng. private is also probably the best translation of íntimo in the collocation vida íntima, as in mi vida íntima ‘my private life’. Spanish-English dictionaries do tell us that íntimo may translate into English as intimate when talking about a feeling, an emotion, an atmosphere (Sp. ambiente), or a secret. In the context of friendship, close or very close are usually the best translations, as we saw. There are yet more possible translations. So, for example, una cena íntima might best be translated as a romantic dinner.

As for the ways to translate Eng. intimate into Spanish, some dictionaries say that íntimo is usually the most general translation, as shown by the following examples (collocations): detalles íntimos for intimate details and restaurante íntimo for intimate restaurant. However, as we have seen, these are not always the closest of friends since there are alternatives which may be more accurate translations or more common collocations. In the context of (intimate) links or associations, estrecho is recommended as a translation (in addition to íntimo) and in the context of (intimate) knowledge, profundo is one alternative (OSD). An alternative translation of the collocation have intimate knowledge of something is conocer algo a fondo (Harrap’s).

As for the English collocations to be intimate with somebody and to be on intimate terms with somebody, the OSD recommends the translations tener intimidad con alguien and ser íntimo de alguien, respectively. However, the former is an expression that often has sexual connotations and then the expression is probably best translated as tener relaciones (sexuales) con alguien.

Eng. intimate can also be used as a noun with the meaning ‘a close friend or confidant’ (AHD), though this use is rare. This meaning developed in the mid-17th century. It can translate into Spanish a íntimo/a (‘amigo de confianza’, Clave), as in A la celebración solo fuimos los íntimos (Clave), but this noun is also rare in Spanish. An alternative translation of this noun is allegado/a (Harrap’s).

Eng. intimate ~ Sp. intimar


We said that the English adjective intimate looks like it comes from the passive participle intĭmātus of Latin verb intĭmāre ‘to make known, announce, etc.’ but actually has the meaning of the Latin adjective intĭmus. As we mentioned earlier, it seems like whoever borrowed the Latin adjective intĭmus changed its form by adding the ending ‑ate to it. After all, French and Spanish borrowed intĭmus as intime and íntimo. In other words, it is a bit odd to say that Eng. intimate comes from the passive participle intĭmātus or the verb intĭmāre, although that is what it looks like on the surface.

Actually, English has also borrowed the Latin verb intĭmāre and, as usual, it has borrowed it using the Latin verb’s passive participle form intĭmātus. As usual, English has done this by changing the Latin ending ‑tus to ‑te for reasons that we have seen elsewhere (cf. Part I, Chapter 5). Thus, in English we have a homograph of the adjective intimate, namely the verb intimate, which is pronounced [ˈɪntɪmeɪ̯t] as opposed to [ˈɪntɪmət]. (Because the two words are pronounced differently, they are not homophones or homonyms.) One dictionary defines this rather fancy and uncommon verb as ‘state or make known’, with the sub-sense ‘imply or hint’ (COED). Two examples of this word in context are: She had already intimated to me her wish to leave and He intimated, politely but firmly, that we were not welcome (LDCE). The meaning of this English verb is closely related to the meaning of the Latin source verb.


As we saw earlier, the post-classical transitive Latin verb intĭmāre meant literally ‘to put or bring in(to)’. Figuratively, it meant something like ‘to make known, announce, notify by legal process’ (OED). The verb was derived from the adjective intĭmus that, as we saw, meant ‘inmost, innermost, most intimate’.

The Spanish cognate of the English verb intimate is the also learned intimar, as we would expect. However, the two verbs are false friends. The meaning of the Spanish verb intimar is closely related to that of the adjective íntimo, to the extent that is would seem that Sp. intimar was derived in Spanish out of the adjective and not a loanword from Latin intĭmāre. The main sense of Spanish intimar (con) is ‘to become close (to)’, ‘cosy up to/with’ (Sp. ‘establecer con alguien una relación de confianza y amistad’, DPD; ‘entablar una amistad íntima’, Clave).

Sp. intimar does have a secondary and much less common sense that is closer to the meaning of Lat. intĭmāre, though it is not identical. This meaning is something like ‘to call on’. An example sentence with this verb having this meaning is Le intimó que moderase sus palabras ‘She called on him to moderate his language’ (OSD). This meaning of intimar is not the same as that of the English verb intimate but at least it shares with it that it is a verb of communication.

Eng. intimacy and Sp. intimidad


Both English and Spanish have nouns derived from the adjectives Eng. intimate ~ Sp. íntimo, namely the also paronyms Eng. intimacy and Sp. intimidad. Both of these words were created in the modern languages and are not really loanwords from Latin, although the parts are definitely Latinate in both languages.

