Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Eng. jubilation ~ Sp. jubilación

[This entry is an excerpt from Chapter 50, "Eng. jubilation and Sp. jubilación", of Part II of the open-source textbook Spanish-English Cognates: An Unconventional Introduction to Spanish Linguistics.]


The cognates Eng. jubilation ~ Sp. jubilación


The words Eng. jubilation ~ Sp. jubilación are cognates, since they both come from the Latin noun iūbĭlātĭo, or actually form this word’s regular stem iūbĭlātĭōn‑, which meant ‘wild shouting of joy, etc.’, that is, the outward expression of a feeling of joy. The meanings of Eng. jubilation ~ Sp. jubilación are quite different, however, which makes them false friends. Whereas the meaning of Eng. jubilation is quite close to that of the original Latin word, Sp. jubilación actually means ‘retirement’.
Figure 229: Retired Picnic at Otford Lookout, Australia[1]

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. In the first record that we have of this word in English, it was spelled iubilacioun. Modern French jubilation [ʒy.bi.lɑ.sjɔ̃] also has the same meaning that its Latin ancestor had and that its cognate jubilation has in English.

Some dictionaries say that Eng. jubilation has the same meaning as the Latin source word, namely ‘an expression of joy’, e.g. ‘loud utterance of joy, exultation, (public) rejoicing; an expression of exultant joy’ (Shorter Oxford English Dictionary). Most dictionaries mention that the word can also mean the feeling, as in ‘a feeling of or the expression of joy or exultation’ (Random House Webster's Unabridged Dictionary). Actually, some verbs only mention the feeling and not its expression as the meaning of this word in English. Curiously, some dictionaries only mention the feeling in their definitions of jubilation, e.g. a feeling of great happiness because of a success’ (Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary)

Sp. jubilación [xu.βi.la.ˈθ/si̯on] is not attested in writing until the late 16th century, though the verb from which it is derived is attested at least a hundred years earlier (see below), but still much later than its French cognate. As we said, now jubilación means simply ‘retirement’, that is, the act of retiring, or 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?’. This meaning seems to have been the meaning of Sp. jubilación since it was first borrowed and the reason seems to be a confusion that arose between this word and an unrelated word jubileo ‘jubilee’, as we will see later on.

The source verb for these nouns


As is the case with all the cognate nouns that end in Eng. ‑tion and Sp. ‑ción, they come from Latin nouns that had the suffix ‑ĭōn‑ that was used to derive action nouns from verbs. The suffix attached itself to the stem of the passive participle form of the verb, which in the case of regular verbs was formed by adding the suffix ‑t  to the basic stem of the verb. That explains why most words that end in Eng. ‑ion also have a t before that ending. In Spanish, most nouns that end in ‑ión, have a ‑c‑ before it, not a ‑t‑, which is due a medieval spelling adaptation (cf. Part I, Chapter 10, §10.4.3.3). (Another common letter before this ending is ‑s‑, as in Eng. vision ~ Sp. visión, which is the result of a sound change that took place in Latin when two t’s or a d and the t of the suffix came together, cf. Chapter 8, §8.4.3.1.3.)

The Latin noun iūbĭlātĭōn‑ ‘a shouting of joy, cheer, etc.’ was derived from the passive participle stem iūbĭlā‑t‑ of the verb iūbĭlāre that meant ‘to sing or shout joyfully’, ‘to cheer’, ‘to halloo, huzza’ (iūbĭl‑ā‑re, iūbĭl‑ā‑t‑ĭōn‑). The Latin verb iūbĭlāre presumably comes from an exclamation of joy in the ancestor language which has been reconstructed as * ‘yeah!’.

