Last week we looked at the Spanish doublets alma and ánima, both meaning ‘soul,’ derived from the Latin feminine anima. In addition, the Romans had the masculine animus, which meant ‘the rational soul, the intellect,’ attributes traditionally associated primarily with men; but Latin was an equal-opportunity employer of the word, and animus also meant ‘the heart’ and ‘the emotions,’ which have traditionally been associated with women. Spanish has carried over Latin animus as the masculine ánimo, whose meanings ‘spirit, mood, state of mind’ and ‘encouragement’ are all positive things.

The Indo-European root that gave rise to Latin anima and animus meant ‘breathe,’ and some descendants of the root took on the sense ‘wind,’ which a poetic imagination might conceive as the breath of the earth. Because of that connection to wind, the Roman adjective animosus meant ‘blowing violently’ and the Latin noun animositas had meanings that ranged from ‘boldness’ through ‘vehemence’ and ‘impetuosity ’ to ‘anger’ and ‘enmity.’ Those last senses not only explain the negative meaning of animosidad/animosity but also account for the modern re-use of Latin animus in English to mean ‘ill will, hostility.’

©2010 Steven Schwartzman


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  1. Trackback: Blowing in the Wind « Spanish-English Word Connections

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©2011–2016 Steven Schwartzman
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