Eng. intimacy was created in English in the mid-17th century out of the adjective intimate, minus the ‑(a)te part, and the Latinate suffix ‑cy that means ‘the state or quality of being something’, as in the noun accuracy, derived from the adjective accurate (LDCE). As we can see, the pair accurate ~ accuracy has the same pattern as intimate ~ intimacy. Other pairs of words showing the same pattern are candidate ~ candidacy and pirate ~ piracy. Note that words ending in ‑cy are not always derived from adjectives ending in ‑ate, however, e.g. infant ~ infancy, occupant ~ occupancy, expedient ~ expediency, lunatic ~ lunacy, aristocrat ~ aristocracy, and normal ~ normalcy.

English borrowed the ending ‑cy (spelled ‑cie in Middle English) from Old French ‑cie and ‑tie, which descend from Latin ‑cia and ‑tia, respectively, which consisted of the stem ending ‑c or ‑t plus the abstract noun ending -ia. Actually, these Latin suffixes were loanwords from Greek κια (-kia), -τια (-tia). The equivalent of this suffix in Spanish is the semi-learned ‑cía or ‑cia, depending on the source of the word and the time of its adoption (cf. Chapters 5 and 8).

As for Sp. intimidad, this noun is transparently formed with the stem intim‑ of the adjective íntimo and the Latinate suffix ‑idad, a cognate of the English suffix ‑ity. (The source for both endings is the Latin ending ‑i‑tāt‑em, the accusative form of the suffix ‑i‑tas, where the ‑i‑ was a linking vowel.) The noun intimitas is not attested in Latin, however, so this word must have been created in a Romance language. Sp. intimidad is first attested in a dictionary in 1721 and it is found also in the first edition of the RAE’s dictionary in 1734. However, French has a  cognate of this word, namely intimité [ɛ̃timite], which is first attested in 1684. Thus, it is quite likely that Spanish calqued this word from French, just changing the ending ‑ité for its Spanish equivalent (cognate) ‑idad.

The noun intimacy can be defined as ‘the condition of being intimate’ (AHD) or ‘an intimate quality or state’ (MWALD). The latter definition is expanded in the dictionary by giving some types of intimacy: (1) ‘emotional warmth and closeness’, as in the phrases the intimacy of old friends, the intimacy of their relationship, and a fear of intimacy; (2) ‘a quality that suggests informal warmth or closeness’, as in The band liked the intimacy of the nightclub; (3) ‘sexual relations’, as in sexual/physical intimacy; and (4) something that is very personal and private, usually in the plural, as in They shared intimacies about their private lives (MWALD).

English-Spanish dictionaries give intimidad as the best translation of Eng. intimacy, in particular for the first two sub-senses that we just mentioned (1 and 2 above). As for the other two, when intimacy is used for sexual relations (sense 3), relaciones íntimas, relaciones sexuales, or simply relaciones may be the best equivalent expression. When intimacy is used with the meaning ‘something very personal and private’ (sense 4), in particular a confession, Spanish may use comentario íntimo, for example (Harrap’s).

The word intimacy has become quite common in some parts of American popular culture, with a meaning that corresponds to senses (1) and (2) above. The Spanish equivalent intimidad probably cannot be said to be as common and many Spanish speakers would not understand it as used in translations of English phrases containing the word intimacy. That said, it is probably that many English speakers do not really understand English expressions with the word intimacy as used by some speakers in recent times, men in particular.

Some unrelated words that look related


Finally note that not all words that begin with int- are related to the words that we just saw. For instance, Lat. intus and intimus are not related to the Latin preposition inter that meant ‘between, among’ and ‘during, while’. This preposition is the source of Sp. entre and the learned Latinate prefix inter in English and Spanish, as in the cognates Eng. international ~ Sp. internacional.

These Latin words are also not related to the cognate verbs Eng. intimidate and Sp. intimidar. These verbs are loanwords from Medieval Lat. intimidāre ‘to make afraid, cause to be afraid’ which was formed from the Latin prefix in ‘in’ and the adjective tĭmĭdus ‘afraid, timid’ (fem. tĭmĭda, neut. tĭmĭdum). This verb is first attested in English in the mid-17th century. The Spanish verb intimidar first appears in a dictionary in 1617 and it is found already in the DRAE’s first edition of 1734. These words’ French cognate, intimider, is first attested in 1515, so it is quite likely that its Spanish and English cognates are really copies of the French word. The French adjective timide from Lat. tĭmĭdus is first attested in 1518. English timid is first attested in the mid-1500s. Sp. tímido is attested in the late 1400s (in La Celestina), so this word is not likely to have come through French. Still, there is no doubt that it is a loanword and not a patrimonial word or we would have expected this Latin word to have undergone several sound changes, resulting in something like *tendo, not tímido.

