My friend Ariana was intrigued enough by a recent Palabra del Día to forward it to me: intríngulis. I too was intrigued by this word, which looks like it’s related to the word intriga/intrigue, and which the Palabra del Día explained means ‘a hidden secret.’ The Diccionario de la Real Academia Española, which gives as its primary definition ‘dificultad o complicación de algo,’ says that the word is of uncertain origin. Linguist Joan Corominas hypothesized that Spanish based the term, which is first recorded in the relatively recent year of 1884, on Italian intingoli, the plural of intingolo, which means ‘stew, gravy.’ The Spanish meaning, originally metaphorical, would still have been influenced by that of the verb intrincar ‘to complicate, confuse.’

Spanish intrincar is a nasalized version of Old Spanish intricar, borrowed from Latin intricare ‘to entangle, perplex, embarrass.’ That verb had been based on tricae, which meant ‘trifles, stuff, nonsense,’ and by extension ‘hindrances, vexations, perplexities, subterfuges, quirks, wiles, tricks.’ Italian—there’s that language again—inherited the Latin verb as intrigare, which passed through French to become Spanish intrigar and English intrigue; as a noun, that matches Spanish intriga. From the Latin past participle intricatus English made the adjective intricate, which corresponds to Spanish intrincado.

© 2011 Steven Schwartzman


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©2011–2016 Steven Schwartzman
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