Posted by: SSU Lingua Franca | November 24, 2014

Exploring Cognates: English move and Spanish mover

English move and Spanish mover: An analysis of English-Spanish cognates based on the Latin roots mov‑ and mot

Jon Aske, WLC

The following is a chapter from a book which is still a work in progress and which has as its working title Everything You Ever Wanted—and Needed—to Know about the Spanish-English Cognate Vocabulary: An Introduction to Spanish & English Linguistics. Another possible title is Spanish linguistics for non-linguists. Dr. Aske has been working on this book for a year now, mostly during his Spring 2014 sabbatical. This book is an introduction to Spanish linguistics that uses Spanish-English cognates as its entry point. By analyzing cognates learners can improve not only their Spanish (and English) vocabularies, but also learn about their history, their structure, their sounds and their meanings, and how all of them have changed through the ages, among many other things. The book is almost 1,000 pages, but its different parts can in many cases be read independently, especially Part II, which deals with stories of words such as the one presented here. Phonetic symbols are used to represent sounds faithfully, since our alphabet does not do a great job in that regard. Do not be intimidated by them. Read past them if they bother you.

moveThe world is in motion, more so now, in the 21st century, than ever before. Everything and everybody is moving around, going places. And when we’re not moving we’re connecting to others through our mobile devices while we’re on the move, communicating through text, audio, and video which move at the speed of light. As you may have guessed, the words move, motion, and mobile, and many more, are all related and they go back at least 6,000 years to the Proto-Indo-European verbal root *meue– ‘to move’.

The English verb to move /ˈmuv/, past tense and past participle moved /ˈmuvd/, is a descendant of Middle English moven, also spelled moeven and meven. Common as this word is in English, it is not a native word. It is a 13th century loanword from Old French or, more precisely, from Anglo-Norman mover or moveir, which goes back to Old French mouver or moveir. All of them have the same meaning, namely ‘to move’. The Modern French reflex of this verb is mouvoir, pronounced /mu.ˈvu̯aʀ/. English move, French mouvoir, and Spanish mover /mo.ˈbeɾ/, also meaning ‘to move’, are historical cognates that descend from Latin movēre (moveō, movēre, mōvī, mōtum) also meaning ‘to move’ (plus a few other derived senses). In French and Spanish these reflexes are patrimonial words, whereas in English it is a loanword word. Latin movēre goes back to  Proto-Indo-European *meue-, also meaning  ‘to move, push away’.  Latin movēre is a patrimonial cognate of Lithuanian mauti ‘to push on, rush’ and Sanskrit mīvati ‘pushes, presses, moves’, among others.

The cognates Sp. mover ~ Eng. move are typically equivalent, since they share a core meaning, but English move has several derived senses that are not present in Spanish mover. First of all, we should say that Spanish mover is always transitive, as in Sp. Juan movió la mesa ~ Eng. Juan moved the table or Sp. No muevas mis cosas ~ Eng. Don’t move my stuff. To use mover intransitively it must be conjugated reflexively, as in Sp. El perro se movió, pero yo no me moví ~ Eng. The dog moved, but I didn’t move. English move is primarily a transitive verb, but it can be used intransitively without any modification.

There are, however, derived senses of Eng. move that Sp. mover does not share, such as the sense of intransitive move which is equivalent to ‘changing residences’, as in Eng. Juan moved to Buenos Aires. Spanish cannot use moverse that way. For this sense Spanish uses the reflexive verb mudarse, as in Juan se mudó a Buenos Aires. Spanish mudarse is the reflexive (intransitive) form of the transitive verb mudar ‘to change, alter, etc.’. This verb is a patrimonial word coming from Lat. mūtāre (the t > d sound change gives away the fact that this is a native, patrimonial (non-borrowed) word in Spanish, since that sound change is typical of orally transmitted words from Latin to Old Spanish. English borrowed the Latin verb mūtāre in the 18th century from Latin as mutate (English borrowed it from the past participle form mutatus, hence the different ending).

Of course, Spanish has also borrowed the very same word, in the form of mutar, which is a rather uncommon word, synonymous with transformar ‘to transform’. It is used primarily in biology, along with the derived noun mutación ‘mutation’ (from the Latin mūt‑ā‑tiōn‑). There are several learned (borrowed, non-patrimonial) words in Spanish which come from prefixed versions of Latin mūtāre: transmutar, inmutar, and conmutar. Sp. transmutar comes from Lat. trānsmūtāre and it means ‘to change form, transform’ (remember the Latin preposition-prefix trans means ‘on the other side’) and it has as cognate in Eng. transmute, a specialized word, just like its Spanish counterpart.

