A couple of nights ago, spectators on planet Earth saw the largest and brightest full moon they had seen in some 19 years, thanks to the fact that the moon had once again reached its perigee, or closest point to our planet. Surely, given the size of the world’s population, somewhere in a Spanish-speaking country someone named Luz, or ‘light,’ looked up to see that full luna, or ‘moon,’ and in so doing unwittingly lived out an etymological truth. Linguists have traced Spanish luz, which developed from Latin lux, with stem luc-, back to Indo-European *leuk-, which meant the same as its native English descendant light. The Indo-European root is also the first element in the presumed compound *leuk-sna-, which evolved to the phonetically simplified Latin luna. In other words, in Latin (and therefore the Romance languages), the word for ‘moon’ reflects the fact that the moon shines more brightly than any other object in the night sky. As enlightening as the etymology in this case is, I have the impression that very few native speakers of Spanish feel a connection between luz and luna. If any of you who read this have evidence to the contrary, we’ll be grateful if you can shed some light on that conjecture.

© 2011 Steven Schwartzman


6 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: A little more on luna « Spanish-English Word Connections
  2. Trackback: Nihil novum sub sole « Spanish-English Word Connections
  3. Trackback: And even a little more on luna « Spanish-English Word Connections
  4. Trackback: Going loony over luna « Spanish-English Word Connections
  5. Playamart - Zeebra Designs
    May 21, 2017 @ 15:28:43

    leuk-sna evolved to the phonetically simplified Latin luna. ….

    I can imagine how my friends would peer at me one if I looked up at the moon and said, “ahhh. leuk-sna linda!”

    Imagine the syntax of songs and poetry!


    • Steve Schwartzman
      May 21, 2017 @ 23:18:04

      Back in Indo-European times thousands of years ago there wouldn’t have been a linda to put with leuk-sna. There wouldn’t even have been Latin, let alone Spanish. Still, you’re free to fantasize a mixture between languages thousands of years apart. It’s fun.


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©2011–2016 Steven Schwartzman
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