English has borrowed this verb as to jubilate ‘to rejoice; exult’, though it is quite fancy and rare. It is first attested in the 17th century and it no doubt comes from Latin, from the passive participle wordform iūbĭlātus of the verb iūbĭlāre. In its first attestation in 1604, it was used with the meaning ‘to make glad, to rejoice’, as in iubilating the heart with pleasure (OED), but this meaning is now obsolete. A few decades later, this verb is found being used intransitively with the meaning ‘to utter sounds of joy or exultation; to make demonstrations of joy; to rejoice, exult’ (OED). Some dictionaries mention a new, more recent secondary meaning for this verb, namely ‘to celebrate a jubilee or joyful occasion’, thus perpetuating a connection of this word with the word jubilee which is not related to it etymologically, as we shall see below (Random House Webster's Unabridged Dictionary). Note that there is also a noun jubilate in English, pronounced [ʤuːbɪˈleɪ̯tiː/ or [juːbiːˈlɑːteɪ̯] used by some Christian denominations with different meanings.)

In Spanish, also has a verb derived to the noun jubilación, namely jubilar which is obviously a loanword from Lat. iūbĭlāre and thus a cognate of Eng. jubilate. But, as in the case of the noun, the verb jubilar, which is a transitive one, means primarily ‘to retire’, as in ‘to declare an employee to be retired from his work activities due to having reached the legal retirement age or due to illness, and receiving a pension’ (María Moliner).[a] This verb is mostly used reflexively, as jubilarse, which is how Spanish makes transitive verbs intransitive, meaning ‘to reach retirement’ (the Academies’ Diccionario de la lengua española).[b]

Sp. jubilarse and retirarse and Eng. retire


The Spanish verb jubilarse is somewhat equivalent to English verb retire and the Spanish noun jubilación is somewhat equivalent to the English noun retirement. Eng. retire is a 16th century loanword from Fr. retirer, a transitive verb meaning ‘to draw back; to withdraw (something)’. English retire is attested by 1533 and it was originally only transitive. It was first used in the military context, said of troops and meaning ‘to fall back or give ground’, much like retreat. Soon thereafter the verb is attested with the intransitive meanings ‘to move back or away’, ‘to retreat to a place for seclusion, security, or privacy’, and a few decades later, ‘to go to bed or rest’ (OED).  By the middle of the century it was being used transitively to some extent, such as with the sense of ‘to pull back troops’. The sense ‘to leave office, employment, or service permanently, now esp. on reaching pensionable age; to stop working’ started by the year 1600 (OED). Originally, this sense seems to have started to refer to soldiers who left the service.

The French verb retirer seems to have been formed in French out of the verb tirer ‘to pull’ and the prefix re‑ ‘back; again’. Fr. retirer is first attested in the mid-12th century. The verb tirer seems to be much older, but its origin is uncertain. It is found in all Western Romance languages. Some think it may be a Germanic word, one related to patrimonial Eng. tear (DCECH).[c] Modern French tirer means ‘to pull, to drag’ and ‘to draw, to tow’, but also ‘to shoot, set off, send off’. It is thus, a close friend of its Spanish cognate tirar, which is also found very frequently in the earliest Old Spanish writings. Also, from very early on, Sp. tirar had the derived meaning ‘to take out, take away, throw out’, the ancestor of the still current additional meanings of tirar ‘to shoot’, ‘to throw’, and ‘to throw away’, which are quite old as well.

There are quite a few Spanish words derived from this verb, such as tiro ‘shot’, tirador ‘shooter’, tirante ‘adj. taut, tight, tense; n. strap, suspender’, tirorear ‘to shoot repeatedly’, tiroteo ‘shoting, exchange of shots’, estirar ‘to stretch’, estirón ‘pull, jerk, tug’. Another related word is retirar, which first appears in the latter part of the 16th century, much later than in English, and it is thus quite likely that Spanish too got this word through French. Related to this verb are the adjective retirado/a ‘remote, secluded, out-of-the-way’ as well as ‘retired’, which is derived from the past participle of the verb, and the converted noun retiro ‘retreat’ as well as ‘retirement’.

Note that the meanings of Sp. jubilarse and Eng. retire are quite close but are not identical, just like the related nouns Sp. jubilación and Eng. retirement are not the same. In Spanish, jubilarse and jubilación strongly imply that one has reached normal retirement age and receives a pension. Thus, it would be odd to use these words for 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 necessarily receive a traditional pension, the verb jubilarse is not appropriate in Spanish. For that, Spanish uses the verb retirarse, a cognate of Eng. retire. The transitive version is, of course, retirar, Retiraron al futbolista tras el accidente ‘They retired the soccer player after the accident’.