Spanish inmutar ‘to alter, change, affect’ (from Lat. inmūtāre), is also a fancy and rare word, one which does not have a cognate in English. The word is not all that rare when used reflexively, as in inmutarse, when translates as ‘to be impressed, affected, moved’, but also ‘to get worked up, perturbed’. The most common use for this word in Spanish is probably in a negative reflexive context, as in no inmutarse, which can translate several English idiomatic expressions, such as to not bat an eyelash (or an eyelid) or to not skip a beat, or not to show any emotion, among others, as in the sentence María no se inmutó cuando recibió la noticia ‘María did not show any emotion when she received the news’.

Finally Spanish has the verb conmutar, from Latin commūtāre ‘to change, exchange, transform, etc.’, formed with the Latin preposition-prefix com ‘with’. This verb has two very specific cognates in English, namely commute and commutate. The latter is used in the field of electricity, where it means ‘regulate or reverse the direction of (an alternating electric current), especially to make it a direct current’ (COED). The verb commute in English has several senses, the most common ones being: 1) ‘reduce (a judicial sentence, especially a sentence of death) to a less severe one’ (COED), and 2) ‘travel some distance between one’s home and place of work on a regular basis’. Spanish conmutar shares the meaning of Eng. conmutate and sense (1) of commute. Additionally conmutar is often used in Academia for the transferring of courses from one university to another.

The English adjective mobile, pronounced either /ˈmoʊ̯.ˌbaɪ̯l / or /ˈmoʊ̯.bəl/, is related to the verb to move, though it is written with a b rather than a v, which may seem confusing at first. This word also comes from Old French, which eventually comes from Latin mōbilis ‘easy to be moved, moveable, that can be moved’. Why the b, you may wonder, if the verb move has a v. Well, mōbilis is a reduction of an assumed earlier but unattested form *movibilis ‘moveable’, from the already mentioned Latin root mov‑, from which comes the Latin verb movēre, plus the adjectival suffix ‑i‑bil-is (cf. mov + i + bil + is). The suffix ‑i‑bil‑, meaning ‘able, that can be –ed’, was a common one in Latin, used with verbs, and equivalent to ‑a‑bil‑ when used with first conjugation verbs. The suffix ‑able and ‑ible in English are reflexes of these Latin ones and can be found in countless English Latinate words, from capable (Sp. capaz) to visible (Sp. visible). The ‑vibi‑ sound combination in the Latin word movibilis was reduced to ‑bi‑, due to the similarity of the two syllables, resulting in the form mobilis, which explains the seeming contrast between related these related words, some with v and some with b.

The Spanish cognate of mobile is móvil, which was rewritten at one point with the etymological v of the Latin verb movēre (remember that in Spanish the b and the v have the exact same pronunciation). This adjective is a common word in Spanish. It has also come to be used as a noun in modern times, with the meaning of ‘mobile phone’. That is, móvil in Spanish has become short for teléfono móvil ‘mobile/cell phone’, much like cell can be used as short for cell phone in North America (with the same meaning). Although the English word mobile is not used with the sense of ‘mobile/cell phone’ in the United States, it is indeed used that way in other English-speaking countries such as the UK, Australia, and New Zealand. The equivalent in the US and Canada are cellphone, also written cell phone, and the abbreviation cell.

Despite the meaning equivalence, the English adjective mobile does not always translate as móvil. They are often equivalent when used as attributive adjectives, as in mobile hospital ~ Sp. hospital móvil. But in Spanish móvil is not used as a predicate adjective, so we do not use it with copula verbs, as in Eng. to be mobile. Thus in Spanish we cannot say *ser móvil or *estar móvil). English, on the other hand, does use to be mobile this way in the sense of having the ability to move, as in My grandfather is barely mobile ‘Mi abuelo apenas se puede mover’. Even as an attributive adjective, English mobile does not always translate as móvil in a number of collocations in which it is found, such as mobile home ‘caravana, remolque, casa ambulante’, and mobile library ‘biblioteca ambulante’, or geographically mobile (workers) ‘(trabajadores) dispuestos a desplazarse’ (VOX).

