The Spanish verb añorar means ‘to miss’ in the sense ‘to feel the absence of [someone].’ It’s tempting to think that this word might be related to año ‘year,’ and to imagine that as the years go by we miss the people from our past, but the fact that Spanish borrowed the verb in around 1840 from the synonymous Catalan enyorar puts an end to that bit of folk etymology. The Catalan word developed straightforwardly from Latin ignorare ‘not to know,’ a compound of the negative prefix in- and the root gno-, which meant the same as and is the cognate of native English know. The sense of Catalan enyorar is that you don’t know where someone is or what has become of that person, so you experience a feeling of loss or nostalgia. The Spanish noun corresponding to añorar is añoranza. (And those of you who’d like to hear the añoranza that’s evident in Lluís Llach‘s Catalan song “Cant de l’enyor” can do so.)

In addition to the añorar that Spanish borrowed from Catalan, it also turned to the original Latin verb and borrowed it as ignorar, keeping the etymological sense of ‘not to know.’ English borrowed the Latin verb, too, via Old French, but has since changed the meaning to ‘purposely not to pay attention to.’

© 2013 Steven Schwartzman


4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Jim in IA
    Oct 22, 2013 @ 09:13:07

    It was a sad and lonely sounding song.


    • Steve Schwartzman
      Oct 22, 2013 @ 09:32:07

      Sad and lonely, yes, and I think you’ll agree it does a good job of conveying a sense of loss and longing. (I’ll bet this is the first song in Catalan you’ve ever heard.)


  2. shoreacres
    Oct 28, 2013 @ 21:59:49

    The most poignant example I can think of in my own life is when Donna Penyak, the blogger known as EllaElla, suddenly disappeared. There was a tremendous sense of loss and unease, and almost a sense of relief once we learned what had happened to her. The not-knowing was the worst – as it usually is.


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©2011–2016 Steven Schwartzman
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