Actually, some dialects of Spanish use the verb retirarse as a synonym of jubilarse (and retirar as a synonym of jubilar). Thus, the María Moliner dictionary tells us that jubilarse is equivalent to retirarse and jubilación is equivalent to retiro. The Academies’ dictionary, the DLE, which still has a strong bias towards the Spanish of Spain, however, does mention retirarse and retiro (and retirado), but avoids saying clearly that these words are equivalent to jubilarse and jubilación (and jubilado), while defining all of them in a somewhat circular manner.[d]

It seems that the verb retirarse and the noun retiro were first used to refer to the discharge of professional soldiers in the military and that from there, some dialects have come to apply it to other forms of cessation of gainful activities, instead of jubilarse and jubilación, probably under the influence of English. In dialects of Spanish that are more heavily influenced by English, such as the one spoken in the United States, only the term retirarse is common, not 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.

Related to the English verb retire is the noun retirement, pronounced in the US either [ɹə.ˈtʰaɪ̯.əɹ.mənt] or [ɹi.ˈtʰaɪ̯.əɹ.mənt], equivalent to Sp. jubilación and retiro. This noun is also a loanword from French, from the late 16th century. This noun was created in French out of the verb retirer in the early 16th century, with the suffix ‑ment that derived nouns from verbs. Originally, the term was used in the military context for the act of retreating or pulling back troops. This word is quite rare in French today, however. The way ‘retirement’ is expressed in Modern French is by the noun retraite, the source of Eng. retreat, and which can still mean ‘retreat’ in a military (and religious) context, but whose main meanings are ‘pension, superannuation’, and ‘retirement’. The equivalent of the English verb retire is prendre sa retraite when its retirement from a job.[e] The reflexive verb se retirer, equivalent to Sp. retirarse, is used for retirement from business or politics, for instance. The French equivalent of transitive Eng. retire is mettre a la retraite ‘to make someone retire’ (Sp. jubilar). Non-reflexive Fr. retirer is still used with the senses ‘to take off/away’, ‘to remove’, ‘to withdraw’, ‘to retire (troops)’, etc.

We should also mention that the verbs 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’, which in Spanish would be expressed with abandonar (el campo, etc.). Eng. retire can also have the rather formal sense of ‘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).

Finally, it is important to note that 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 relatively recent one. 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.

Until recent times, the norm was for people to work until they could not do work anymore, which typically meant until they died. Of course, we have to keep in mind people used to die much younger than they do now since average life expectancy in Europe for men was about 35 years until the latter part of the 19th century. The closest thing to retirement that existed before recent times probably took place in the military, where ‘retirement’ often took place before one became too decrepit to fight wars, assuming one survived. Thus, it is not surprising that the words that English uses for retirement, retire and retirement, were first used in the military for the discharge of soldiers (Sp. licenciar). And in Spanish too, retirar and retiro were first used in the same military context, as we have seen. Actually, the practice of discharging soldiers after a certain period of service, often 20 years, was practiced since the time of the Romans. Also, at the end of that service, legionnaires received a bonus, sometimes in the form of land, to allow them to survive the rest of their days.

Eng. jubilee and Sp. jubileo


So how did these nouns Eng. jubilation ~ Sp. jubilación and their associated verbs 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 source word. Could the fact that retirement is often a cause for jubilation be the connection between the meanings of both words? Attractive as that connection might seem, we know that it is not fully accurate, though there may be a grain of 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, pronounced [ˈʤu.bɪ.li] or [ˈʤu.bə.li], is first 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, a jubilee 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’  ( ‘entrada y salida frecuente de muchas personas de un lugar’, DUEAE), 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 sight of them’. However, that meaning of the word jubileo is rare today and it is fair to say that most Spanish speakers probably have never heard it.

