The photos of the buds of a bluebell and a mountain pink that I recently posted in my other blog made me think of the Spanish word for bud, capullo. In Breve diccionario etimológico de la lengua española, Guido Gómez de Silva notes that the word probably arose as a variation of capillo, whose many meanings include: ‘child’s cap, cape, hood, lining inside the toe of a shoe, covering for an offering in church, colander for straining wax, net for catching rabbits,’ and ‘bud.’ Both capullo and capillo can also mean ‘an insect’s cocoon.’ English speakers think of a bud as just a bud, but Spanish must originally have conceived of a bud as a covering for a developing flower in the same way that a cocoon is a covering for a developing insect.

As for Spanish capillo, it would have come from Late Latin *cappellus, a masculine diminutive of the Late Latin cappa ‘hooded cloak’ that has led to Spanish capa and ultimately also to English cap and cape. People have long conjectured that Late Latin cappa was based on Latin caput ‘head,’ from the notion that a hooded cloak covers the head of the wearer.

© 2011 Steven Schwartzman

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©2011–2018 Steven Schwartzman

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