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Cognates part one

knowing the etymology of words
knowing the etymology of words
Larry's photos

2014 cognates part one

One thing that will help with learning foreign vocabulary is to look for cognates of the foreign word with English. A cognate is a word that has a common origin. For example ‘burro’ is donkey in English and Spanish. “Burro in Italian means ‘butter’ so it’s a ‘false cognate.

Let’s analyze some foreign words and look for cognates. The French word for ‘advice’ is ‘conseil’, and the Spanish word is ‘consejo’, the Italian is ‘consiglio’. Can you think of an English word that is related to those words? Sure, ‘council’ is obviously related. Say the words out loud and cement them in your mind. Make sure that you have the correct pronunciation before you do that.

“Agree”is ‘concentir’ in French and ‘acordar’ in Spanish. Think of English ‘consent’.

Here is an unusual one: the English word ‘ant’ is ‘fourmi’ in French, ‘hormiga’ in Spanish and ‘formiga’ in Italian. What on Earth does that have to do with an ant, you well may ask? Ants secrete formic acid! You can see the similarity.

English ‘arm’ is the same for German, Norwegian, Swedish, Danish and Dutch, but it’s ‘bras’ in French and ‘brazo’ in Spanish, ‘braccio’ in Italian. Think of the English word

English ‘barn’ is ‘grenier’ in French and ‘estable’ in Spanish. Think ‘grain’, which you certainly would connect with a farm and think ‘stable’.

English ‘bee’ isn’t that different from French ‘abeille’ or Spanish ‘abeja’, but what about Japanese ‘mitsubachi’? How can you connect those two words? Picture driving in a Mitsubichi with a bee flying around inside the car.

How about the word ‘bicycle’? That’s pretty obvious in French bicyclette (although they also say ‘velo’ -think of velocipede – the origin of the bicycle), bicicleta in Spanish, sykel in Swedish, but in Dutch it’s ‘fiets’. Well, you use your ‘feets’ to pedal a bike, don’t you? However Polish ‘rower’ is different. Picture riding a bike along the shore and keeping pace with someone you is rowing a boat! (but it isn’t pronounced as in English ‘row’!)

‘Bread’ is ‘pan’ in both Spanish and Japanese. It’s ‘pain’ in French and ‘pane’ in Italian.
Think of the café ‘Paneras’. German Brot is close enough.

Yes, you’ll have to stretch your imagination with the word ‘butterfly’. ‘Papillon’ in French, ‘mariposa’ in Spanish, ‘Schmetterling’ in German, Sommerfugl in Norwegian
and ‘babochka’ in Polish. Happy hunting! (chasse in French)

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