A Spanish word is an English word is a Latin word as a verb becomes a noun

I was recently looking at the website for the Mindo Cloudforest Foundation in Ecuador and noticed these words: “Trabajamos en la conservación del hábitat….” What jumped out at me was the word hábitat, which I took to be borrowed directly from English, even to the accent indicating the same stress as in the English word. I may or may not be right about Spanish taking the word from English; English took it directly from Latin, where habitat is the third-person singular present-tense form of the verb habitāre that we’ve carried over as habitar/inhabit. Starting several centuries ago, Latin biological descriptions included the word habitat in statements telling which places various species inhabit. Eventually modern European languages adopted habitat as a noun designating a biologically inhabited place. From the same Latin root we have hábito/habit, which is a routine that has metaphorically inhabited a person.

© 2017 Steven Schwartzman


4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Playamart - Zeebra Designs
    Jan 21, 2017 @ 16:11:56

    This reminds me of ‘Who’s on first?”
    As always, thanks for helping people like me understand a bit more Spanish!


  2. shoreacres
    Jan 21, 2017 @ 21:53:39

    The collection of Flannery O’Connor’s letters, edited by Sally Fitzgerald, is titled The Habit of Being. Her faith and theology were informed by Thomas Aquinus, and his concept of habitus.

    A brief entry I found on a Notre Dame site says, “In Aquinas’s rendering, the fully virtuous personality is one who has, through effort and training, cultivated the proficiency to act in the morally required manner without effort; that is, a person for whom moral behavior becomes second nature.” In other words, a habit.


    • Steve Schwartzman
      Jan 21, 2017 @ 23:24:10

      It’s good of you to bring in Aquinas’s concept of habitus, which I was unaware of.

      As a math teacher and a citizen, I’m troubled by the fact that for so many people the multiplication table never became a habit.


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If you encounter an unfamiliar technical term in any of these postings, check the Glossary in the bar across the top of the page.
©2011–2016 Steven Schwartzman
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