Antonyms of olvidar: recordar and acordarse
Let us now take a look at the antonyms of the Spanish verb olvidar, the equivalent words of Eng. remember, which is the antonym of forget. (An antonym, Sp. antónimo, is ‘a word having a meaning opposite to that of another word’ (COED), cf. Part I, Chapter 6, §6.4.3.) There are a couple of related verbs in Spanish that can translate into English as remember and they too cause difficulties for Spanish-language learners, difficulties which are similar, but not identical, to those that we saw above were caused by olvidar.
The main antonyms of Sp. olvidar are transitive recordar and intransitive-pronominal acordarse (de). These two verbs are cognates of Eng. record and accord, respectively but both pairs are what we call false friends in this book, namely cognates that differ significantly in meaning. (They are cognates because they have the same source, which is the definition of cognate that we use in this book.) Some varieties of Spanish also have an intransitive-pronominal (reflexive) version of recordar, namely recordarse (de), as an alternative to acordarse (de). This variant is not considered standard in Spanish nowadays, however. Even more rare is the non-standard intransitive use of recordar (de). Thus, we find sentences in Spanish such as the following, all of them meaning ‘I remember my grandmother a lot’:
- Recuerdo mucho a mi abuela (transitive)
- Me acuerdo mucho de mi abuela (intransitive-pronominal, de)
- Me recuerdo mucho de mi abuela (intransitive-pronominal, archaic, non-standard in some countries)
- Recuerdo mucho de mi abuela (intransitive, non-pronominal, non-standard, very rare)
Latin verbs meaning ‘to remember’ and their descendants
Sp. recordar(se) and its cognates in other Romance languages descend from one of the various Latin verbs that that could mean ‘to remember’, namely from Lat. recŏrdārī. This was just one such verb, and not even the main one. Each one of the following synonymous verbs was used in Latin in different contexts to express the notion ‘to remember’, depending for instance on the type of remembering or the nature of the memory. The main one was the first one:
· mĕmĭnisse ‘to remember, be mindful of, etc.’, an irregular third conjugation verb that was perfect in form but present in meaning and had no supine stem; it was originally formed out of the Proto-Indo-European root *men‑ ‘to think’, also found in the Latin noun mēns - mentis ‘mind’; the first person, present tense form was mĕmĭnī ‘I remember’, the wordform that is often used to name this verb (in this book, we prefer to use the present infinitive, cf. Par I, Chapter 8, §8.4.3)
· reminīscī ‘to recollect, remember, etc.’ (followed by a noun in the genitive case), a third conjugation, deponent verb, with no perfect or supine stem; ultimately derived from re‑ + *(me)minīscor, derived from mĕmĭnisse (see above)
· recŏrdārī ‘to call to mind, remember, recall, recollect’, a first conjugation, deponent verb (principal parts: present recordor, present infinitive recordārī, and perfect active recordātus sum)
· mĕmŏrārī (memoror, memorātus sum) ‘to remember, be mindful of (ecclesiastical Latin)’; first conjugation, deponent verb
· mĕmŏrāre ‘to remind, bring to mind; to tell, recount’, first conjugation verb, derived from the third conjugation adjective mĕmor – mĕmŏris ‘mindful, remembering’
Of all these verbs, the only one that passed into Spanish patrimonially was recordārī. Actually, Sp. recordar comes from a regularized Vulgar Latin version of this verb. In Vulgar Latin, this deponent (irregular) verb was eventually turned into a regular first-conjugation active verb, namely recordare, which is the source of Sp. recordar and of its cognates in other Romance languages. We will look at how this verb is used in Spanish below.
English borrowed the verb record pronounced [ɹəˈkʰɔɹd] or [ɹiˈkʰɔɹd], in the 12th century from Old French recorder, which also meant ‘to remember’ and was often used reflexively, like its Spanish cognate. But this French verb had also come to mean other things by this time: ‘to repeat, to recite, to relate, tell, bear witness to, declare, to make a record’, among other things (OED), and it is this last meaning that came to be the main meaning of Eng. record, namely ‘to make a record of’. The noun record used in that definition of the verb record is pronounced differently, namely [ˈɹɛkəɹd]. Currently its primary meaning is ‘a piece of evidence about the past, especially a written or other permanent account’ (COED). It is an early 14th century loanword from Old French record or recorde, derived from the verb and its meaning is ‘piece of evidence about past events, memory, account, etc.’ (OED). This noun is a cognate of the Spanish noun recuerdo that means ‘memory’ as well as ‘memento, keepsake’.