The Latin adjective is related to the verb tĭmēre ‘to be afraid, fear’, source of patrimonial Sp. temer (same meaning). This is a second conjugation Latin verb with no passive participle or passive forms. Its principal parts are thus timeō, timēre, timuī. The adjective tĭmĭdus meant ‘fearful, afraid, faint-hearted, cowardly, timid’ (L&S) and it  is derived from the verb’s stem tĭm‑ plus de first/second declension adjective-forming suffix ‑ĭd‑ that meant ‘tending to’ (‑ĭdus, ‑ĭda, ‑ĭdum). Sp. temer is a patrimonial verb. It is also found in all Romance languages, except in French, curiously, so it is not strange that English does not have a cognate either.

Of course, Lat. tĭmĭdus is the source of the cognates Eng. timid ~ Sp. tímido. These adjectives are close friend, except that Sp. tímido/a is the main word that also translates Eng. shy, which is usually the best translation of Sp. tímido. When tímido does not refer to a person but to a welcome or some other action, its best translation into English is half-hearted, tepid, or lukewarm. Eng. timid always refers to a person and its best translation is tímido, though another option is timorato when timid has negative connotations of disapproval, and huraño, when referring to animals that are not friendly to humans. Sp. timorato is a learned loan from Lat. timōrātus ‘full of reverence towards God, devout’ (L&S).

Latin had a derived noun from the adjective tĭmĭdus to name the condition of being shy, namely tĭmĭdĭtas that meant ‘fearfulness, cowardice, timidity (a favorite word of Cic.)’ (L&S). This word was borrowed into English as timidity. The Spanish equivalent of this word is timidez, which seems to have been derived in Spanish out of the adjective tímido by means of the patrimonial suffix ‑ez that descends from the Latin suffix ‑ĭtĭ‑em which was similar in meaning to the suffix ‑ĭ‑tas (‑ĭtĭ‑em is the accusative form of ‑ĭtĭ‑es; cf. Part I, Chapter 5). Note that a learned version of this noun, timididad, is attested in the late 15th century, but it never caught on and replace timidez (Corominas).

Friday, April 12, 2019

Greek letters in the names of fraternities and honor societies

[This entry is an excerpt from Chapter 52, "The names of fraternities and honor societies", of Part II of the open-source textbook Spanish-English Cognates: An Unconventional Introduction to Spanish Linguistics.]

The most basic and general meaning of the word fraternity is ‘a group of people sharing a common profession or interests’ (COED), sort of like a social club. Modern fraternities developed from the medieval artisan guilds. However, in the United States, the word fraternity is used nowadays primarily to refer to ‘a male students’ society in a university or college’ (COED), in particular one that has a fraternity house (or frat house) where its members reside, a sort of glorified residence hall. Such societies have existed in the US since the 1770s. The word fraternity comes from Old French fraternite (Modern French fraternité), equivalent to the native English word brotherhood. It comes from Latin fraternitas ‘brotherhood’, a noun derived from the adjective fraternus ‘fraternal’, itself derived from the noun frater ‘brother’.

The female equivalent of a fraternity in US colleges and universities is a sorority, a name derived in recent times from the Latin word for sister, soror. The term sorority means ‘a society for female students in a university or college’ (COED) and it is only used in North America, since, as in the case of fraternities, this institution does not exist in other countries, even in the English-speaking world.
Figure 229: The Kappa Kappa Gamma chapter house at the University of Illinois [i]

Not all universities in the US have fraternities or sororities, however. And although fraternities and sororities are often associated with Ivy Leage schools, it is not the case that only they have them. Public colleges and universities typically do not have fraternities. For example, Salem State University does not have fraternity houses, though it does have some student organizations that are considered ‘fraternities’ in some sense, at least on its University website, though they are more like clubs. Two of these are ‘men’s organizations’, namely Alpha Sigma Phi and Sigma Alpha Epsilon, and two are ‘women’s organizations’, Phi Sigma Sigma and Theta Phi Alpha.[ii]

University fraternities in the US are known for using Greek letters in the names, which is why their members are sometimes known as Greeks. A fraternity may have chapters in different universities. The ten largest fraternities in the US are the following, with the number of members and number of chapters: Sigma Alpha Epsilon, 304,000 and 246; Sigma Chi, 300,000 and 246; Sigma Phi Epsilon, 289,000 and 234; Lambda Chi Alpha, 280,000 and 218; Tau Kappa Epsilon, 265,000 and 290; Pi Kappa Alpha, 240,000 and 220; Sigma Nu, 225,000 and 184; Beta Theta Pi, 183,769 and 138; Alpha Tau Omega, 181,000 and 141; and Alpha Phi Alpha, 70,000, 796.[iii]

Modern university fraternities started as (academic) honor societies and their Greek-letter names have that origin as well. An honor society is ‘a society for the recognition of scholarly achievement especially of undergraduates’ (MWC).[iv] One such honor society is Phi Sigma Iota, the International Foreign Language Honor Society which includes “modern foreign languages, but also Classics, Linguistics, Philology, Comparative Literature, Bilingual Education, Second Language Acquisition and other interdisciplinary programs with a significant foreign language component”.[v] Phi, Sigma and Iota are the Latinized names of the Greek letters Φ (Phi), Σ (Sigma), and Ι (Iota), as we will see in some detail below.

