subir

The prefix sub- usually adds the notion of ‘under,’ as in the submarino/submarine that goes under the water or the subtítulo/subtitle that goes under a main title or at the bottom of a movie. But ‘under’ only has meaning in contrast to what is above it, and the ancient predecessor of Latin sub could also mean ‘up from under’ and even ‘over.’ The ‘up from under’ sense occasionally rises to the surface even now, as it does in Spanish subir, a compound of the verb ir ‘to go.’ An English speaker learning Spanish can be forgiven for guessing that subir means ‘to go down’ when in fact it means ‘to go up [from under].’ The Diccionario general abreviado de la lengua castellano, published in Paris in 1877, defined subir this way: ‘ascender ó pasar de algún sitio ó lugar inferior a otro mas alto.’ [Notice that o in those days bore an accent and mas in the sense of ‘more’ didn’t.]

Spanish can use subir transitively, in which case it means ‘to lift up, raise up,’ and in recent years subir has been uplifted to the primary Spanish translation of the English computer term upload. For example, on a website called El Día del Español I found: “Puedes participar en esta web tecleando tu palabra favorita, creando un pictograma en la pizarra de dibujo o subiendo un vídeo.”

As an adjective, the past participle subido means literally ‘raised,’ but the word has added senses that are less literal.  The 1877 Diccionario defined subido as ‘Lo último, mas fino y acendrado en su especie; el olor y color fuerte en su clase.’ Those senses of ‘deeply colored’ and strongly scented’ are meanings of subido that a beginning and even relatively advanced student of Spanish are unlikely to know.

A subidor was traditionally ‘El que por oficio sube alguna cosa del lugar bajo al alto,’ which is to say ‘a porter.’ In recent usage, a subidor is ‘a program that uploads files to a website,’ and a subidor de peso is ‘a substance that helps a person put on weight.’

© 2010 Steven Schwartzman

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©2011–2016 Steven Schwartzman
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