The last post pointed out that Latin cubitum meant ‘an elbow’ and by extension ‘the distance from the end of a person’s elbow to the tip of the middle finger.’ We’ve carried that second sense over as the borrowed cúbito/cubit, but the original sense survives in the technical Spanish and English adjective cubital ‘pertaining to the elbow.’ In a similar vein (or should we say joint?), Merriam-Webster’s Medical Dictionary defines the adjective antecubital as ‘of or relating to the inner or front surface of the forearm.’
Spanish preserves the ‘elbow’ sense of Latin cubitum in codo, the form that developed naturally from it. Spanish has gone on to create new words based on codo, including the diminutive codillo that describes ‘the upper foreleg of a quadruped’ as well as ‘the part of a branch adjacent to the trunk of a tree.’ A recodo is ‘a[n elbow-like] bend in a road or river.’ The verb acodarse means ‘to support one’s body by leaning on an elbow,’ and the matching abstract noun is acodadura. The less-comfortable and even painful (for the person on the receiving end) codazo is ‘the jabbing of an elbow into someone,’ from the verb codear ‘to elbow, nudge, jostle.’ In contrast, the idiom empinar el codo, literally ‘to raise an elbow,’ means ‘to drink an alcoholic beverage,’ especially in copious amounts, something that can likewise lead to pain.
© 2011 Steven Schwartzman