Derived from the adjective mobile in English is the noun mobility, from Lat. mōbilitātem. This noun is a cognate of Sp. movilidad, from the same Latin source.  Often they are equivalent, as in the expressions Eng. geographical mobility ~ Sp. movilidad geográfica, Eng. job mobility ~ Sp. movilidad laboral. The two cognates are not equivalent in one of the most common uses of the word mobility, namely social mobility. That collocation (or is it an idiom?) translates in a number of ways into Spanish, such as ascenso social, mejora de la situación social/socioeconómica.

The etymologically original meaning of the words mobile and móvil, namely Latin *movibilis (accusative. movibilem), meaning ‘capable of being moved’, has come to be expressed in these two languages by means of an equivalent suffix, also derived from Latin.[i] Where the original Latin word had the Latin suffix ‑ibilis, Spanish and English have the equivalent suffix, Sp. ‑ible and Eng. ‑able. The result is Sp. movible (mov- + ‑ible) and Eng. moveable (move + able), with identical meanings. They are synonyms of móvil and mobile, although with somewhat different uses. Antonyms of English mobile are immobile ‘inmóvil’  in Spanish, immovable, ‘inamovible, etc.’ in Spanish, and unmovable, ‘inamovible, inmovible, etc’ in Spanish. As we can see from the translations of the English antonyms, the Spanish antonyms of móvil are inmovible and inamovible. The forms just means ‘that cannot be moved’, whereas the latter means something more like ‘permanent’, ‘unchangeable’, ‘non-negotiable’.

Mobil, pronounced /ˈmoʊ̯.bəl/, is the name of the second largest oil company in the world, which was recently acquired by Exxon, forming the Exxon-Mobil conglomerate. And Mobile, pronounced /ˌmoʊ̯.ˈbil/ is the name of a city in Alabama, the seat of Mobile County in that state. It doesn’t have anything to do with the Latin root we’ve been looking at. It is rather related to the Mobile Native American tribe that inhabited that area. Also it seems to have something to do with the name of a fort town used by this tribe, Mabila, in that same area.

The cognate pair Eng. automobile /ˈɔ.tə.mə.ˌbil/ ~ automóvil /au̯.to.ˈmó.bil/, was created first in French in the late 19th century, as automobile. It was originally used as an adjective which refered to electric traction cars. It was created out of the Ancient Greek word αὐτός (autós), meaning ‘self’, and the Latin adjective mobilis ‘movable’ that we have just seen. The meaning of the compound was something like ‘self-propelled’, and the noun that came out of it was, of course, a ‘self-propelled motor vehicle’. This word was then borrowed by both English and Spanish to refer to the new-fangled contraptions. In Spanish the word automóvil, which entered the language in the early 20th century is a somewhat fancy synonym of coche in Spain and of carro in Spanish America, both meaning ‘car’. From the word automobile, the morpheme mobile was at one point reinterpreted as a suffix in English and it is the source of derivates such as snowmobile, which is sometimes called moto para la nieve in Spanish. The compound automobile was shortened to auto, already in French in the early 20th century, a clipping that was then borrowed by English and Spanish as well. Thus English auto (pronounced /ˈɔ.toʊ̯/, /ˈɒ.toʊ̯/ or /ˈɑ.toʊ̯/, depending on the dialect) and Spanish auto (pronounced /au̯.to/) are alternative words for Eng. car and Sp. carro/coche, respectively. From this very auto we get the common compound automaker ‘car manufacturer’, which in Spanish is rendered as fabricante de coches, fabricante de automóviles, or compañía que fabrica automóviles.

There are a few historical cognates in English and Spanish based on the Latin root mov‑. A major one is Eng. remove ~ Sp. remover. This one, however, is a classic example of false friends. Eng. remove is ‘quitar, eliminar, suprimir; (surg.) extirpar’, and Sp. remover in English is ‘to turn over, dig up’ when speaking of earth, and ‘to stir’ when referring to a liquid. Some of the words are patrimonial, as the verb mover is, something that is made obvious by the fact that in these words the o when stressed changes to ue. That is due to the fact that the o of Latin mov‑ was a short o (ŏ) and short o’s changed to the diphthong ue in Spanish when stressed (cf. muevo ‘I move’, but movemos ‘we move’).

The only prefixed derivate of mover in Spanish is conmover, meaning ‘to move, touch’ in an emotional sense. It comes from Lat. commovēre (com ‘with’ + movēre ‘to move’). This is the verb that translates the sense of English move ‘arouse a strong feeling, especially of sorrow or sympathy, in (someone)’ (COED), as in Sus palabras me conmovieron de verdad ‘Her words really touched me’. Derived from this verb is the adjective conmovedor ‘moving, touching, stirring, heart-wrenching’, as in un homenaje conmovedor ‘a moving tribute’.

