Espeso, the Spanish word for ‘thick,’ comes from the synonymous Latin adjective spissus. I was surprised recently to find that English had transformed the Latin word to spiss, which once meant ‘thick, crowded, compact, dense,’ but the word has become obsolete. Here’s an example of usage from the periodical Philosophical Transactions on October 10, 1670:
It is true, that to supply in some sort this defect, they have a little Chrystalline in the middle of the great one, and this little Chrystalline being of a more spiss consistence then [sic] the great one, its refraction is also more strong, and makes the rayes, which come from one point in the Axis and pass near the Center of the Chrystalline to refract more then [sic] it there had been but one Chrystalline.
Another borrowing based on Latin spissus, though not common, has remained in English: it’s the verb inspissate, which means ‘to thicken,’ both transitively and intransitively. The corresponding Spanish verb is espesar, whose senses include ‘to thicken, condense, coagulate, mass.’ In addition, Spanish has the noun espesar, which the DRAE defines as ‘Parte de monte más poblada de matas o árboles que las demás.’ English would call that a thicket.
© 2014 Steven Schwartzman