A word that English would seem to have borrowed from Spanish without any change is tornado, but the surprising fact is that Spanish took tornado straight from English. So where did English get such a Spanish-looking word? To answer that question we do find ourselves going back to Spanish, and in particular to the noun tronada that means ‘a thunderstorm.’ Etymologists believe that English seamen mangled tronada into tornado, with influence from the Spanish verb tornar and English turn (which had come from the French cognate of tornar). The Spanish noun tronada is based on the verb tronar ‘to thunder,’ which had picked up an intrusive r as it developed from the synonymous Latin verb tonare. And from the form of that Latin word it’s easier to see that native English thunder is indeed a cognate. Near the end of the 1800s English turned to tornado and turned out the related adjective tornadic. Although the Diccionario de la Real Academia Española doesn’t include the corresponding adjective tornádico, an Internet search does turn up plenty of examples of the word. A further search even turns up a few hundred occurrences of the Spanglish phrase outbreak tornádico.
© 2012 Steven Schwartzman