The words Eng. jubilation ~ Sp. jubilación are cognates, since they have the same source, namely the Latin noun iūbĭlātĭōnem, accusative-case wordform of the noun iūbĭlātĭo, which means ‘wild shouting, ‘rejoicing, etc.’. The meanings of Eng. jubilation ~ Sp. jubilación are quite different, however, which makes them false friends. Only Eng. jubilation has a meaning like that of the original Latin word. Sp. jubilación actually means ‘retirement’.
Figure 223: Retired Picnic at Otford Lookout, Australia[i]
Eng. jubilation [ʤu.bɪ.ˈleɪ̯.ʃən] is attested in writing as early as the late 14th century, as a loanword from Old French, which borrowed it from Latin probably in the 12th century, when it is first attested as jubilaciun. The French spelling jubilation, closer to the original Latin one and identical to the Modern English one, is from the end of the 14th century. In the first record that we have of this word in English, it was spelled iubilacioun. Modern French jubilation [ʒy.bi.lɑ.sjɔ̃] still has the same meaning that its ancestor had in Latin and that its cognate has in English, but unlike the meaning their Spanish cognate jubilación has come to have.
The main meaning of Eng. jubilation is ‘a feeling of great happiness, especially because of a success’ (CALD). Other dictionaries add that, in addition to a feeling of joy, jubilation can refer to its expression, as in ‘a feeling of or the expression of joy or exultation’ (RHWU). Actually, some dictionaries only mention the expression of joy in the meaning of jubilation, such as this single definition for the word: ‘loud utterance of joy, exultation, (public) rejoicing; an expression of exultant joy’ (SOED).
Sp. jubilación [xu.βi.la.ˈθ/si̯on], first attested in the late 16th century, on the other hand, now means simply ‘retirement’, referring to the act of retiring and the condition of being retired from work-life. The Clave dictionary defines jubilación as ‘definitive retirement from a job, generally for having reached the age determined by law or for suffering a physical disability’, as in ¿Cuándo es tu jubilación? ‘When is your retirement’ or ‘When does your retirement start?’. The word jubilación is also used for the pension that one receives during retirement from a job with private or public pension benefits, such as the public social security retirement benefits in the United States. You may thus hear a question such as ¿De cuánto es tu jubilación?, meaning ‘How much do you get for retirement?’ or ‘How much is your pension?’
The Spanish noun jubilación is related to the verb jubilar(se). The verb jubilar is a transitive one that means ‘to retire’, as in ‘to force someone to leave their job, especially before they reach the age when they are officially too old to work’ (MED, for one of the transitive senses of the English verb retire). The reflexive version jubilarse is thus the intransitive version of jubilar, and it thus means ‘to stop working, especially when you reach the age when you are officially too old to work’ (MED, for another of the intransitive senses of the English verb retire).
The verb jubilar(se) comes from Lat. iūbĭlāre ‘sing or shout joyfully, halloo, huzza’, the verb that the noun iūbĭlātĭo is derived from. Note that English has a cognate of this verb, namely jubilate, one that comes from the passive participle form iūbĭlātus of the verb iūbĭlāre. This verb, which is significantly less common than the noun jubilation, first appeared in English in the early 17th century. The Latin verb iūbĭlāre presumably comes from an exclamation of joy in the ancestor language which has been reconstructed as *jū ‘yeah!’. From this verb, as we said, comes the noun iūbĭlātĭo, derived from the stem iūbĭlāt‑ of the verb’s passive participle iūbĭlātus and the noun-forming suffix ‑ĭōn‑.
Note that the meanings of Sp. jubilarse and Eng. retire are quite close but are not identical. In Spanish, jubilarse strongly implies that one has reached retirement age and receives a pension. Thus, it would be odd to use this verb for someone such as a 30-year old professional soccer player who has stopped playing professionally. In English, we use the verb retire for that situation as well, however. In the case of the soccer player, or of anyone who stops practicing a profession early and does not receive a traditional pension, the verb jubilarse is not appropriate. For that, Spanish uses the verb retirarse, a cognate of Eng. retire. The verb retirar is used as the transitive version of retirarse in this case, as in Retiraron al futbolista ‘They retired the soccer player’.