The direct source of Eng. jubilee and Sp. jubileo is the Late Latin adjective iubilaeus ‘of (a) jubilee’, which was also used as a noun from the shortening of the phrase iubilaeus annus ‘jubilee year, year of jubilee’. The ultimate source is the Hebrew word יובל‎ (yobēl/yovēl) that meant ‘ram, ram’s horn’, which is the original meaning of this word, and also ‘jubilee’ in the Hebrew sense mentioned earlier. Traditionally it has been thought that the ‘jubilee’ meaning of this Hebrew 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)[2]
This Hebrew word was borrowed into Biblical Greek as ώβηλος (iṓbēlos) ‘jubilee’. In classical times, many Jews used the Greek version of the Hebrew Bible, the Christians’ Old Testament, known as the Septuagint (Sp. septuaginta).[f] Also, let us not forget that the second part of the Christian Bible, known as the New Testament by Christians, was originally written in Koiné Greek.[g] The adjective derived from this noun in Greek was ωβηλαος (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 western Christian 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.

Hebrew
Greek
Latin
English
יובל‎ (yobēl/yovēl)
n. ἰώβηλος (iṓbēlos)



adj. ἰωβηλαος (iōbēlaîos)
adj./n. iūbilaeus
Eng. n. jubilee
Sp. n. jubileo

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 already existing Latin verb iūbĭlāre, 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 to a greater or lesser extent, such as the Romance languages and English, as we have seen. The connection of the two words in the popular imagination, faint as it may have been, 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 Sp. jubileo is attested in Spanish centuries before the appearance of the verb jubilar or the noun jubilación.

The idea of the jubilee was something very present in West European cultures since it acquired a new meaning beyond the Biblical one in the late Middle Ages in Catholic Christianity, the official religion of the Roman empire in the 4th century and of all 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).

In the Roman Catholic Church, an indulgence was reduction in the amount of punishment that sinners must undergo for their sins, particularly atonement in Purgatory, by performing a deed, such as a pilgrimage or by donating money to the Church. The selling of indulgences by the Catholic Church was one of the main reasons for the Protestant Reformation in the 16th century.[h] 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 in 1897 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).[i]

More related words 


As we have seen, the English term retirement that we use now for the period between cessation of one’s work life and death was 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 this word has been replaced by retiro, a back-formation of the verb retirar, or by retirada in military contexts (‘retreat’, ‘withdrawal’), a noun derived from the past participle of the verb retirar. (Two common expressions with this noun are batirse en retirada ‘to beat a retreat’ and emprender la retirada ‘to retreat’.)

As we saw, 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 not used for the sense ‘to retire (from work with a pension)’, but rather with the sense ‘to withdraw’ and ‘to retire to bed’, for example. Both of these reflexive verbs can be used however, for the more generic sense of retiring from active life (cf. Fr. se retirer de la vie active and Sp. retirarse de la vida activa), which is something less precise than standard retirement after reaching retirement age with a pension of some kind.

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 likely that the biblical notion of jubilee, of ceasing to work the fields after (typically) 50 years of continuous work, influenced the use of the meanings of jubilar and jubilación since they were first borrowed (DECH). 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 pretty much 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 iūbĭlum, a back-formation from the verb iūbĭlāre, and a synonym in Latin of the derived noun iūbĭlātĭo.

It is interesting that in Spanish 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.

There are a couple more words related to Eng. jubilation and Sp. jubilación 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 los jubilados ‘retired people, UK pensioners’ or in Mis padres son jubilados ‘My parents are two retired people (UK two pensioners)’. The noun jubilado/a is not just an adjective used as a noun as any other adjective can be used as a noun (e.g. los blancos ‘the white ones’, los grandes ‘the big ones’), but an actual noun derived by conversion from the adjective jubilado/a, much like for example los ricos ‘the rich, rich people; the rich ones’ (cf. Part I, Chapter 5, §5.7.3). As with all such nouns that refer to people, this noun can also be feminine, e.g. Mi madre es jubilada ‘My mother is a pensioner’.


