born borne onward

For an etymologist of Spanish and English, Latin natus ‘born’ is a gift that keeps on giving. From it come not only nada and nadie, with their disguised origins that have been the subject of the last two posts, but easy-to-recognize words like natal ‘having to do with birth,’ natalidad/natality ‘birthrate,’ prenatal ‘before birth,’ and perinatal ‘around the time of birth.’ From natus Latin made nativus, which we’ve borrowed as nativo/native. English has also adopted the French development of the word, the masculine naïf or more commonly the feminine naïve used for both genders; the word conveys the credulity and lack of guile of a native, in contrast to the cunning of a conqueror. Latin nativitas ‘birth’ has become English nativity and Spanish Navidad, both of which are closely tied to a particular birth, that of Jesus; in addition, English has borrowed the Noël that corresponds in French to natal. Also from French is the feminine née ‘born’ that English uses to indicate the family name a woman was born with (if she has changed it after marriage); for example, we may write about Abigail Adams, née Smith. The masculine Old Spanish nado ‘born’ entered into the compound antenado ‘born before [a wedding took place].’ That has become entenado ‘a stepson,’ and Spanish also has the synonymous variant alnado. Of special relevance to this blog is cognado/cognate, literally ‘born together,’ which we use to describe words descended from a common ancestor.

©2010 Steven Schwartzman


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If you encounter an unfamiliar technical term in any of these postings, check the Glossary in the bar across the top of the page.
©2011–2016 Steven Schwartzman
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