The Spanish verb escudriñar means ‘to examine carefully.’ Based on that definition and the sound of escudriñar, an English speaker can probably figure out that the related English word is scrutinize. The Spanish and English verbs are based on the Latin noun scrūtinium, which meant ‘a search, inquiry, investigation.’ That noun had been created from the verb scrūtārī ‘to search, examine.’ It in turn had been based on the noun scrūta, which surprisingly meant ‘old or broken stuff, trash.’ In ancient times, poor people picked through trash, just as poor people still do today, looking for usable things. The trash is long gone, etymologically speaking, and only the notion of looking carefully has survived in escudriñar/scrutinize. And speaking of surviving, notice that the original order of the Latin consonants persists in English scrutinize, while Spanish escudriñar shows a metathesis of the r.

© 2017 Steven Schwartzman


17 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Playamart - Zeebra Designs
    Jul 20, 2017 @ 09:02:11

    The trash isn’t gone here in Ecuador, where the unfortunate ones are scavenging through discards in hopes of gleaning a trinket or perhaps a stool. I will enjoy practicing this new word – starting now when I ask my friends to inspect the just-made ‘rack’ for transporting large pieces of framed art!

    Escudriñar… escudriñar.. escudriñar.. escudriñar!


  2. Playamart - Zeebra Designs
    Jul 20, 2017 @ 09:13:11

    ps..when I first saw the word in the ‘new post’ notification, I wondered if it was a word related to the word spit!


    • Steve Schwartzman
      Jul 20, 2017 @ 09:24:09

      Coincidentally I noticed escupir near escudriñar in the dictionary and thought I might do a post about that word too.


      • Playamart - Zeebra Designs
        Jul 20, 2017 @ 11:13:05

        An Italian once cautioned me to be careful in saying ‘Disculpe’ when I asked how to say, “Excuse me,” and pointed that not pronouncing the D would mean to spit! That lesson quickly stuck in my memory.. If only all were so easy!

        Stuck/stick – another word that sounds like other – like to pay…


        • Steve Schwartzman
          Jul 20, 2017 @ 11:26:12

          The Italian didn’t tell you quite right, because dropping the d of disculpe would give you isculpe, which is still off by two sounds from escupe.

          One thing I had to learn in Spanish is the two ways to translate English “excuse.” In the sense of asking forgiveness for something I’ve done wrong,’ it’s disculpar or perdonar. In the sense of asking permission, as when I want to squeeze past someone in a narrow aisle in a store, it’s dispensar.


  3. shoreacres
    Jul 24, 2017 @ 22:37:35

    Believe it or not, “scrute” is in the urban dictionary. It carries the same meaning as “scrutinize,” but seems to be more casual and informal. I’ve heard it used in sentences like, “I dunno, man. I gotta scrute that.” It almost reminds me of the earlier slang phrase, “scope out.” Both “scrute” and “scope out” feel like opposites of “grok”: “to understand something intuitively or by empathy.”


    • Steve Schwartzman
      Jul 24, 2017 @ 22:45:19

      Well, the urban dictionary can be an early warning system—or not. I don’t find scrute in any standard dictionary, nor have I heard the word, as you have. Most slang never gets a foothold in the standard language. For now, the fate of scrute remains inscrutable.


  4. navasolanature
    Jul 27, 2017 @ 15:01:06

    Always a need for scrutiny in today’s media trash! True, not come across this word either in Spain. I’ll look out for it now!


    • Steve Schwartzman
      Jul 27, 2017 @ 15:13:22

      I’d go even farther and say there’s a need for scrutiny in everything.

      I don’t know whether escudriñar is more or less common than scrutinize, which of course isn’t all that common an English word. You can try it out in your conversations and see how people in your part of Spain react to it.


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©2011–2016 Steven Schwartzman
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