In my other blog last year I featured a wildflower that botanists classify as Convolvulus equitans (commonly called Texas bindweed). Similarly, the morning-glory family that this plant belongs to is known as the Convolvulaceae. I bring all this up because many native English speakers will be surprised to find that the verb convolve exists; it means ‘to coil up’ or ‘to roll together,’ an action conveyed by the bind in the common name bindweed. Spanish doesn’t seem to have a verb *convolver—at least it’s not in the DRAE—but remove the prefix con- and you’re left with the familiar Spanish verb volver, whose primary sense is ‘to go back, to return.’ The Latin original was volvere, which meant ‘to roll, turn about, turn round, tumble.’ Notice, by the way, that while Spanish doesn’t have *convolver, English doesn’t have the simple *volve.
Both languages have various compounds with -volv- in them, even if the cognates in a pair generally don’t mean the same thing. A few pairs are:
envolver: ‘to wrap up, envelop, enfold’
involve: ‘to relate to; to include; to implicate’
devolver: ‘to give back’
devolve: ‘to delegate; to grow worse’
revolver: ‘to stir, churn, shake’
revolve: ‘to go around’
While Spanish doesn’t have an *evolver to match English evolve, it does have the noun evolución that corresponds to English evolution. Whether Spanish evolves to include the verb evolver remains to be seen.
© 2015 Steven Schwartzman