In addition to the Spanish adjective movible ‘moveable’ that we saw above, Spanish also has the derived adjective movedizo, which translates as ‘easy to move, unstable’. It is used primarily in very specific expressions such as arenas movedizas ‘quicksand’. In Old Spanish the adjective movible was sometimes prefixed with the prefix a‑ giving us the equivalent word amovible. This word is obsolete in Modern Spanish, but its negative form, inamovible, has survived (see above).

Related to the cognate adjectives Sp. móvil ~ Eng. mobil, we have the derived cognate nouns Sp. movilidad /ˈdad/ ~ Eng. mobility /mə.’bɪ.lɪ.tɪ/, both ultimately from Latin mōbilitāt‑ (nominative mōbilitās, accusative mōbilitātem), meaning ‘mobility, changeableness, etc.’ English mobility is a 14th or 15th century loanword from written Latin. English has a synonym of mobility derived from the verb move, namely movability, which also translates into Spanish as ‘movilidad’. All these nouns have negative versions with the prefix in‑ in Spanish and im‑ in English: Sp. inmovilidad, Eng. immobility, immovability.

In addition the same cognate adjectives have spawned transitive verbs, namely Eng. mobilize /ˈmoʊ̯.bɪ.laɪ̯z/ and Sp. movilizar /ˈsaɾ/, with pretty close to identical meanings.  That is no doubt because both of them are relatively recent (19th century) borrowings from French mobiliser.

The Latin adjective mobilem (nominative case: mobilis) that we saw earlier came to be used in Old Spanish as a noun to refer to things that could be moved. By regular sound changes the word mobilem changed to Spanish (masculine) mueble, the word for a ‘piece of furniture’. The plural muebles translates as English ‘furniture’. From this word we have the noun mobiliario, also meaning ‘furniture’, the derived verb amueblar ‘to furnish’, ‘to fill with furniture’, the noun mueblería ‘furniture store’. Additionally, the word mueble has a ‘negative’ version in the word inmueble, formed with the negative prefix in‑ (equivalent to and cognate with English un‑). This word is equivalent to the word building in English. The expression bienes inmuebles translates into English as real estate. The phrase real estate agency in Spanish would be rendered as agencia inmobiliaria or just inmobiliaria for short.

A couple of more Spanish words are derived from the Latin root mov‑, both of them nouns. One is the noun movimiento, which is a cognate of Eng. movement, with which it is pretty much equivalent. Both come from Medieval Latin movimentum. English movement came into the language through Middle French movement or mouvement. Another derived Spanish noun from this root is movida ‘action; stir, commotion’, which is derived from the feminine form of the past participle of mover, namely movida. This word became very popular in the 1980’s in Spain to refer to the Madrid nightclub and music scene: la movida madrileña.

There are also a number of learned derivates related root mot‑, which is the root of the irregular past participle of the verb movēre that we saw earlier, namely mōtum (mōt‑ + ‑um). The past participle root of Latin verbs (derived from the root of the supine form of the verb) was very productive in Latin to produce new words by adding suffixes. The supine root also often differed from the main form of the root, as in this case (mov‑ vs. mot‑).

Some English words that come from Latin words derived from the root mot‑ are motion, emotion, commotion, motive, promote and promotion, remote, motor, and mutiny, among others, all of which have Spanish cognates. The Spanish cognate of Eng. emotion /ɪ.ˈmoʊ̯.ʃən]/ is emoción /ˈsi̯on/ (/ˈθi̯on/ in most of Spain). Notice that Spanish has a c where English has a t. Since these words come from the Latin derived nominal root e‑mot‑ion‑ it is obvious that it is Spanish that made the change here. What happened is that Spanish this spelling change once these two letters came to have the same pronunciation before the io vowel combination. (Notice that they also have the same pronunciation in English, cf. coercion /koʊ̯.ˈɜɹ.ʃən/ and suspicion /səs.ˈpɪ.ʃən/, though English sticks to the original Latin spelling.) The Latin nominal root e‑mot‑ion‑ is derived from the verb ēmovēre ‘to move out or away, etc.’, formed from the prefix ē‑, a variant of the preposition-prefix ex‑, meaning ‘out’. The patrimonial (native) descendant of this verb in French came to mean ‘to excite’, and so in the 16th century English borrowed the noun emotion with the sense of ‘a (physical) moving, stirring, agitation’. By the 17th century the English word had already acquired the ‘strong feeling’ meaning and by the beginning of the 19th century it had the current meaning. Spanish borrowed the word emoción from French in the 19th century. Spanish emoción is similar in meaning to English emotion, and sometimes they are interchangeable, but they are not equivalent by any means. In particular Sp. emoción sometimes translates as excitement. Note that Spanish does have a verb excitar, and two derived nouns excitación y excitamiento, all of which sometimes can translate their English counterparts, but the Spanish words in some contexts have sexual connotations that the English counterparts do not have and one should be especially careful.