Spanish later borrowed the verb memorar from Lat. mĕmŏrāre. This verb is a rare variant of the verb conmemorar ‘to evoke the memory of someone or something, commemorate’, which comes from Lat. commĕmŏrāre ‘to recall an object to memory in all its particulars’ (L&S), a verb derived from mĕmŏrāre by means of the prefix com‑. English too borrowed commemorate in the late 16th century. The two verbs are ‘good friends’, that is, they have very close meanings, namely ‘remember and show respect for, especially with a ceremony or memorial’ (COED). English also briefly borrowed memorate in the 17th century, but that verb is now obsolete, and it is only found in dictionaries that carry obsolete words, such as the Oxford English Dictionary (OED).
But memorar is not the only Spanish verb that comes from Lat. mĕmŏrāre. There is also a cognate of this verb, one that came into Spanish not as a loan but as a word-of-mouth patrimonial descendant and thus changed its form and meaning somewhat along the way, namely the verb membrar that meant ‘to remember’ in Old Spanish. This verb was very common in Spanish (commonly attested in writings) between the 12-14th centuries but by the 16th century is only used by poets (DCEH). This verb was typically used as a pronominal verb followed by the preposition de, as membrarse de, though it was used in other constructions as well (DCEH). Spanish had other words related to the verb membrar, such as membrado ‘prudent, sane’, membranza ‘memory’, remembrar(se) ‘to remember’, remembranza ‘memory’. These words are all archaic or obsolete today since they are only known to those who read old texts.
There are a few common cognate words in English and Spanish that can be traced ultimately to this Latin verb. One of these pairs is the cognate nouns Eng. memorandum ~ Sp. memorándum, whose main meaning in both languages is ‘a written message in business or diplomacy’ and, in legal terminology, ‘a document recording the terms of a transaction’ (COED). They are loanwords from the Latin noun mĕmŏrandum ‘(thing) to be remembered’, derived by conversion from the neuter singular wordform of the adjective mĕmŏrandus ‘worthy of remembrance, noteworthy, which is to be reminded’, which is derived from the gerundive of the verb mĕmŏrāre that we just saw. Another pair of words ultimately related to the verb mĕmŏrāre is the cognate adjectives Eng. memorable ~ Sp. memorable, whose meaning is ‘worth remembering or easily remembered’ (COED). They are both loanwords from Lat. mĕmŏrābĭlis that meant ‘worthy of remembrance’ in classical Latin and, in post-classical Latin also ‘easy to remember’. Both English and Spanish borrowed this word from written Latin in the late 15th century.
Note that English has a verb reminisce, which is related to but not directly descended from the Latin verb reminīscī above. Eng. reminisce [ˌɹɛmɪˈnɪs] is actually a back-formation, created in English from the noun reminiscence and the adjective reminiscent, which are loanwords from reminīscēns, present participle of the verb reminīscī. Thus, Eng. reminisce does not descend directly from the Latin verb reminīscī but rather from a word (lexeme) derived from it.
Eng. reminisce translates into Spanish as rememorar (los viejos tiempos), an expression that uses the verb rememorar, a fancy literary verb meaning ‘to reminisce, recall, harken back to’. This verb is a loanword from the Late Latin verb remĕmŏrārī ‘to remember again, to call to mind’, a verb derived from Lat. mĕmŏrārī by means of the prefix re‑ ‘back, again’.
We couldn’t leave this section without mentioning the very common cognate words Eng. memory ~ Sp. memoria that are obviously related to a couple of the Latin verbs we just saw. These nouns descend ultimately from classical Latin noun mĕmŏrĭa that meant primarily ‘the faculty of remembering, memory, recollection’ (L&S). This noun was derived from the adjective mĕmor (genitive: mĕmoris; stem: mĕmor‑) that meant ‘mindful, remembering, heedful, having a good memory’ among other things (CTL). The source of this adjective has been reconstructed as *me‑mn‑os‑ in Proto-Indo-European, a reduplicated form of the root *men‑ ‘to think’. Lat. mĕmŏrĭa was derived by means of the suffix ‑ĭ‑a that formed feminine abstract nouns, usually from adjective stems or present participle stems, in this case the former (mĕmŏr‑ĭ‑a). English borrowed the word memory [ˈmɛməɹi] from Old French memorie in the 13th century (cf. Modern French mémoire, pronounced [meˈmwaʀ]). In both French and Spanish, this word was most likely a loanword from written Latin mĕmŏrĭa and not a patrimonial one. The French word, however, is attested very early as memorie, from around the year 1050.