Two other well-known honor societies are Beta Beta Beta, for biology, known for its initials ΒΒΒ, and Beta Kappa Chi, for natural sciences and mathematics, known for the initials ΒΚΧ. (Note that the upper-case versions of these letters in these two names are identical to the Latin alphabet letters. This is not surprising, since the Latin alphabet is derived from a version of the Ancient Greek alphabet. The lower-case version of Greek Β is β, and of Κ is κ, and of Χ is χ.) In the field of language, in addition to Phi Sigma Iota, there is also an honor society for Literature of all Languages called Lambda Iota Tau (ΛΙΤ). A few honor societies only contain only two Greek letters in their names, such as Psi Chi (ΨΧ) for psychology or Kappa Pi (ΚΠ) for art. In all, there are 68 honor societies associated in the Association of College Honor Societies (ACHS).[vi]

To understand the use of Greek letter names in the names of these honor societies and fraternities we need to understand first of all the importance of classical languages in education prior to the 19th century. Until the early 1800s, higher education in the West involved primarily the study of Classical Latin and Ancient Greek. Students were required to have studied Latin for many years before they could even apply to enter a college or university to get an undergraduate education where Latin figured prominently. In college, Ancient Greek was considered to be even more prestigious than Latin, since even the Romans, the original speakers of Latin, considered Greek culture and language to be the pinnacle of civilization and borrowed copiously from the Greeks. But whereas Latin was a major subject in high school for the few planning to go to college in those days, one had to go to a university in order to learn Greek. These two classical languages and the study of “the classics”, that is to say, “the works of ancient Greek and Latin writers and philosophers” (COED), was central to higher education before the development of the modern sciences.

By the way, Ancient (Biblical) Hebrew was another language that was often added to this language mix at the university, typically only after one already knew Latin and Greek well. The reason for the importance of Hebrew is that this was the language of the Christians’ Old Testament, what for the Jews is the Hebrew Bible or Tanakh, and religion was immensely important in those days before the expansion of modern sciences to universities.[vii]

Many of the older Ivy League universities have words in their crests or logos in one of those classical languages. Thus, for instance, the “crest or arms” for Harvard University, which was founded in 1636, contains a shield, three books, and the word the single Latin word veritas, which means ‘truth’. There have been two other mottos for Harvard University in the past, both in Latin: In Christi Gloriam ‘For the glory of Christ’ and Christo et Ecclesiae ‘For Christ in the Church’, but Veritas seems to have been the earliest one and it is also the current one.

The official motto of Yale University, founded in 1702, which appears in the university logo, is actually in Hebrew, namely אורים ותמים which is transliterated into the Latin alphabet as Ūrīm wə-Tummīm. It is a phrase from the Hebrew Bible, found in the breastplate worn by the High Priest. It has been translated as Lights and Perfections or Light and Truth. The official crest of Yale University also has a Latin version of this logo, Lux et Veritas ‘light and truth’, added for good measure, as you can see below.

As we mentioned earlier, honor societies—and thus fraternities—came to be characterized by names containing Greek letters, typically three of them. The first honor society to use Greek letters in its name was the Phi Beta Kappa Society, an academic honor society founded in 1776 at the College of William and Mary. Instead of choosing a Latin motto, like most other such academic organizations did at the time, they chose the Ancient Greek motto Φιλοσοφία Βίου Κυβερνήτης, which is transliterated into Latin script as Philosophía Bíou Kybernḗtēs. This phrase translates into English as Philosophy is the Guide of Life. This three-word phrase was abbreviated by using the first letters of the words in this phrase, ΦBK, transliterated into Latin as Phi Beta Kappa, and eventually that became the name of the honor society.

Other organizations started imitating Phi Beta Kappa’s naming format, resulting in numerous other honor societies with Greek letters in their names. At first, these societies were elite academic organizations or societies at colleges and universities, and their three letter names stood for actual mottos, as in the case of Phi Beta Kappa. Such societies came to be called fraternities after the Latinate word fraternity, as we saw earlier. The first all-female societies were known as female fraternities, though later they came to be known as sororities. Fraternities and sororities are also known as Greek letter organizations (GLOs).

