Archive for 2007

Tricky Words Part 3

Thursday, April 19th, 2007

Tricky Words.I’m back today with some more tricky Spanish words.

Bizarro. This is not by any means a very oft-used Spanish word, but when you run across it, it will do you well to know it means gallant, brave, dashing, generous, or splendid, and not bizarre, strange or weird. To talk about bizarre or strange things, try raro or extraño. Note also that raro is closer in meaning to strange than to rare.

Coraje does not usually mean courage*, which would be valentía. Coraje actually means anger, rage.
* Apparently, there are some areas where coraje can mean courage, or “fighting spirit”, but by and large this isn’t the case.

Actual. Actual in Spanish means current. Actualizar means to upgrade, update or bring up to date. Actualmente means currently. So how to get the English meaning for actual? Try verdadero or real. For actually, try por cierto, de hecho, or al contrario.

Compromiso does not mean compromise in the sense of giving in to the other party or changing your ideals. Compromiso actually referrs to a commitment, obligation or even an appointment. “Tengo un compromiso” is the best way to say “I have something I need to do”, “I have an appointment/commitment” etc. So how can you talk about compromise? It’s actually a tough question, but the verbs tolerar (tolerate), and ceder (to yield) work pretty well. The dictionary has transigir, but I’ve never heard it in normal conversation.
Soccer Ball
Fútbol. In Spanish this word can be used with or without the accent mark, with the predictable change in pronunciation, but it can’t be used for the popular US sport named football, which would be fútbol americano. Fútbol actually means soccer. Of course, I can’t forget all the British English speakers, who actually do use the word football to talk about soccer. So much so that a soccer player is a footballer.

Tricky Words Series

  1. Tricky Words: Parte Uno
  2. Tricky Words Part 2
  3. Tricky Words Part 3
  4. Tricky Words Part 4

Words That Are Their Own Antonyms

Monday, April 16th, 2007

It’s obvious I’m a sucker for anything to do with words, so of course I was interested when I ran across an article by Samuel Stoddard where he talks about contronyms. A contronym is a word that is its own antonym- it has two or more meanings that are contradictory.

Here are the first 10 from his long list of contronyms.

  • anabasis – military advance, military retreat
  • apology – admission of fault in what you think, say, or do; formal defense of what you think, say, or do
  • aught – all, nothing
  • bolt – secure, run away
  • by – multiplication (e.g., a three by five matrix), division (e.g., dividing eight by four)
  • chuffed – pleased, annoyed
  • cleave – separate, adhere
  • clip – fasten, detach
  • consult – ask for advice, give advice
  • copemate – partner, antagonist

Tricky Words Part 2

Friday, April 13th, 2007

Tricky Words.Here’s the second installment of Tricky Words– Spanish words that are difficult for the native English speaker.

Let’s dig right in.

Excitar does not mean to excite, nor does excitarse mean to get excited. It means to arouse or get aroused in a sexual sense. To talk about being excited, use emocionar, emocionarse and emocionado.

The Arabic Legacy in English Words

Friday, April 13th, 2007

I was reading the news about how a racist American cop verbally and physically abused a US citizen (a war veteran) because he “looked” Arab. Anyway, I got to thinking, Arabic has influenced the English language quite a bit, and Spanish as well. Where would we be without algebra, alcohol, coffee, sugar, the number zero, algorithms, alchemy, and almanacs? The Spanish word for each of these also has Arabic roots.

Tricky Words: Parte Uno

Thursday, April 12th, 2007

Tricky Words.When learning Spanish we’ve all run into some of these words that resemble English words, but have a completely different meaning. In my years of Spanish study, I’ve come across quite a few of these, and I thought I’d share some of them.

In no particular order:

Receta. This word refers to a medical prescription or a recipe for cooking something. It never means “receipt”, which is better translated recibo, comprobante, nota, or even ticket, an Anglicism.