Actually, some dialects of Spanish use the verb retirarse as a synonym of jubilarse and in dialects of Spanish that have been heavily influenced by English, such as the Spanish of many Spanish speakers in the United States, only the term retirarse is used, never jubilarse. Speakers of these dialects may not even be aware of the existence of the words jubilarse and jubilación to talk about retirement, although the use of these words with those meanings goes back many centuries, as we shall see.
We should also mention that Eng. retire and Spanish jubilar(se) can have other senses besides the ones we have been discussing. For example, Eng. retire can have the (intransitive) meaning ‘to stop playing in a game, competition, etc., especially because of injury’ or the rather formal ‘to move to a different place’, as in He retired to the library to study (MWALD). There is even a transitive meaning of retire that can be defined as ‘to take (something) out of use, service, or production’, as in The Navy is retiring the old battleship (MWALD). Note that Spanish can use jubilar with a sense very similar to that last one, but only colloquially and in a somewhat humorous sense. One dictionary defines that sense of Sp. jubilar as ‘to stop using something because it is useless, old, or broken’ (DUEAE), as in the expression jubilar una camisa ‘lit. to retire a shirt’, i.e. ‘to stop using an old shirt’ (cf. Sp. ‘dejar de usar una cosa por inútil, vieja o estropeada’, DUEAE).
So how did these two words Eng. jubilation ~ Sp. jubilación come to have such different meanings? We know that it is the Spanish word that changed its meaning, since the meaning of the English word matches the meaning of the original Latin word. Could the fact that retirement is often seen as a cause for jubilation be the connection between the meanings of both words? Obvious as that connection might seem, it is not fully accurate, though there may be some truth to it. The matter is complicated, and the answer is to be found in another set of cognates, namely Eng. jubilee and Sp. jubileo.
Eng. jubilee, [ˈʤu.bɪ.li] or [ˈʤu.bə.li], is attested in the late 14th century. According to one dictionary, the main meaning of this word is ‘a specially celebrated anniversary, especially a 50th anniversary’ and ‘the celebration of such an anniversary’ (AHD). The same dictionary also gives two other senses for this word, however: ‘a season or an occasion of joyful celebration’ and ‘jubilation; rejoicing’. Yet another meaning of the word jubilee is the word’s original meaning, namely ‘in the Hebrew Scriptures, a year of rest to be observed by the Israelites every 50th year, during which slaves were to be set free, alienated property restored to the former owners, and the lands left untilled’ (AHD). Finally, in the Catholic Church, the word jubilee came to have a related meaning, namely ‘a year during which plenary indulgence may be obtained by the performance of certain pious acts’. Since the end of the 14th century, this year traditionally came every 25 years.
Sp. jubileo [xu.βi.ˈle.o], which is already attested in the 13th century, only has the last two, religious meanings of its English cognate, namely the Hebrew one and the Catholic (indulgence) one, which can be defined as ‘plenary, solemn and universal indulgence granted by the Pope at certain times and occasions’ (Larousse). Crucially, this Spanish word does not have the ‘anniversary’ meaning that its English cognate has. The word is also used colloquially in some dialects of Spanish with the meaning ‘constant entering and exiting of people from a place’ (DUEAE, ‘entrada y salida frecuente de muchas personas de un lugar’), as in the sentence Con el jubileo que había allí no es raro que los perdiéramos de vista ‘There were so many people going in and out that it is not surprising that we lost their sight’. However, that meaning of the word jubileo is rare today and many Spanish speakers have not heard of it.