The English equivalent of the noun jubilado/a in American English is retiree, pronounced [ɹɪ.ˌtʰaɪ̯.ˈɹi] or [ɹɪ.ˌtʰaɪ̯.ə.ˈɹi] and meaning ‘one who has retired from active working life’ (American Heritage Dictionary). The OED tells us that this is an American word, equivalent to pensioner in British English (‘one who has retired from a business or occupation; a pensioner’, OED). This noun was created in the middle of the 20th century and it is first attested in writing in 1945, in the Times-Herald newspaper of Washington 3 Oct. 9/1). The ending ‑ee came into English along with words that were borrowed from French. In French, this ending was just the past participle ending ‑é fem. ‑ée, cognate with Sp. ‑ado and ‑ada, respectively, descending from Lat. ‑ātus and ‑āta. Since the middle of the 19th century, this ending has been used somewhat productively in American English to create many new words by analogy with existing ones, which were used in in legal contexts (e.g. donee, lessee, or trustee) and in ‘military and political jargon’ (e.g. draftee, trainee, or nominee) (American Heritage Dictionary). Along with retiree, among the novel creations, we find honoree, deportee, escapee, firee, invitee, benefactee, biographee, employee, payee, and dischargee, some of which are more common than others.

In Spanish, we find an adjective jubiloso/a, first attested in the second half of the 19th century, whose meaning is related to the sense the noun júbilo has, not that of the noun jubilación. 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, in Spanish, from the noun júbilo that we saw in the preceding section by the addition of the adjectival suffix ‑oso/a (jubil-os-o/a). This adjective is quite rare, however, less common than Eng. jubilant.

This English adjective jubilant [ˈʤu.bɪ.lənt] 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), though it is also possible that the term was formed in English out of the Latinate suffix ‑ant borrowed through Old French along with the many words that contain it, such as assistant, servant, disinfectant, expectant, and pleasant. It first appears in Milton’s Paradise Lost (1667). Note that French too has a word jubilant (fem. jubilante), that means ‘jubilant, exultant’ (masc. [ʒy.bi.ˈlɑ̃], fem. [ʒy.bi.ˈlɑ̃t]). This adjective is regularly derived by means of the Latinate suffix ‑ant(e) 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 may very well have come about under the influence of English jubilant.

Eng. pension ~ Sp. pensión


Finally, let us look at the words Eng. pension ~ Sp. pension, which are related semantically to the words we have been looking at in this chapter. In Spanish, the noun jubilación can also be used to refer to the pension that a retired person receives, typically from the government—though there are also private pension plans—something akin to the social security pension retirees receive in the United States, e.g. Con la jubilación que recibe, apenas puede vivir ‘With the pension she receives, she can barely survive’ (Clave).

This sense of jubilación is synonymous with one of the senses of pensión in Spanish as well. However, the cognates Eng. pension ~ Sp. pensión are not always used the same way and are thus not the best of friends, though they are not exactly false friends either. Eng. pension [ˈpɛn.ʃən] can indeed be defined as the money one gets after retirement.[j] The term pension, however, is much more common in the UK than in the US. In the US, people tend to refer to the money they receive from the government, whether it be for retirement or disability, as social security not as pension. In the US, Social Security is ‘a federal insurance scheme providing benefits for pensioners, the unemployed, and the disabled’ (COED).[k] The term pension in the UK, like pension in Spanish, is not used only for retirement, but also for alimony (maintenance in the UK), disability (invalidity in the UK), as well as widow’s pension and even (life) annuities. Thus, Sp. pensión is much like Eng. pension in the UK, since Spanish pensión can refer to pensión de jubiliación (retirement pension), pensión alimenticia (alimony), pensión de invalidez (disability), pensión de viudedad or viudez (widow’s pension), and pensión vitalicia (life annuity).

The Spanish word pensión can also have other meanings. In Colombia, for instance, it is used for school fees or tuition. More generally, pensión can refer to the money one pays for lodging (room and board, in the UK: board and lodging, bed and board) in a guesthouse (in the UK, a boarding house). When the pensión is for students, it translates into English as student hostel. Derived terms are pensión completa ‘full board’ and media pensión ‘demi-pension’ or ‘half board’, in which the main noon-time meal is eaten elsewhere. Related to this meaning is the use of the noun pensión with the meaning ‘hostel, boarding house, guesthouse’, as in Juan vive en una pensión ‘Juan lives in a boarding house’.