There are a few more words in English and Spanish that contain the same root memor‑ as the words that we have just seen, some of which are cognates. Some are Latin loanwords, but some were formed in these languages out of other Latinate words. The following are the most common ones:
- Sp. desmemoriarse ‘to lose one’s memory’
- Sp. desmemoriado/a ‘forgetful, absent-minded’
- Eng. immemorial ~ Sp. inmemorial ‘reaching beyond the limits of memory, tradition, or recorded history’ (AHD), from medieval Latin immemoriālis; Sp. inmemorable is a synonym
- Eng. memento (= Sp. recuerdo, recordatorio), from Lat. memento, imperative form of the verb mĕmĭnisse
- Eng. memoir [ˈmɛmˌwɑɹ] ~ Sp. memoria: Eng. memoir is a doublet of the word memory, borrowed from French in the early 15th century with the meaning ‘written record’
- Eng. memorabilia (= Sp. objetos de recuerdo, etc.)
- Eng. adj./noun memorial (= Sp. adj. conmemorativo, noun monumento (conmemorativo))
- Eng. memorialize (= Sp. conmemorar)
- Eng. memorize ~ Sp. memorizar: this verb was created in English in the late 16th century with the meaning ‘commit to writing’ and the meaning ‘commit to memory’ is from the 19th century; Sp. memorizar is a loanword from English; more common synonym: aprender de memoria
- Eng. remembrance ~ Sp. remembranza (Sp. remembranza is rare today; more common: recuerdo, conmemoración).
As we saw, Sp. recordar comes from Lat. recŏrdārī, a first conjugation, deponent verb that meant primarily and originally ‘to think over, bethink oneself of, be mindful of’, but also ‘to call to mind, remember, recollect’ (CTL). This verb’s principal parts were the following: present tense recŏrdor, present infinitive recŏrdārī, and perfect active recŏrdātus (sum). As we saw in the introduction of this section, this verb was formed with the prefix re‑ ‘back, again’ and the root cŏrd‑ of the noun cor - cŏrdis that meant ‘heart’ and, figuratively, ‘mind, soul’. (The genitive form of this noun was cŏrdis and thus, its regular stem was cŏrd‑).
Sp. recordar is a patrimonial verb, first attested in writing early, in the 13th century. The fact that it is a stem-changing verb clearly shows that it is a patrimonial word. A patrimonial word is one that descended from Latin into Old Spanish, first attested in writing some 1,000 years ago, by word-of-mouth transmission, as opposed to being borrowed later from written Latin (cf. Part I, Chapter 1). In patrimonial words, a stressed Latin short ŏ changed to ue in Old Spanish (cf. Part I, Chapter 10, §10.3.2).
In the 15th and 16th centuries, recordar was often used pronominally (‘reflexively’) as recordarse, much like olvidar is usually conjugated pronominally today as olvidarse (see above). One can still hear this verb used this way in some varieties of Spanish, typically as an intransitive verb followed by a prepositional phrase with the preposition de, e.g. No me acordaba de ella ‘I didn’t remember her’, though in some dialects recordarse can be used with a direct object, just like olvidarse when used with an ethical dative. Pronominal recordarse is not considered to be a standard form anymore since many countries do not use recordarse anymore (Spain in particular). In other Romance languages, the pronominal use of descendants of this Latin verb is still common, cf. Italian ricordarsi, Occitan se recordar, and Catalan recordar-se. The reason that recordarse is not common and is not considered standard anymore seems to be that recordarse was replaced in most varieties of Spanish by acordarse, a descendant from a Latin word related to the Latin source of recordar(se), as we shall see below.
