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Learning Spanish Words Through Etymology and Mnemonics

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The following are sample headword entries from my Learning Spanish Words Through Etymology and Mnemonics, which makes use of etymology to help you remember Spanish words, and failing that, suggests a mnemonic. I'm not aware of any other book dedicated to foreign language vocabulary study that intentionally combines these two methods in learning.

humo smoke; fume (cognate). From Latin fumus. Note the f- to h- conversion, which is common. Example, el salmón ahumado (“smoked salmon”); aquí no se fuma (“no smoking here”); hay humo hay fuego (“where there’s smoke there’s fire”, literally “there’s smoke, there’s fire”).

vino wine (cognate). If the cognation is not obvious, think of vine (the plant), which is related to vino.

rincón (interior) corner, nook. Arabic origin. Use a mnemonic such as “a raccoon in the corner of the house”. See also esquina (“exterior corner”).

cuñado brother-in-law. cuñada sister-in-law. From Latin cognatus. Cognate with cognate. (Yes, the English word cognate is cognate with this Spanish word.) The original and literal meaning is “related”, hence cuñado (“related by blood”) and cognate (“related in language evolution”). It’s common for Latin gn to change to Spanish ñ.

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