The Spanish verb pasmar has various meanings: ‘to stupefy, benumb, deaden; to stun, astonish, amaze; to chill to the bone.’ As the reflexive pasmarse, its senses include ‘to be amazed, to marvel, to wonder; to be chilled to the bone; to fall ill.’ Those last meanings, which bring us into the realm of maladies, are a clue to the word’s origin: pasmar evolved from the similar Vulgar Latin *pasmare, which meant ‘to suffer temporary paralysis.’ That verb had arisen as a slightly shortened form of spasmare, based on the Latin noun spasmus ‘cramp, convulsion, spasm’ that is the obvious source of espasmo/spasm.

The Romans borrowed many words from the Greeks, and spasmus was one of them: it came from Greek spasmos, which was derived from the verb span that meant ‘to pull.’ The ancients conceived of a cramp or convulsion as an unwanted, uncontrolled pulling of a body part.

© 2012 Steven Schwartzman


2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. shoreacres
    Oct 25, 2012 @ 15:21:41

    I don’t know how to use pasmar in a Spanish sentence properly, but there’s no question I was stupefied, benumbed, deadened and stunned when I discovered I’d been Freshly Pressed. The experience certainly is like an unwanted, uncontrolled pulling of something….

    There. Thanks for giving me an opportunity to get that off my chest. Now, let me shake off my temporary paralysis and go converse with my guests. 😉

    (By the way – the front came through Joplin the same time I did. It’s 41 just now in KCMO.)


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©2011–2016 Steven Schwartzman
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