The direct source of Eng. jubilee and Sp. jubileo is the Late Latin adjective iubilaeus, which was also used as a noun from the shortening of the phrase iubilaeus annus ‘year of jubilee’. The ultimate source is the Hebrew word יובל (yobēl/yovēl) that meant ‘ram, ram’s horn’ and also ‘jubilee’ in the Hebrew sense mentioned earlier. Traditionally it has been thought that the ‘jubilee’ meaning of this word is derived from the ‘ram’s horn’ one due to the fact that the horn was used as a trumpet to announce the jubilee year, though some question that theory. In the Biblical Hebrew world,
The Jubilee (Hebrew: יובל yōḇel; Yiddish: yoyvl) is the year at the end of seven cycles of shmita (Sabbatical years), and according to Biblical regulations had a special impact on the ownership and management of land in the Land of Israel; there is some debate whether it was the 49th year (the last year of seven sabbatical cycles, referred to as the Sabbath's Sabbath), or whether it was the following (50th) year. Jubilee deals largely with land, property, and property rights. According to Leviticus, slaves and prisoners would be freed, debts would be forgiven, and the mercies of God would be particularly manifest. (Wikipedia)[ii]
This Hebrew word was borrowed into Biblical Greek as ἰώβηλος (iṓbēlos) ‘jubilee’. (Remember that both the Hebrew Bible, the Christians’ Old Testament, and the Christian Bible, the Christians’ New Testament, were first translated into Koiné Greek.) The adjective derived from this noun in Greek was ἰωβηλαῖος (iōbēlaîos) ‘of a jubilee’. This Greek adjective was borrowed into Church Latin as the noun iūbilaeus, as we have seen, appearing already in the Vulgate, the Catholic Church’s original Latin translation of the Bible. From this Latin word come Eng. jubilee and Sp. jubileo, as well as French jubilé and Italian giubbileo, among others. The fact that this Greek word was Latinized as iūbilaeus and not as iōbēlaeus as it should have, considering how Greek words were typically changed when they were borrowed, indicates that the word was contaminated from the very beginning by the existing verb iūbĭlāre and related words, since the two words sounded very much alike and the two meanings must have seemed quite compatible to them. This association between these words is found also in all languages that have borrowed both of these words, such as the Romance languages and English. The connection of the two words in the popular imagination, faint as it may be, may have had something to do with the final use of the Spanish noun jubilación to name the concept of retirement, as we shall see.
Note that the idea of jubilee was something very present in West European cultures since it acquired a new meaning beyond the Biblical one in the Catholic Church, which became the official religion of the Roman empire in the 4th century and of Western Europe until the Protestant Reformation in the 16th century. That is because in the year 1300, Pope Boniface VIII chose this word to refer to ‘a year of remission from the penal consequences of sin, during which plenary indulgence might be obtained by a pilgrimage to Rome, the visiting of certain churches there, the giving of alms, fasting three days, and the performance of other pious works’ (OED). (Don’t forget that indulgences were one of the main reasons for the Protestant Reformation.) The Catholic jubilee was originally to take place every 100 years, but the period between Catholic jubilees has been regularly shortened over time to 50 years, 33 years, and most recently 25 years, with ‘extraordinary jubilees’ being granted at any time by popes to the whole flock or only to certain cities or countries, in this case not necessarily for a full year.
In the English-speaking world, the word jubilee also came to be used since the late 14th century to refer to something else, namely ‘the fiftieth anniversary of an event; the celebration of the completion of fifty years of reign, of activity, or continuance in any business, occupation, rank or condition’ (OED). Eventually, different terms came to be used for different periods: golden jubilee after 50 years, silver jubilee after 25 (after silver wedding), and diamond jubilee, which was applied to the celebration of the sixtieth year of the reign of Queen Victoria, queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland (1837-1901) and Empress of India (since 1876).
The practice of retiring from work and receiving a private or public pension or subsidy to live the rest of one’s years is a recent one, not much older than a century. Although this practice started in the 18th century, when people started to live longer, it was not established as part of public policy in the more advanced industrial countries until the late 19th and early 20th centuries, after hard-fought battles by the working class. The first country to adopt an official retirement policy was the Germany under Otto von Bismarck in 1883 in a maneuver against socialist demands. (Don’t forget that the country of Germany was only unified as a nation-state in 1871.) In the United States, retirement only became something sanctioned by the government with President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Social Security Act of 1935.
The term retirement in English for this practice of one’s work life coming to an end would seem to be a natural one, since the word had been borrowed from French retirement in the 16th century for ‘the action or an act of falling back or retreating from a place or position’ and ‘the action of receding; movement back or away’, senses that are now used mostly only in a military context. French had created this word retirement in the late 15th century out of the verb retirer (source of Eng. retire) and the Latinate noun-forming suffix ‑ment. Spanish too borrowed this word too as retiramiento, which is attested in the late 16th century, but it has been replaced by retiro, a back-formation of the verb retirar, or by retirada in military contexts, a noun derived from the past participle of the verb. The Spanish verb retirar is first attested in the second half of the 16th century and had to come from French, for French created the verb retirer in the 12th century from the verb tirer ‘to pull, etc.’ and the prefix re‑ ‘back’ and hence its literal meaning was ‘to pull back’. Modern Fr. retirer means ‘to take off/away, remove, take out, to withdraw’. The reflexive se retirer, equivalent to Sp. retirarse, is used for the sense ‘to retire (from work)’, much like its English cognate retire is.
