One theme of the last posting, repeated in this column from time to time, was “Not everything that sparkles is a diamond.” Yesterday that held true for the noun diamante/diamond itself. Though the word is of Greek origin, its dia- turned out not to be the familiar dia- that means ‘across, through.’ Instead the word came from Greek adamas, which in terms of etymology meant ‘untamable, unconquerable,’ descriptions that suit the hardness of a diamond. Now, Spanish has an old-fashioned verb, adamar, which the Velazquez® Spanish and English Dictionary adamantly defines as ‘to love violently.’ That’s overdoing it: ‘to love passionately, to love vehemently,’ would be better translations. The verb also used to mean ‘to pay court to.’ It’s not unreasonable to wonder if the Spanish verb came from Greek adamas, the metaphor being of a suitor expressing his ‘untamable’ love for a lady. But “No todo lo que brilla es oro,” “Not all that glitters is gold,” it turns out that Spanish borrowed adamar from Latin adamare. That uncommon verb, which the Romans seem to have used only in the perfect and pluperfect tenses, was a prefixed version of Latin amare, the ancestor of Spanish amar. The prefix was ad– ‘to,’ forerunner of Spanish a, and the resulting Latin adamare meant ‘to love truly, earnestly, deeply.’

Not surprisingly, Cervantes used adamar (what word didn’t he use?) several times. Here are the notes about it from an annotated 1839 edition of Don Quijote:

In the spring of 2006, the Escuela de Escritores asked “¿Cuál es la palabra más bella del castellano?” At least a couple of people chose adamar. Fran Álvarez, from Cáceres in Spain, wrote: “La leí no sé donde pero me pareció preciosa. Creo que casi no se usa pero es dulce como su significado.” Daniel Arroyo, from Detroit, said: “Es una palabra poética, que supera el significado de la también bella palabra amar. Es más que amar… adamar es amar con locura, de forma impetuosa, irreflexiva, ardiente y con mucha pasión… es el acto de amar verdaderamente.” If you’re a Spanish speaker who feels as enthusiastic about this quaint compound of amar as Álvarez and Arroyo, perhaps you can make it a point to use the verb in hopes of reviving it. (The word most often chosen in the contest, by the way, was the related amor, which received more than twice as many votes as the second-place word, libertad.)

© 2011 Steven Schwartzman


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  1. Trackback: adamarse « Spanish-English Word Connections

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©2011–2016 Steven Schwartzman
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