Friday, December 28, 2018

Eng. -age ~ Sp. -aje, Part 25: Spanish words in -aje (j): embalaje and engranaje

[This entry is an excerpt from Chapter 18, "Eng. language and Sp. lenguaje: words ending in Eng. -age and Sp. -aje", 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]


embalaje (1822) means ‘the action or result of packaging goods’ and ‘packaging materials’, e.g. reciclaje de embalajes ‘recycling of packaging materials’, el embalaje de las obras de arte es una tarea complicada ‘the packing of works of art is a complicated affair’ (VOX). The packaging that this refers to tends to be larger in size than that referred to by the noun empaquetado or empaque ‘packaging’.[1]

Sp. embalaje is said to be a 16th century loanword from Fr. emballage [ɑ̃.ba.laʒ] ‘packaging, wrapping’, a word created in the 13th century (Corominas). Note, however, that there is a Catalan cognate of this word, also from the 13th century, which may have played a role in the borrowing of the word into Spanish. Fr. emballage is derived from the verb emballer ‘to package, wrap, bale up’ by means of the suffix ‑age. Spanish also borrowed the verb embalar ‘to pack, wrap, package, bale up’ from French and derived its own antonym verb, desembalar ‘to unpack’. Spanish even derived an antonym of embalar, namely desembalar (the French equivalent is déballer: dé-ball-er), from which we get the noun desembalaje ‘the act of unpacking’.

The French verb emballer and the derived noun emballage are ultimately derived from the noun balle, by means of the prefix en‑, used in French much like in Spanish (cf. Part I, Chapter 5, §5.6.1). To that, the verbal inflections were added in the case of the verb, such as the infinitive ending ‑er, or the derivational suffix ‑age in the case of the noun: cf. en+balle+er/age. Fr. balle means several things: ‘bullet’, ‘ball’, ‘bale’, ‘chaff’, etc., since there are three different sources for this word, which should actually be seen as three separate words.

The French word balle that we are interested in, the one that means ‘large bundle, package’, was borrowed into Old French as bale from Frankish *balla ‘ball’ in the 13th century with the meaning ‘rolled-up bundle, packet of goods’ (Frankish was a West Germanic language related to English; Sp. fráncico). French balle is the Spanish word bala, not the one that means ‘bullet’, but the one that means ‘bale’, that is, ‘a large wrapped or bound bundle of paper, hay, or cotton’ (COED). More specifically, this Spanish bala is ‘tight bundle of merchandise, and especially those being shipped’ (DLE) and it is not a common word today. It is partially synonymous with the words fardo and paca. Sp. bala presumably came from Catalan in the 13th century, which came from Old French balle ‘ball’, which came from Frankish balla ‘ball’. Actually, Eng. bale is also a borrowing from French, from the early 14th century. (Eng. bale is unrelated to any of the four homophonous words bail in English.)

As we can see from the source of Fr. balle, this word is a cognate of Eng. ball, which is not a loanword, since it descends from Old English *beall or *bealla ‘round object, ball’ (cf. Old Norse bǫllr ‘ball’). Ultimately, these words go back to a reconstructed Proto-Indo-European word *bʰoln‑ ‘bubble’ derived from the Proto-Indo-European verbal root *bʰel‑ ‘to blow, inflate, swell’. All words in Romance that are cognate with this word are loanwords from Germanic, since no direct descendants of this Proto-Indo-European root exist in Latin or Romance.

As for the other word bala, the one that means ‘bullet’ or ‘projectile’, some Spanish dictionaries bundle it with the other bala that means ‘bale’ since the two come ultimately come from the same Germanic source. However, the two words came into the language at different times and through different intermediaries. The bala that means ‘bullet’ seems to come from Italian palla, meaning both ‘ball’ and ‘bullet’ (Corominas). Italian took this word from an old Germanic language of northern Italy, Lombardic (also known as Langobardic). The original Lombardic word was palla and it meant both ‘ball (to play with)’ and ‘bullet (projectile)’, which was obviously a cognate of Eng. ball, coming from the same Proto-Germanic ancestor.

Finally, let us look at Eng. bullet, which is unrelated to the other words we just saw. One might have suspected that this word is related to the word for ‘ball’, but it is not. It comes from French boulette, diminutive of boule ‘ball’, cognate of Sp. bola ‘ball’, which, again, are not related to Eng ball. These words come ultimately from Latin bŭlla ‘bubble, a swollen or bubble-shaped object’, which is thought to be a loan from Celtic that goes back to the Proto-Indo-European root *beu ‘swelling’. The Latin verb bŭllīre ‘to bubble; to boil’ is derived from this noun and is the source of Eng. boil and Sp. bullir ‘to boil, bubble up, etc.’ (the Spanish nouns bulla and bullicio both meaning ‘racket, row, ruckus’ is derived from this verb). In other words, Eng. bullet is related to Sp. bola ‘ball’, but not related to Eng. ball. Thus, the words Eng. ball and Sp. bola, which qualify as cognates using the ‘learning’ definition of the word cognate, do not qualify as cognates by using the etymological definition that we use in this book.