As we just said, originally fraternities were more like social clubs, literary societies, and honor societies, from which they had developed. Eventually, some of these societies came to have buildings or residential houses where their members resided while attending college. That was the origin of fraternities as we know them today. The first one such fraternity house is believed to have been the chapter of Alpha Delta Phi at Cornell University, in the late 1800s.

As we saw, it wasn’t until the mid-to-late 19th century, when the study of Ancient Greek and Latin ceased to be a major part of higher education, that the use of Greek letters in the names of these Ivy League schools’ social organizations or fraternities really took off. Eventually, the Greek-letter names of the new societies did not really stand for anything or represent a motto like they did in the case of Phi Beta Kappa, though in some cases words were derived from the letters in the names after the fact. Note that not all honor societies and fraternities are named this way, though most of them are. Some societies that started with other names, such as Adelphean Society, founded in 1851 at Wesleyan, a women’s college in central Georgia, was later renamed Alpha Delta Phi.

Let us go back now to the name Phi Sigma Iota, the main honor society in the US for students of foreign languages. This society was created in 1922 and currently has 161 chapters and over 40 thousand members, some of them at Salem State University. It is not clear that those Greek letters stood for anything in the beginning, but eventually they came to stand for the words φῐλότης (philótēs), meaning ‘friendship, love, affection’, σπουδή (spoudḗ), meaning ‘zeal; haste; earnestness’ (and in Modern Greek, ‘education’), and ῐ̓δῐ́ωμᾰ (idíōma) meaning ‘peculiarity, specific property, unique feature’ in Ancient Greek.

Speakers of Spanish will recognize this last word as being the word for ‘(foreign) language’ in this language and in other languages, such as English, this word has come to have meanings related to language as well. In later versions of Greek, ιδίωμα (idíoma) came to mean ‘dialect (language variety)’and ‘idiom, peculiar phrase’, in addition to ‘peculiarity, habit’. This Greek word was borrowed into Latin as ĭdĭōma with the first two of these meanings, namely ‘a peculiarity in language, an individual’s peculiar form of speaking’ and also ‘phrase with a peculiar meaning or idiom’. The English word idiom, borrowed from Latin through French, still has those two meanings, though the second one is more common.


In Spanish, the word was borrowed from Latin some 500 years ago as idioma, with the same meanings, but eventually it came to be used for ‘the language of a nation’, synonymous with lengua ‘language’, which also means ‘tongue’. However, the Spanish word idioma is typically only in the context of foreign languages. So children in Spanish-speaking countries take classes of lengua española ‘Spanish language’ but of idiomas extranjeros ‘foreign languages’.

Let us look at the three letters of the name Phi Sigma Iota. In Archaic and Classical Greek, the letter Phi (ϕε in Greek), written uppercase Φ and lowercase φ or ϕ, was pronounced like an aspirated P, much like the English P in the word pan. This letter came to be pronounced as our F in the later part of Classical Antiquity, in Koiné Greek, the Greek used in the eastern Mediterranean at the beginning of our era as a lingua franca when the Romans took over this region. The Romans did not have the aspirated P sound. The Latin letter P represented the sound of an unaspirated P, like the Greek π (pi), and like the P in the Spanish word pan, the Italian word pane, or the French word pain, all of them meaning 'bread'.

The Romans borrowed many words from Greek that had this letter, and rather than borrow the letter itself, as they did with other Greek letters that did not exist in Latin, they transliterated it into their alphabet as PH. English has borrowed many of these Greek words from Latin too. Actually, any English word that has PH in it, from photography to physics, ultimately comes from Greek (usually through Latin). In English, we pronounce PH in such words like an F, of course, the way Phi came to be pronounced in Koiné Greek. Spanish also borrowed many of the same words, but in the 19th century it was decided to change the PH spelling of these words to F, for the sake of consistency. Hence photography in Spanish is fotografía, and physics is física. The letter is known in English as Phi, pronounced like fye, though in the name of the honor society, the more common pronunciation is like fee.

The Greek letter Sigma (σίγμα) had the upper-case form Σ and two possible lower-case forms, σ and ς (the latter is used only in word-final position and the former, elsewhere). In Hellenistic times, a stylized version of these letters was used, which look like the Latin letter C: upper-case C and lower-case c. This is the source of the letter for the s sound in the Cyrillic alphabet used in Slavic countries such as Russia and Bulgaria which was derived from the Greek alphabet. Greek Σ was equivalent in sound to the Latin letter S.

Finally, the Greek letter Iota (ιώτα) was (upper-case) Ι or (lower-case) ι, was fully equivalent to the Latin letter I. Note, however, that the lower-case Greek ι did not have a dot, and neither did the Latin I. The dot would not become part of the letter I in languages with the Latin alphabet either until much later in the 11th century as a way to distinguish the I’s stroke from other letters’ strokes in cursive. A variant of this letter would much later become a separate letter, namely J. The name of this letter in Spanish is jota, which comes from the Greek name Iota.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Patrimony-matrimony, part 5: the roots patr- and matr- (2): padrino and madrina

[This entry is an excerpt from Chapter 19, " Patrimony and matrimony", of Part II of the open-source textbook Spanish-English Cognates: An Unconventional Introduction to Spanish Linguistics.]

