How Spanish arrived at llegar

The last post dealt with app, a shortening of application. The longer form goes back to Medieval Latin applicatio, with stem application-, whose meaning changed from the classical Latin sense of ‘inclination’ to the modern ‘application.’ The original Latin noun was based on the verb applicare, which meant ‘ to join, connect, attach, add.’ That in turn had been formed from Latin ad ‘to,’ the forerunner of Spanish a, and the verb plicare ‘to fold,’ the ancestor of the synonymous Spanish plegar. So Latin applicare meant etymologically ‘to fold to[wards],’ and that’s not so far from one of the senses of our borrowed verb aplicar/apply, as when we apply a coat of paint to a wall.

In contrast to the aplicar that was taken directly from Latin, Spanish has a more common relative that developed naturally as Latin evolved over the centuries into Spanish. In Late Latin, the notion of one thing ‘folding onto’ another shifted to one thing ‘moving onto’ another. In human terms, the word came to apply to a traveler who ‘comes together with’ a destination. In the end, Latin plicare evolved phonetically to Spanish llegar, which by then had taken on its modern meaning ‘to arrive.’

© 2011 Steven Schwartzman


4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Joseph Snow
    Feb 24, 2011 @ 11:15:24

    Yes to what has been said about llegar and plicar, and travellers. But I would add only that plicare was used in sail-folding and meant that arrival at port (or llegar) was imminent. Thus, a more specific case of “arrival” is derived.


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©2011–2016 Steven Schwartzman
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