We do not know who started referring to retirement as jubilación and to the action as jubilarse in Spanish. However, we know that the use of this word for retirement from certain professions, such as from the military, goes back many centuries in Spanish. We find the words jubilar and jubilado in Nebrija’s famous late-15th century dictionaries with the ‘retirement’ sense. It is quite clear that the biblical notion of jubilee, of ceasing to work the fields after (typically) 50 years of continuous work, influenced the use of these words with this meaning (Corominas). After all, if a person started their work-life at 15, after 50 years, they would be 65, an age that very few people reached in those days. Note, however, that originally these words could also be used with the other sense, the one that descends from Lat. iūbĭlāre, namely ‘to rejoice’. Thus, in the Quixote the word jubilar is used with both senses. When the related noun jubilación first appears in the late 16th century it could also be used with both of these senses, though the ‘jubilation’ sense came to be obsolete in Modern Spanish. The meaning ‘jubilation’ is now expressed in Spanish with the noun júbilo, also first attested in the late 16th century. It is a loanword from Late Latin jūbĭlum, a back-formation from the verb iūbĭlāre, and a synonym in Latin of the derived noun iūbĭlātĭo.
It is interesting that, as we said earlier, the word jubilación is used for regular jobs, which are traditionally considered less desirable and less enjoyable, and not so much for liberal professional occupations, such as doctors and lawyers, from which one tends to retire from active participation without ceasing to be a member of the profession. Also, practitioners of liberal professions tend to be better off and less in need of a pension from the business or the state. The former are the jobs that one may be most jubilant about retiring from and it is quite likely that this idea was not lost on whoever chose the word jubilación to refer to retirement, even if the notion of jubilee was also present when this use was first adopted.
Finally, there are a couple more words that we should look at. One is the Spanish adjective cum noun jubilado/a, derived by conversion (without affixes) from the past participle of the verb jubilar. The adjective jubilado/a means ‘retired’, as in Estoy jubilada ‘I am retired’, just like the identical-looking participle, as in Me he jubilado este año ‘I have retired this year’. This word can also be used as a noun, however, as Spanish adjectives always can, as in Somos dos jubilados ‘We are two retired people’.
There is also an adjective jubiloso/a in Spanish, first attested in the second half of the 19th century. This adjective is the equivalent of Eng. jubilant, which when used to describe a person means ‘joyful’ (Sp. ‘alegre, lleno de júbilo’). The adjective jubiloso/a was derived from the noun júbilo by the addition of the adjectival suffix ‑oso/a (jubil-os-o/a). This adjective is quite rare, however, less common than Eng. jubilant [ˈʤu.bɪ.lənt].
This English adjective jubilant is first attested in the 17th century and is presumably a loanword from (written) Latin jūbilānt-em (nominative iūbilāns), present participle of the verb iūbĭlāre (OED). It first appears in Milton’s Paradise Lost (1667). Note that French too has the word jubilant (fem. jubilante), that means ‘jubilant, exultant’ ([ʒy.bi.ˈlɑ̃, ʒy.bi.ˈlɑ̃t]). This adjective is regularly derived from the verb jubiler [ʒy.bi.ˈle], a cognate of Sp. jubilar that means ‘to be jubilant, to rejoice, to exult’. However, Fr. jubilant is not attested until the 19th century and it could have come about under the influence of English jubilant.
[i] Retired Picnic at Otford Lookout, Otford NSW 2508, Australia; Source: Date 13 January 2012, 10:36, by Alex Proimos, from Sydney, Australia, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Retired_Picnic_at_Otford_Lookout_(6748299401).jpg
[ii] Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jubilee_(biblical) (2018.12.31)
[ii] Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jubilee_(biblical) (2018.12.31)