Spanish has two words ardido. One is the past participle of arder ‘to burn.’ English speakers recognize it in the adjective ardent, which has a figurative sense. A similar metaphor has led Spanish ardido to be used in some countries to mean ‘burning with anger,’ in other words ‘angry, enraged.’ The present participle ardiente that corresponds to English ardent also appears in a figurative sense in aguardiente, literally ‘burning water,’ but actually ‘brandy.’ Compare the firewater that arose in the vocabulary of the Algonquian Indians once they were exposed to Europeans’ alcoholic beverages.

The other Spanish ardido means ‘brave, bold, daring,’ and not because the person being described that way has drunk too much firewater. No, this ardido came into Spanish from a word in a Germanic language related to native English hard. The ‘bold’ sense is clearer in English hardy. Perhaps surprisingly, given how similar-looking hard and hardy are, the latter is not native English but was borrowed from Old French, which had taken the word from a Germanic source. Closely related to this Spanish ardido is the noun ardid, which originally meant ‘a risky venture’ but now has the sense of ‘a ruse, a trick.’

Going back to the ‘burning’ ardido, we note that Spanish arder ‘to burn’ developed from the synonymous Latin ārdēre. The root of the past participle ārsus led to the Late Latin noun ārsiōn-, which via Anglo-Norman has become English arson. If there ever was a cognate of that in Spanish, it has apparently long since burned out.

© 2018 Steven Schwartzman

14 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Juan Luis Calbarro
    Jul 29, 2018 @ 11:06:09

    A short comment only to point out the second ardido is not common Spanish any more; you can only find it in old literature.


  2. Jim R
    Jul 29, 2018 @ 13:43:10

    Was research for this post arduous? Perhaps not for you. 🙂


  3. Maria
    Aug 01, 2018 @ 08:23:13

    In P.R. ‘ardiente’ is widely used. It’s also a colloquial expression meaning that things are under scrutiny or that a situation is precarious. When someone says “esto está que arde'”, it means that a situation is reaching intolerable levels. It’s very common in P.R..


  4. shoreacres
    Aug 11, 2018 @ 19:54:17

    Given developments in the California fires, with arsonists responsible for at least two of the worst, this is a timely post.

    On a lighter note, it crossed my mind that there might be a place to find arder, ardiente, and ardiendo — and so there is.


    • Steve Schwartzman
      Aug 11, 2018 @ 21:29:24

      Too bad the post is timely. I’d gladly have forgone it to have the forests unburned.

      Leave it to you to find Elvis with Spanish subtitles that include the very word (in various forms) discussed here. While Elvis accented all the right syllables as he sang, whoever wrote the Spanish subtitles left out all the accents.


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©2011–2018 Steven Schwartzman

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