borraj

A couple of search engine queries that brought people to this site last year mentioned Spanish words that end in -j, which is an uncommon  ending in English, too. Some time ago I discussed what is far and away the most common Spanish word that fits the description, reloj, which entered the language from Catalan.

Another member of the ends-in-j club is borraj, though the truth is that Spanish more often uses the form bórax, which, but for the accent, is also the English version of the word. English borrowed the term directly from Medieval Latin, which took it from Arabic buraq, which had come from Middle Persian burak. As for Spanish, it bypassed Medieval Latin and took its versions of the word from Arabic. For those like me who are neither chemists nor mineralogists, I’ll provide the two-part definition of borax that appears in the Compact Oxford Dictionary:

‘A white compound which occurs as a mineral in some alkaline salt deposits and is used in making glass and ceramics, as a metallurgical flux, and as an antiseptic. A hydrated sodium borate; chemical formula: Na2 B4 O7 10H2 O.’

The B in the formula stands for the chemical element that Spanish knows as boro, a word formed by shortening bórax. English knows the element as boron, which is a portmanteau word formed from the first part of borax and the ending of carbon (with carbon being the element that follows boron in the periodic table).

© 2011 Steven Schwartzman

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If you encounter an unfamiliar technical term in any of these postings, check the Glossary in the bar across the top of the page.
©2011–2016 Steven Schwartzman
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