engranaje (1869) is a 19th century loanword from Modern French engrenage [ɑ̃.ɡʀə.ˈnaʒ], a word created in the early 18th century. The two words have the same meanings, the primary one being ‘the engagement of two or more toothed wheels’ (VOX). The word eventually also came to refer to the parts that engage in such wheels, the gears or cogs in a machine, that is to say, ‘the gear system meshing to transmit movement of one rotation shaft to another’ (GR) or ‘the set of gear wheels and parts that fit together and are part of a mechanism or a machine’ (VOX). The word engranaje is often used in the plural, as engranajes, just like English gear is often used in the plural to refer as gears, e.g. Sp. el engranaje (or los engranajes) de un reloj ‘the gears of a clock’. Note that the English noun gear is only equivalent to Sp. engranaje in this specific meaning, not the other meanings that Eng. gear has. The two words are not fully equivalent in this mechanical either. Eng. gear, for instance, has a derived sense ‘a particular setting of engaged gears: [e.g.] in fifth gear’ which translates into Spanish as marcha or velocidad, e.g. Este carro tiene cinco marchas/velocidades ‘This car has five gears’.[2]

The French noun engrenage was derived from the verb engrener [ɑ̃.ɡʀə.ˈne] which, in mechanics, means ‘to gear, mesh, engage’. The verb is quite old however, from the 12th century, and the verb was used in agriculture with the meaning ‘to feed or fill the hopper with grain’, a meaning this verb still has. The verb was formed with the prefix en‑ ‘in’ and the noun grain ‘grain’ (cf. patrimonial Sp. grano and Eng. grain, a loanword from French). This verb is not related to Eng. ingrain or engrain, though it comes from the phrase in graine, which contains the same noun graine ‘grain, seed’, actually graine d’écarlate ‘scarlet seed’, a dye.[3] Note that Fr. engrener is occasionally spelled as engrainer and pronounced [ɑ̃.ɡʀɛ.ˈne] or [ɑ̃.ɡʀe.ˈne].

It seems that the mechanical meaning of engrener arose in the mid-17th century from a mistaken corruption of an earlier adjective encrené ‘notched’, derived from the noun *cren ‘notch, indentation, slot’, which in Modern French is cran ‘notch, cut, hole (as in a belt)’ (cf. Sp. muesca, agujero). This noun is derived from the verb crener (Modern créner) that meant ‘to notch, to nick; to cut’, which is thought to come ultimately from the Latin noun crēna ‘incision, notch’, a word with a very obscure history (OED). Actually, the word crena appears in the OED, which appears to have taken it from The New Sydenham Society’s Lexicon of Medicine and the Allied Sciences (1878-1899), though it is not found in other major dictionaries of English. According to the OED, it is mostly a technical term in Botany and Zoology with the following meanings ‘an indentation, a notch; spec. in Botany one of the notches on a toothed or crenated leaf; Anatomy the depression or groove between the buttocks; the longitudinal groove on the anterior and posterior surface of the heart (New Sydenham Soc. Lexicon)’ (OED).

Spanish also borrowed the verb engranar ‘to engage, mesh, interlock’ from French engrener in the 19th century (DRAE 1884). This verb has pretty much replaced an earlier verb endentar, derived from the root dent‑ ‘tooth’ (en-dent-ar) and which is still in use with the meaning ‘engage; mesh, interlock; indent’.[4] Note that Spanish changed the middle e of the French words engrener and engrenaje to a: engranar and engranaje. This no doubt was done because of the perceived connection to the word for ‘grain’ in the original word, which in Spanish is grano.


[1] Sp. empaquetado is a noun derived from the masculine past participle of the verb empaquetar ‘to pack, put into a package’, itself derived from the noun paquete ‘package’, a loanword from Fr. paquet, a diminutive of the Dutch pak, a cognate of Eng. pack (cf. Eng. package below). A synonym of empaquetado is the noun empaque derived by conversion from the verb empacar ‘to pack into boxes, etc.’ and ‘to bale’ (in Spanish America it also means ‘pack suitcases’, which in Spain is known as hacer las maletas.

Another word for ‘packaging’ in Spanish is envase, a noun derived from the verb envasar that means ‘to can’ when packing food into cans, ‘to bottle’ when packing liquids into bottles, and ‘to pack’ when packing things into packages or boxes. The noun envase can also translate as container and it refers primarily to the packaging that is in direct contact with the merchandise, such as a bottle or the wrapping for a product. The verb envasar, attested in the 16th century, is derived from the noun vaso ‘drinking glass’, from Vulgar Latin vasum, from Latin vās vāsis ‘a vessel, dish; also, a utensil, implement of any kind’ (L&S): en‑vas‑ar.

[2] The ‘equipment’ sense of the English noun gear translates as equipo (lit. ‘equipment’, but another sense of equipo is ‘team’), the ‘belongings’ sense translates as efectos personales, cosas, or pertenencias and the ‘clothes’ sense as ropa.

[3] Eng. engrain or ingrane originally meant ‘to dye a fabric red with cochineal or kermes’ and, later on, with any fast dye. This verb was equivalent to the phrase to dye in grain. Some point to a 16th century French verb engrainer ‘to dye’ as the source, though it is not clear what language came up with the verb first. What there is no doubt about is that it comes ultimately from the French phrase en graine ‘fast-dyed’, where graine meant ‘cochineal dye’ also known as ‘kermes’. The English verb engrain/ingrain now means ‘firmly fix or establish (a habit, belief, or attitude) in a person’ (COED). The phrase to dye in grain has been reinterpreted in English to mean ‘to impregnate the very substance of the material with the dye, to dye the wool before it is woven’, as if this grain meant something close to what the normal word grain means in English, something like ‘unprocessed fiber’.

[4] Sp. endentar means ‘to fit/gear/interlock one thing into another by means of teeth or notches’ (Sp. ‘encajar una cosa en otra por medio de dientes o muescas’, MM) as well as ‘to put teeth on a wheel’ (Sp. ‘poner dientes a una rueda’, DLE), e.g. Tengo que endentar la cadena de la bicicleta porque se ha salido ‘I have to engage the teeth of the bicycle chain because it came out’ (Clave).

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