The other day I found myself among some musicians who were talking about the stress of performing pieces from memory. Not surprisingly the word adrenaline came up, but I was surprised to find when I later looked in my dictionaries that the scientific term adrenalina/adrenaline goes back only to the latter part of the 1800s (with Spanish minimally altering the English form). The word was created by prefixing Latin ad ‘to’ to the adjective renal, which Spanish and English both use to indicate ‘having to do with the kidneys.’ The adrenal glands got their name from their location: they are adjacent to the kidneys.

Our adjective renal comes from the synonymous Late Latin renalis, which was based on Latin renes ‘kidneys.’ Latin renes gave rise to Vulgar Latin renio, with stem renion-, which speakers of the language created to distinguish ‘a kidney as food,’ much as Spanish pescado designates ‘fish as food,’ in contrast to the generic pez. From Vulgar Latin renion- came the Spanish word for ‘kidney,’ riñón.

© 2011 Steven Schwartzman

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  1. Trackback: epinefrina « Spanish-English Word Connections

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©2011–2016 Steven Schwartzman
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