[GO TO THE LISTING OF ALL THE PARTS OF THIS CHAPTER]

[GO TO PART 4]

Sp. padrino and madrina


The Spanish words padrino and madrina, which translate as godfather and godmother, have no cognates in English either. They do not derive from Classical Latin words but rather were created in western Vulgar Latin out of the words māter (accusative mātr‑em) and păter (accusative: pătr‑em) and the adjective-forming suffix ‑īn‑ that added the sense of ‘of or pertaining to’, indicating some kind of relationship, such as origin, but also others (variants of this suffix were ‑ān‑, ‑ēn‑, ‑iān‑, and ‑ūn‑). This together with the masculine ‑us and feminine ‑a inflections resulted in the words *pătrīnus and mātrīna (the latter attested in the 6th century), which meant ‘godfather’ and ‘godmother’ respectively, just like their descendants do today. (Corominas mentions that there is an attested patrinius in early Spanish glosses with the meaning ‘stepfather’.) Cognates of Sp. padrino in other Romance languages include French parrain, Italian padrino, Portuguese padrinho, Catalan padrí, and Occitan pairin. Cognates of Sp. madrina in other Romance languages include Italian madrina, Occitan mairina, Portuguese madrinha. Curiously, the Catalan word for ‘godmother’ is padrina, not madrina, an innovation only found in this Romance language.

The primary meaning of Sp. padrino is ‘godfather’, that is, ‘a man who sponsors a person at baptism’ (AHD), a concept found in the Catholic and other Christian traditions that comes from late Roman times. In Spanish, the word has expanded its meanings and can now also mean any man who ‘sponsors’, ‘introduces’, or assists another person in any of the other Catholic sacraments, such as confirmation, matrimony, or priestly ordination, though those uses are much less common and some, such as confirmation, is outdated. Thus, for example, it is the word used for (typically) the bride’s father giving his daughter away at a wedding. The term godfather in the religious sense in English is typically restricted to baptism, not to the other sacraments.

Wikipedia explains the role of godparent, which includes a godfather and a godmother, in the following way:
in many denominations of Christianity, is someone who bears witness to a child’s baptism and then aids in their catechesis, as well as their lifelong spiritual formation. In the past, in some countries, the role carried some legal obligations as well as religious responsibilities. In both religious and civil views, a godparent tends to be an individual chosen by the parents to take an interest in the child’s upbringing and personal development, to offer mentorship or claim legal guardianship of the child should anything happen to the parents.[i]
Among the Christian denominations that still follow the tradition of having godparents are the Roman Catholic Church, the Anglican Communion (Church of England), the Lutheran churches, the Methodist Church, and the Orthodox Church(es).

Interestingly, until the 5th century the godparents in baptism were the child’s parents, but by the 6th century they had been replaced by other individuals. The godparents were the ‘spiritual parents’ of the child and by the end of the 6th century we find that they were being referred to as co-parents, giving rise to the Latin terms compater ‘co-father’ and commater ‘co-mother’ that we will see in the next section. The sacrament of confirmation arose in the western Christian (Catholic) Church in the 8th century and a different set of godparents were to be chosen for that purpose, a tradition that is not as common today.

One Christian sacrament besides baptism in which the figures of the padrino and the madrina have not disappeared is the wedding (Sp. boda), where people are joined in ‘holy matrimony’ (Sp. santo matrimonio), which is another one of the Catholic sacraments. A padrino and a madrina are traditionally chosen in Catholic weddings and often the padrino is the father of the bride and the madrina the mother of the groom, though the roles can be filled by other relatives or close friends. These roles are somewhat analogous to the roles of best man and maid of honor in modern Anglo cultures, though in the latter, the roles are typically played by the groom and bride’s best friends of the same gender. The role of padrino at a wedding is also somewhat analogous to the role of father of the bride, who ‘gives away’ the bride. In some countries in the Spanish-speaking world that have weddings that are modelled more on the Anglo style, the term padrino is used for all the groomsmen or ushers and the term madrina is used for all of the bridesmaids, though another term for them is testigos ‘witnesses’.

Derived from the sacramental sense, a second sense of padrino is that of ‘man who introduces and accompanies another one who is receiving some honor or degree’ or who enters in ‘literary competitions, tournaments, duels, and other challenges’ (DLE). Although Spanish-English dictionaries typically give godfather as the single possible translation of Sp. padrino, the best translation for this sense of Sp. padrino is sponsor, not godfather.