The guesthouse sense of Sp. pensión is shared by this word’s French cognate pension [pɑ̃.ˈsjɔ̃], short for pension de famille ‘guesthouse, boarding house’. It is presumably from this sourceword that English has borrowed a second word pension to refer to ‘a small hotel or boarding house in France and other European countries’ (COED). This second word pension is pronounced differently from the other one. In the UK it is common to pronounce it [pɒ̃.ˈsjɒ̃], somewhat like the French pronunciation. In the US, it is typically pronounced closer to the Spanish pronunciation, also with syllable-final stress, like in French.

The source of the cognates Eng. pension ~ Sp. pensión, it is the Latin (stem) pēnsiōn‑ (nominative case: pēnsiō; accusative: pēnsiōnem) that means primarily ‘a paying, payment, a term of payment’ (L&S), a figurative sense derived from the original meaning of this noun, which was ‘a weighing’, since it is an action noun derived by means of the noun suffix ‑ĭōn‑ from the stem pēns‑ of the passive participle pēnsus of the verb pendĕre that meant ‘to suspend, hang’ and ‘to weigh’.[l]

From the noun pension, English has derived the verb to pension, always with an off prepositional phrase, as in the phrasal verb to pension off, meaning ‘dismiss someone from employment, typically because of age or ill health, and pay them a pension’ (OAD) and, referring to things, ‘discard something because it is too old or no longer wanted’ (OAD), somewhat similar to a sense of Sp. jubilar (see above).

The noun pension is found in a number of expressions or collocation, such as Eng. pension plan (also pension scheme in the UK), which translates into Spanish as plan de pensiones/jubilación, Eng. pension fund = Sp. fondo de pensiones, Eng. to be on a pension or to draw a pension = Sp. cobrar una pensión, and Eng. disability pension = Sp. pensión por discapacidad/invalidez.

In the UK, a retired person (or actually anyone who receives a pension) is known as a pensioner, equivalent to the Spanish noun jubilado/a (for a retired pensioner). The term pensioner is used in the UK somewhat equivalently to the expression senior citizen in American English. Spanish also has the equivalent term (a paronym) pensionista. In Spain, the expression hogar del pensionista is used for a day centre for the elderly. Note that in the context of a boarding house, pensionista translates as resident, lodger, or boarder.





[a] The original says: “Declarar a un ↘empleado retirado del ejercicio de sus funciones, por haber alcanzado la edad reglamentaria o por enfermedad, asignándole una pensión ⇒ *Retirar.” (MM, note that this dictionary tells us that jubilar is equivalent to retirar.

[b] The original says: “Conseguir la jubilación” (DLE; notice that the verb is defined in terms of the noun, which is considered to be more basic); ‘Pasar a la situación de jubilado. ⇒ *Retirarse” (MM; note that this dictionary says that jubilarse is equivalent to retirarse, see below).

[c] DCECH objects to the Germanic source theory on semantic grounds. But the other theories as to the origin of Fr. tirer ~ Sp. tirar are considered by this source to be even less convincing. The DCECH considers it plausible that the word comes from Parthian (Sp. pártico) *tīr ‘arrow’, which is consistent with the ‘throw’ sense of this verb, which is attested very early. The way this word would have ended in Vulgar Latin is through the jargon of Roman legionnaires.

[d] In the DLE, sense 11 of retirar is: “11. prnl. [retirarse] Abandonar un trabajo, una competición, una empresa.” and sense 13 is “13. prnl. Dicho de un militar, de un funcionario, etc.: Pasar a la situación de retirado.” For retirado, the following are senses 2 and 3: “2. adj. Dicho de un militar: Que deja oficialmente el servicio, conservando algunos derechos. U. t. c. s.  3. adj. Dicho de un funcionario, de un obrero, etc.: Que alcanza la situación de retiro.” As for retiro, the DLE’s 5th and 6th senses are the following: “5. m. Situación del militar, funcionario, obrero, etc., retirado.  6. m. Sueldo, haber o pensión que perciben los retirados.”