Transitive Sp. recordar can be used as a translation of Eng. remember, as in Recuerda llegar temprano ‘Remember to arrive early’, Recuerdo a mis amigos de la infancia ‘I remember my childhood friends’, or No recuerdo lo que dijiste ‘I don’t remember what you said’. Much like Eng. remember, Sp. recordar can be used with different senses, such as ‘to retain things in one’s mind’ and ‘to recall or bring something to mind’. However, transitive recordar is not the most common way to translate Eng. remember.
The reason that recordar is not the most common way to express the meaning ‘to remember’ (and thus translate Eng. remember) may be in part that recordar can also mean ‘to remind’, in a construction that includes an indirect object, as in Le recordé que llegara temprano ‘I reminded him to arrive early’ or Yo le recordaba a su hermano ‘I reminded her of her brother’. As you can see, both of these two different senses of Eng. remind translate as recordar in Spanish. Although these two senses are different from each other, in both languages the same word expresses them, though different prepositions help differentiate the two senses, cf. remind of vs. remind about, in English, and recordar a vs. recordar de, in Spanish.
The most common verb to express the meaning ‘to remember’ in most varieties of Spanish and in Standard Spanish is not transitive recordar but intransitive, pronominal acordarse (de) and in some dialects the also pronominal option recordarse (de) is also available to express this meaning, as we saw. The verb acordarse is a Spanish creation, since nothing like it is found in other Romance languages. This verb has been attested with this meaning since the early 13th century. It was originally a synonym of recordarse but eventually it came to fully replace that verb in most dialects and in the standard form of the language.
The source of Sp. acordarse, or actually of its non-pronominal form acordar from which it is derived, is Vulgar Latin *accordāre ‘to bring to agreement’, literally ‘bring to heart’. (The asterisk here means that the verb is not attested in writing in Latin, but it is hypothesized to have existed since putative descendants exist in different Romance languages.) This verb seems to have been created in late Roman times by analogy with similar Latin verbs derived from the same root, namely the verb rĕcŏrdāre that have seen, plus two other antonymous verbs: concordāre, that meant ‘to agree, be united, be of one mind, etc.’ (CTL) and dĭscŏrdāre that meant ‘to be at variance, differ, quarrel, etc.’ (CTL). Below, you can see all of these Latin verbs derived from the noun cors - cŏrdis ‘heart’ and the various prefixes they contain. Note that there was no verb *cŏrdāre, without a prefix, since these prefixed verbs were derived from the noun cors - cŏrdis, not from any such un-prefixed verb, as is many other analogous situations.
From Vulgar Lat. accŏrdāre comes the non-pronominal (non-reflexive), somewhat formal Spanish verb acordar that means primarily ‘to agree on, to come to an agreement’, as in Acordaron el precio ‘They agreed on a price’ or Acordaron no quedarse callados ‘They came to an agreement not to remain silent’. This verb is synonymous with determinar and resolver. The transitive (non-pronominal) verb acordar in Spanish has an additional meaning, namely ‘to award’, synonymous with conceder and otorgar. This sense is found in many American dialects of Spanish, but not in Spain anymore, where that sense is now obsolete.
Vulgar Latin *accordāre is also the source of the somewhat formal English verb to accord [ə.ˈkʰɔɹd], borrowed in the 12th century from Old French acorder ‘to agree’. In Modern English, the verb accord has two major meanings: and ‘give or grant someone (power or recognition)’ (COED), as in You will not be accorded any special treatment (LDCE) and ‘be harmonious or consistent with’ (COED), as in The punishments accorded with the current code of discipline (LDCE). This former meaning is the same one that acordar has in some dialects of Spanish, as we just saw. The cognates Sp. acordar ~ Eng. accord are not very good friends today, however, since their meanings only partially overlap and despite the similarity in meaning, neither verb is hardly ever a good translation of the other
The homonymous English noun accord (same pronunciation) means ‘an official agreement or treaty’ or ‘agreement or harmony’ (COED). It is a 13th century loanword from Old French accourd or accord ‘agreement’. The opposite (antonym) of this noun is discord. The English noun accord is a cognate and, in this case, somewhat close friend of the Spanish noun acuerdo, since they both have similar meanings. However, Sp. acuerdo, first attested in the mid-13th century, is a more common and general term than Eng. accord, since its main translation into English is agreement, a more common and less fancy word than its synonym accord in English. The noun accord does typically translate into Spanish as acuerdo, as in the expression reach an accord (or agreement), which translates as llegar a un acuerdo or alcanzar un acuerdo, ponerse de acuerdo, and the expression in accord with, which translates as de acuerdo con. But Sp. acuerdo typically translates as agreement, not as accord, as in the Spanish expression estar de acuerdo con, which translates into English as to be in agreement with (= to agree with), not as to be in accord with. The English idiomatic expression of one’s own accord translates into Spanish as voluntariamente, espontáneamente, without involving the word acuerdo.