Eng. godfather does have other senses besides the baptismal one. A second sense of Eng. godfather is, according to one dictionary, ‘one having a relation to someone or something analogous to that of a male sponsor to his godchild: such as a : one that founds, supports, or inspires’, as in the phrase the godfather of a whole generation of rebels (MWC), that is, ‘a man who is influential or pioneering in a movement or organization’ (COED). Sp. padrino is not used with this sense.

A third sense of Eng. godfather is ‘a head of an illegal organization, especially a leader of the American Mafia’ (COED). This sense was started as slang in the US and many connect it to the use of this word in the title of the 1972 Hollywood blockbuster film The Godfather, based on a 1968 novel by Mario Puzo. Mafia bosses (Sp. capo), such as the one in the New York crime family depicted in the film, Vito Corleone (played by Marlon Brando), were often asked to be the godfather of children by their parents in the hopes that that way they would be the beneficiaries of their largesse. Although the title of this film was translated into Spanish as El padrino, the word padrino is not used with this sense in Spanish and neither can its Italian cognate padrino.

As we saw, the woman’s analog of padrino is madrina ‘godmother’. In baptisms, and sometimes in other Christian sacraments, such as at Christian weddings, there is a madrina along a padrino, as we saw above. The term madrina is also used for a woman who accompanies another person who receives a degree or some other honor, much as in the case of a padrino. The term madrina is also used for a woman who helps or protects another person in their aims or designs. Hence the common figure found in fairy tales, el hada madrina ‘fairy godmother’. Another related role of the madrina, this one specific to godmothers and not godfathers, is that of being the one who launches a boat or ship, typically by smashing a bottle of champagne against its haul. (The verb for to launch a boat is botar un barco in Spanish.) Those are the main senses of the Spanish noun madrina.

The act of becoming someone’s padrino is called in Spanish apadrinar ‘to be a godfather for (someone)’, as in Apadriné a mi nieta en su bautizo ‘I was my niece’s godfather in her baptism’, or also ‘to sponsor (someone)’, as in El veterano director apadrinó al joven realizador en sus primeras películas ‘The veteran director sponsored the young producer in his early films’ (Vox). This verb is formed from the root with the prefix a‑ and the verbal suffix ‑ar (see the discussion on parasynthetic verbs in Part I, Section 5.6.1.1). English too turned the noun godfather into a verb, to godfather, since at least the late 18th century, with the meaning ‘to act as godfather to’, but it is not a common word. Note, for instance, that we wouldn’t use this verb to translate Sp. apadrinar in the next to the last sentence.

And just like the noun padrino was turned into the verb apadrinar, so the noun madrina was turned into the verb amadrinar. In the context of baptism, this verbs means ‘to be the godmother to’, as in Amadrinó a su nieta ‘She was her granddaughter’s godmother’. In the context of a wedding, amadrinar refers to filling the role of madrina at a wedding as explained above, whose main function is to assist the bridegroom and accompany him to the church. Finally, amadrinar is used in the context of the launching of boats and is thus equivalent to Eng. launch or christen.[1]

The English terms godfather, godmother, and godparents go back to Old English and were created by prefixing god‑ to the words father, mother, and so on. That is because godparents were supposed to be involved in teaching Christian values (and doctrine) to their godchildren. Analogous forms with the same prefix are used in other Germanic languages, such as Dutch, Old Icelandic, and Swedish.[2] In some of the Germanic languages, however, these analogous (cognate) terms have become archaic or obsolete today.

Along with the terms we just saw formed with the prefix god‑, English also had the terms godson, goddaughter, and godchild. The Spanish equivalents of these terms are ahijado and ahijada. These nouns are look identical to the past participles of the verb ahijar derived from the root hij‑ of the words hijo ‘son’ and hija ‘daughter’. Sp. ahijar is first attested in the 11th century but it is archaic if not obsolete today, though it is still found in dictionaries and its meaning is ‘to adopt’ (cf. Modern Sp. adoptar). Sp. ahijar also has additional related dictionary meanings that are even less common today than the main one, such as ‘to procreate, have children’. This verb can be described as containing the root hij‑ (of hijo and hija), the same prefix a‑ that we saw in the verb apadrinar, and first conjugation verbal inflections.