By adding the Latin adjectival suffix ‑al to emotion, we get the adjective emotional. The Spanish equivalent is emocional, though it also has two other derived adjectives, namely emotivo and emocionante. The most common translation of Sp. emocionante into English is ‘exciting, thrilling’ (without any sexual connotations of Sp. excitante). The adjective emocional translates as ‘emotional, full of feeling, passionate, sentimental’. The adjective emotivo translates sometimes as ‘emotional’ or ‘moving, touching’ if talking about an event, or as ‘emotive, stirring’ if talking about something someone said. There is a noun derived from emotivo, namely emotividad, which means something like ‘emotionality’. There is a cognate for this noun too, namely emotivity. It’s in the dictionary.

Not surprisingly there is also a very common transitive verb emocionar in Spanish. It means ‘to move, touch’ and also ‘to excite, thrill’. To use it intransitively it needs to be conjugated reflexively. Examples of this verb in context are: Me emocionaron sus palabras ‘His words moved/touched me’. Se emocionó mucho al ver a su hija ‘He got all full of emotion when she saw her daughter’.

Latin had a verb prōmovēre, formed with the preposition-prefix prō ‘forward’ and the verb movēre ‘to move’, meaning literally ‘to move forward, advance’. This verb has given us Spanish promover and Eng. promote, which are very close in meaning. The Spanish verb comes from the Latin infinitive form, with the mov‑ root, whereas the English one comes from the Latin participle form promotus, with the mot‑ root. The two verbs are close in meaning but not fully identical. English promote has two major senses: ‘further the progress of; support or encourage’ (COED), which translates as promover, except that in the sense of promoting a product, Spanish prefers promocionar, a verb derived from the noun promoción. A close synonym of promover in Spanish is fomentar. The other major sense of English promote is ‘to raise to a higher position or rank’. This sense translates typically as ascender (cf. its English historical cognate ascend). In sports being promoted to a higher league is usually expressed as subir (de categoría).

Derived from this last set of verbs are the historical cognates promotion and promoción, from the Latin noun stem prōmotion‑ (< prō + mot + ion). They are synonymous in some contexts, mostly when they mean ‘the act of promoting’, but not in others. Thus, for instance, the main sense of English promotion is related to the second sense of the verb promote and the equivalent in Spanish is ascenso (cf. Eng. ascent). The main senses of Spanish promoción, however, are first a commercial promotion of a product with lowered prices, and second a group of people who move together in their studies or in the military  (cf. Eng. cohort, class). The entity that promotes something can be called a promotor in either languages, though the pronunciation is different: /pɹə.ˈmoʊ̯.təɹ/ vs. /pɾˈtoɾ/.

We saw Spanish had a verb conmover ‘to move emotionally’, derived from commovēre (com+movēre), which did not have an equivalent cognate *commote in English. It turns out that the two languages do share historical cognate nouns that are derived from this verb, namely Eng. commotion /kə.ˈməʊ̯.ʃən/ and Sp. conmoción /̯on/, from the derived Latin noun commōtiōnem, which meant ‘motion, movement’, but also ‘agitation, commotion’. The meanings of the Spanish and English words, however, are quite different, which means that these historical cognates are ‘false friends’. English commotion means something like the second meaning it had in Latin and it translates into Spanish as ‘escándalo’, ‘alboroto’, ‘revuelo’, or ‘jaleo’. Spanish conmoción means something like ‘shock’ and, in medicine ‘concussion’ (cf. conmoción cerebral ‘brain concussion’).

We have seen the words emotion and commotion, but have not said anything so far about the more basic word motion /ˈmoʊ̯.ʃən/, and its Spanish historical cognate moción /mo.ˈsi̯on/ (/mo.ˈθi̯on/ in most of Spain). As you could have guessed, they come from the Latin  nominal stem mōtiōn‑ (nominative mōtiō, accusative mōtiōnem), referring to ‘the act of moving’ or, in English, motion or movement. The English noun motion has two major meanings, the original ‘the action or process of moving or being moved’ (COED) and ‘a formal proposal put to a legislature or committee’ (COED). It turns out that Spanish moción only has the second of these meanings and only because Spanish borrowed, or calqued, this word from English.