The exact source of the cognate nouns Eng. accord ~ Sp. acuerdo is not clear, though their connection to and development from the unattested Vulgar Latin verb *accŏrdāre is clear. There are a few post-classical Latin words that may be precursors of this word, namely accordia, accordium, accordum, acordia, and acordum (OED), though it may have developed out of the verb in one or more of the Romance languages or even in early Romance. Curiously, the English noun chord and its Spanish equivalent acorde come from a very close source. These words’ meaning is ‘a group of notes (usually three or more) sounded together in harmony’ (COED). Eng. chord was originally spelled cord, which was a clipped version of the noun accord (late 15th century). Sp. acorde is attested in the mid-15th century and it probably came through French (OED).
Going back to the Spanish verb we are concerned with here, namely acordarse, it was originally the reflexive or pronominal form of verb acordar, and it meant something like ‘to come to an agreement’, equivalent to Modern Spanish. ponerse de acuerdo. But at one point, for some unknown reason, it came to be used as a variant of recordarse, with the meaning that it currently has, namely ‘to remember’, and eventually it came to replace recordarse in most dialects of Spanish as the non-pronominal alternative or recordar and the most common way to express the meaning ‘to remember’. Like we said, the reason why this happened is not clear.
Note that there was a second verb acordar in Old Spanish that meant ‘to come to, to recover consciousness’, a verb that is now archaic, if not obsolete in the language. This second verb acordar presumably had a different origin, but the same root. According to DCEH, it was derived in Spanish from the now obsolete adjective acordado/a that meant ‘sane, in one’s right mind, mentally fit’, from the Latin adjective cŏrdātus/a ‘wise, prudent, judicious’ (CTL), which was also ultimately derived from the noun cor - cŏrdis ‘heart’ by means of the first/second declension adjective-forming suffix ‑āt‑ (cŏrd‑āt‑us). The initial a‑ was presumably added in Spanish by influence of the verb acordar that we just saw (the Spanish prefix a‑ descends from the Latin prefix ad‑ ‘to’). Note that there is also a Spanish adjective cuerdo/a ‘sane, in one’s right mind, mentally fit’ that is ultimately derived from the same Latin adjective cŏrdātus. It is conceivable that this verb acordar, with its semantic component ‘consciousness’, might have played a role in the other verb acordar coming to mean remember, though that is mere speculation.
This second Spanish verb acordar evolved into a synonym of despertar ‘to wake up’ in some dialects of Spanish, which according to the DLE are those of Asturias, Cuba, Argentina, Colombia, Ecuador, Mexico, and Dominican Republic. It is interesting to note that although the two verbs acordar probably had different origins, dictionaries such as the Academy’s (DLE) or María Moliner’s (MM) do not place them in different entries, but rather under the same one. Both of these dictionaries mention that the ‘wake up’ sense of (the ‘second’) acordar is obsolete or dialectal. Most dictionaries of current Spanish use do not mention this meaning of acordar, however.
Thus, as we said, the main verb meaning ‘to remember’ in Spanish is reflexive acordarse, an intransitive verb that takes as its complement a de prepositional phrase, as in
- Me acordé de mis padres en ese momento ‘I remembered my parents at that moment’
- No os acordasteis de ella ‘You didn't remember her/it’
- No te acordaste de venir temprano ‘You didn’t remember to come early’
- Se acordó de lo que le habían dicho ‘She remember what she had been told’
- Nos acordamos de que iba a llover ‘We remembered that it was going to rain’
The use of pronominal acordarse de is analogous to that of this verb’s antonym olvidarse de ‘to forget’ that we saw earlier in the chapter. However, although non-pronominal, transitive olvidar is a synonym of pronominal, intransitive olvidarse, non-pronominal, transitive acordar is not a synonym of pronominal, intransitive acordarse. The non-pronominal, transitive synonym of acordarse is recordar, as we have seen. In earlier times, the analogy would have been more regular since recordarse, not acordarse, was the pronominal version of recordar.