Actually, the word ahijado/a descends from an adjective created in Late Latin, affiliātus/a ‘adopted as son/daughter’ derived from the verb affīlĭāre ‘to adopt (as son/daughter)’, which was derived from the root fīlĭ‑ of fīlĭus/a ‘son/daughter’ and the prefix ad‑ ‘to’. This verb was borrowed into Spanish in the 19th century from Latin (a cultismo) as afiliar, meaning ‘to make somebody a member of an organization’, which is most commonly conjugated reflexively, as afiliarse ‘to join or become a member of an organization’, as in becoming a card-carrying member of an organization, as in for example Yo nunca me afilié al Partido Comunista ‘I never (officially) joined the Communist Party’. The verb no doubt came through French, which borrowed it first, in the early 18th century, from Medieval Latin, cf. Fr. affilier, with the same meaning it has in Spanish. (Actually, French adopted this verb with the meaning ‘to adopt’ in the 15th century, but then reborrowed it again in the 18th century with the sense ‘to join an organization’.)

Along with this verb,  Spanish got the past participle afiliado/a of this verb, which can be used as an adjective, as in No estoy afiliado ‘I am not a member’, but also as a noun with the meaning ‘member (of a club or association)’, as in los afiliados al club ‘the (official) club members’. This word is a cognate—and false-friend—of the English noun affiliate [ə.ˈfɪ.lɪə̯t], which is a mid-18th century loan from Latin affiliātus. It means ‘a person, organization, or establishment associated with another as a subordinate, subsidiary, or member’ (AHD), as in the phrase a network affiliate, and its Spanish equivalent is the feminine noun filial, cf. Sp. una filial televisiva, director de filial ‘branch head’.[3]

English also borrowed the Latin verb affīlĭāre in the 18th century, though French no doubt. As usual, English borrowed this Latin verb by copying its passive participle verb form affiliātus and converting it into affiliate, spelled like the noun we just saw but pronounced slightly differently: [ə.ˈfɪ.li.eɪ̯t]. One dictionary says that this verb means ‘to officially attach or connect to an organization’ (COED), just like its French and Spanish cognates, though other dictionaries are perhaps more correct when they say that the attachment may be unofficial, as in the definition ‘to join or become connected with a larger group or organization’, as in She affiliated herself with the Impressionist school of painting (DOCE), which doesn’t mean that she was an official or card-carrying member of an organization. This means that these two cognates are not equivalent in use, although their dictionary meanings seem very similar. Besides afiliarse, other verbs that translate Eng. affiliate when the affiliation is not a formal one but more of a informal connection are adherirse, asociarse, and unirse (all followed by the preposition a).

Both of these verbs have participles that can be used as adjectives, namely Eng. afiliated and Sp. afiliado/a, as in Eng. to be affiliated to something ~ Sp. estar afiliado/a a algo. Note that the Spanish word is identical to the noun we saw above that was cognate with the English noun affiliate. These adjectives are are ‘close friends’ semantically but, again, they are not used the same way. When affiliated is used in the ‘being connected to/with’ sense, rather than the ‘formally attached as a member’ sense, Eng. affiliated translates most commonly into Spanish as asociado/a, not afiliado/a, which has more the sense of being a formal member of an organization, such as a card-carrying member.

[GO TO PART 6]




[1] The verb christen [ˈkʰɹɪsən] today can be used with the meaning ‘to give something or someone a name’, as in His fans christened him the king of rock (DOCE) which in the case of ships at least involves a ceremonial dedication. This verb’s original meaning, which is still current, is ‘to officially give a child its name at a Christian religious ceremony’, as in She was christened Sarah (DOCE). After all, this verb comes from Old English cristnian ‘to baptize’ or, literally ‘to make Christian’, derived from Old English cristen ‘Christian’. In some dialects of English at least, the verb christen can be used informally with the meaning ‘to use something for the first time’, equivalent to inaugurar in Spanish, as in We haven’t christened the new garden chairs yet (DOCE).

[2] Old English also had a word godsibb, later godsib, derived from the Old English sibb, which could be an adjective meaning ‘Related by blood or descent; akin’ and a noun meaning ‘a kinsman or kinswoman’ (OED). The compound godsibb meant ‘godparent’. This word evolved into the modern word gossip. The story of the meaning change is quite interesting. First, by the 14th century, the noun came to be used to refer to ‘a familiar acquaintance, friend, chum. Formerly applied to both sexes… [and later only] to women’ (OED). Then by the 16th century the word was being used for ‘a person, mostly a woman, of light and trifling character, esp. one who delights in idle talk; a newsmonger, a tattler’ (OED). By the early 19th century the meaning had evolved to ‘the conversation of such a person; idle talk; trifling or groundless rumour; tittle-tattle’ (OED).

[3] A snonym of this noun filial is sucursal in some contexts. The word filial can also be used as an adjective in Spanish, in which case it means ‘of the son, filial’, as in amor filial ‘filial love’, ‘a child’s love’ or else, in the world of commerce, ‘subsidiary’, as in una empresa filial ‘a subsidiary company’.


Intimate intimacy

[This entry is an excerpt from Chapter 53, "Intimate intimacy", of Part II of the open-source textbook Spanish-English Cognates: A...