In a blog post in March, in connection with two photographs of fungi, nature photographer Steve Gingold introduced the biological term guttation, which he explained as ‘sweat-like moisture.’ Based on the context and the root of that fancy word, Spanish speakers may well make the connection to gota ‘drop,’ and they would be right to do so. Spanish gota derives from Latin gutta, which also meant ‘drop,’ and which architects have fancifully borrowed to mean (in the definition of the American Heritage Dictionary) ‘one of a series of small ornaments in the shape of truncated cones used on a Doric entablature.’ Pharmacists also use gutta, this time literally—they can’t afford to mess around when preparing medicines, can they?—to mean ‘a drop.’
For English speakers who drop an r at the end of a syllable, Latin gutta sounds a lot like English gutter, and it should. English acquired the word from Old French gotier, based on gote (modern French goutte): a gutter is a trough to channel drops of rain coming off a roof.
Turning back to Spanish, we note that gotear means ‘to drip,’ a goteo is ‘a dripping,’ and a gotera is ‘a leak, drip, trickle.’ Less obviously related semantically, at least until the connection gets pointed out, is the verb agotar ‘to exhaust, use up, run out of.’ The etymological sense, as should be clear now, is ‘to drip away.’
© 2015 Steven Schwartzman