It is worth noting that there is an intransitive version of the verb remember in English in which the complement indicating what is forgotten is not a direct object but a prepositional phrase with the preposition about, as in Remember about the stove, which can mean exactly the same thing as Remember the stove or it can mean something more like I remember the thing / a thing / something about the stove, in which the remembered thing is the direct object. This is analogous to the distinction between forget and forget about that we saw earlier. And just like we saw that the best way to translate forget about was olvidarse de (even though olvidarse de can also translate transitive forget), the best way to translate remember about is acordarse de (even though acordarse de can also translate transitive remember).
Finally, let us note that although the verbs recordar and acordarse de are often synonymous and can be used interchangeably as far as their meaning is concerned, that is not always the case, just as we saw that olvidar and olvidarse de cannot always be interchanged. There are many times when Eng. remember is preferably (or can only be) translated by acordarse de, not as recordar. As we saw earlier, this is in part because recordar can mean ‘to remind’ and it is thus avoided in contexts in which there may be confusion. Thus, for example, to translate I remembered you this afternoon, a Spanish speaker would not say Te recordé esta tarde, for the first thing that comes to mind when hearing that sentence is the meaning ‘I reminded you this afternoon’, even though that is not a grammatical sentence (without adding what was reminded, as in Te recordé esta tarde que íbamos a cenar temprano ‘I reminded you this afternoon that we were going to have dinner early’). Rather, the only way to translate I remembered you this afternoon would be Me acordé de ti esta tarde.
 This sentence has another possible meaning, possible in all dialects, namely: ‘I remember a lot from my grandmother’. That is not the sense intended here.
 Eng. memorandum is an early 15th century loanword The Latin plural of this noun was memoranda and in English, the plural of memorandum can be either the regular memorandums or the Latinate memoranda. In English, this rather formal word was shortened to memo in the early 18th century, which is how it is used for its less formal uses. A memo is ‘a usually brief written message from one person or department in an organization, company, etc., to another’ (MWALD). Spanish does not use such an abbreviation. Note that memo/a in Spanish is an adjective that means ‘stupid, dumb’. Eng. memo translates into Spanish as either memorándum (if formal) or nota (if informal).
 The RAE’s Diccionario panhispánico de dudas explains the use of recordar as follows: “En el habla culta formal se desaconseja el uso de recordar en forma pronominal, ya sea como transitivo(recordarse [algo]): ⊕«A veces no me recuerdo qué diablos hice ayer» (Hoy@ [El Salv.] 15.6.03); ya sea como intransitivo seguido de un complemento con de (recordarse de algo): ⊕«Me recuerdo yo de las campañas antiaborto» (País[Esp.] 15.9.77). Estos usos, normales en el español medieval y clásico, han quedado relegados al habla coloquial o popular de algunas zonas, tanto de España como de América (en algunos países como Venezuela o Chile, son usos frecuentes en el habla informal). También debe evitarse en la lengua culta formal su uso como intransitivo (recordar de algo), documentado en algunos países de América: ⊕«En mis 30 años de experiencia en este valle no recuerdo de la existencia de un archivo de lo que hemos hecho» (VV. AA. Vitivinicultura [Perú 1991]). Los verbos recordar y acordar comparten este significado, pero en la lengua general culta se construyen de modo diferente: recordar, como se acaba de explicar, es transitivo (recordar [algo]), mientras que acordar (→ acordar(se), 3) es intransitivo pronominal (acordarse de algo).”
 The Diccionario panhispánico de dudas tells us that “En el español de América se mantiene vivo el uso transitivo de acordar con el sentido de ‘conceder u otorgar’: «Atraídos por los muchos favores y privilegios que los príncipes reinantes le acordaban a la clase comercial» (Fuentes Espejo [Méx. 1992]). Este uso era normal en el español clásico, pero ha desaparecido del español peninsular actual.”
 The spelling chord arose in the 17th century from confusion with the (different) word chord meaning ‘a string or small rope’ (now spelled cord, cf. Sp. cuerda), from Lat. chorda ‘an intestine as food; catgut, a string (of a musical instrument); a rope, cord (for binding a slave)’ (L&S), a loanword from Ancient Greek χορδή (khordḗ) ‘string of gut, cord’.