[e] The French noun retraite (first attested in the late 12th century) is derived by conversion from the (identical) feminine form of the past participle of the verb retraire (spelled retrait or retret in Old French and Middle French), that descends from Lat. rētrăhĕre ‘to draw back, withdraw’ (cf. Sp. retraer). English retreat is attested in the early 14th century.

[f] The Septuagint is ‘a Greek version of the Hebrew Scriptures that dates from the 3rd century B.C., containing both a translation of the Hebrew and additional and variant material, regarded as the standard form of the Old Testament in the early Christian Church and still canonical in the Eastern Orthodox Church’ (AHD). The term Septuagint comes from Late Latin septuaginta (interpretes) ‘seventy (interpreters)’, from Latin septuaginta ‘seventy’ (source of Sp. setenta).

[g] The New Testament is ‘the second part of the Christian Bible, recording the life and teachings of Christ and his earliest followers’ (COED). The first part of the Christian Bible is the Old Testament, ‘comprising thirty-nine books and corresponding approximately to the Hebrew Bible’ (COED).

[h] The cogantes Eng. indulgence ~ Sp. indulgencia come from Lat. indulgentĭa ‘leniency, gentleness, complaisance, gentleness, remission’, a noun derived from the stem indulgent‑ of the present participle of the verb indulgēre ‘to be kind/courteous; to indulge in; to concede, allow; etc.’. This verb must have come from an earlier *dulgēre, which is not attested in Latin. English borrowed the verb to indulge in the 17th century, but Spanish never borrowed the verb itself, though it did borrow the adjective indulgente, cognate of Eng. indulgent. From the neuter form of the passive participle indultus ‘indulged’ of the verb indulgēre, the noun indultum was created by conversion in Late Latin with the meaning ‘grant, gift, concession’. Spanish borrowed this noun in the early 17th century as indulto with the meaning ‘pardon, amnesty, reprieve (of the death penalty)’. From the noun, Spanish has created the verb indultar ‘to pardon, reprieve’. The noun indult was also borrowed into English, in the 15th century, but it is quite rare since its meaning is ‘(in the Roman Catholic Church) a licence granted by the Pope authorizing an act that the common law of the Church does not sanction’ (COED). It is quite possible that the modern meaning and use of Sp. indulto emerged from the meaning of the sourceword in Church Latin.

[i] The current queen of the United Kingdom, Elizabeth II, celebrated her diamond jubilee in 2012.

[j] The Concise Oxford English Dictionary defines this sense as ‘a regular payment made by the state to people of or above the official retirement age and to some widows and disabled people’ (COED). Webster’s defines it as ‘a payment, not wages, made regularly to a person (or to his family) who has fulfilled certain conditions of service, reached a certain age, etc. [a soldier's pension, an old-age pension]’.

[k] In the UK, on the other hand, social security refers to ‘monetary assistance from the state for people with an inadequate or no income’ (COED), something like welfare in the US, and, thus, pension is the regular word for the entitlement money one receives upon retirement.

The meaning of the calqued Spanish term Seguridad Social varies somewhat from country to country. In Spain, for instance, it is equivalent to the National Health Service in the UK, a national, government-run health insurance.

[l] The frequentative version of Lat. pendĕre was pēnsāre, a first conjugation verb also formed with the passive participle stem of the former verb (cf. Part I, Chapter 8, §8.4.3.6). It meant ‘to weigh, counterbalance’, ‘to pay for, purchase’, as well as ‘to ponder, consider’ and, in Medieval Latin, ‘to think’. This verb has given us patrimonial Sp. pesar ‘to weigh’, as well as semi-learned Sp. pensar ‘to think’.

Latin had another verb that meant ‘to weigh’, namely pondĕrāre. This verb was derived from the regular stem pondĕr‑ of the noun pondus (gen. pondĕris) ‘a weight, a weight used in a scale’, ‘the weight of a pound’, etc. (cf. Eng. pound). In addition, it also meant ‘to weigh in the mind, to ponder, consider, reflect upon’. This verb has given us the learned cognate verbs Eng. ponder ~ Sp. ponderar.



[1] 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

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