The regular way to translate the first sense of the noun motion is with the word movimiento, a cognate of English movement. Spanish movimiento is an old word, if not native, and English movement is a 14th century loanword from Late Latin movimentum via Old French. Latin movimentum is formed from the root of movēre, namely mov‑ and the suffix ‑mentum (and the linking vowel ‑i‑), which adds the meaning of ‘instrument, medium, or result’. Curiously, this ver same word movimentum, after suffering a contraction in Latin itself, has given us some very common words, namely English moment and momentum, and their Spanish equivalent momento, all from Latin momentum, meaning ‘movement, moving power’ but also ‘instant, importance’. English moment entered the language in the 14th century with the second sense (‘very brief portion of time’) from Old French. English momentum was introduced in the late 17th century as a term in physics with the first sense of the Latin word. In Spanish momentum can translate as momento, but also ‘ímpetu’ (cf. Eng. impetus), ‘impulso’ (cf. Eng. impulse), or even ‘velocidad’ (cf. Eng. velocity). English also has three adjectives derived from the noun momentum, namely momentous and momentary. The word momentous has inherited the sense ‘important’, which was one of the senses that Latin momentum had originally. It translates into Spanish as ‘transcendental’, ‘crítico’, or ‘de gran/suma importancia’, not with a word derived from momentum. English momentary translates as ‘momentáneo’ or ‘breve’. The former is a learned (non-patrimonial) word derived from momentum as well. The derived English adverb momentarily has different meanings in British English and in American English. In British English it means (is synonymous with) ‘briefly, for a moment’. In Spanish that could be expressed as ‘por un momento’ or ‘brevemente’. In American English it means ‘in a moment’, which in Spanish would be ‘en un momento’ or ‘en breve’.

There are just a few more English and Spanish words that are derived from the Latin root mot­‑, some of which are very common, all of which have counterparts in the other language from the same root. Let us start with Eng. motive /ˈmoʊ̯.tɪv/ ~ Sp. motivo. They are cognate nouns derived from the Late Latin adjective mōtīvus ‘moving, moved, stirred, of motion’ (from mōt‑ + iv + us), formed with the adjectival suffix ‑iv‑, typically added to past participles of verbs (as in this case, cf. mot‑), and sometimes nouns (cf. fēstusfēstīvus). English motive is a mid-14th century loanword from Old French motif (fem. motive). Curiously, English reborrowed this word from French as motif /moʊ̯.ˈtif/ in the 19th century with the changed sense of ‘dominant idea, theme’. (English also borrowed the word leitmotif /ˈlaɪ̯t.moʊ̯.tif/ from German Leitmotiv in the 19th century, with the meaning ‘a recurring theme in a musical or literary composition’ [COED].)

The cognates Eng. motor /ˈmoʊ.təɹ/ ~ Sp. motor /mo.ˈtoɾ/ are a perfect pair of cognates, since they look the same and have the same meaning, even if they don’t sound the same. Both come from Latin mōtor ‘mover’ (< mōt+or), from the root of the past participle mōt‑us. English borrowed it directly from Latin in the 15th century and Spanish did too a couple of centuries later. The use of the word for machines that produce mechanical motion is from the 19th century. The derived word motorcar is from 1895 and motorist is from 1896. The word motorcycle is also from 1896, an abbreviation of motor bicycle. In Spanish motocicleta (without an r) is the equivalent of motorcycle, typically abbreviated to moto (still feminine).  A person who rides a motorcycle is a motorcyclist in English (also biker) and a motorista in Spanish. Thus Sp. motorista and Eng. motorist are also false friends. English motorist is automovilista in Spanish.

Another fairly common pair of cognates based on the root mot‑ are Eng. remote ~ Sp. remoto. They come ultimately from Latin remōtus, past participle of the verb removēre that we saw earlier, which in Latin meant ‘move back; put away; remove’, something closer to Eng. remove than to Sp. remover ‘to stir’. Both words came into the language through written Latin, into English in the 15th century and into Spanish probably later. They are very close cognates but not completely, since sometimes they are not equivalent. Thus, for example, to be remote in the sense of ‘unlikely’ translates as ser improbable. The word remote in English can also now be used as a noun, as an abbreviation of remote control. Curiously, the Spanish equivalent is a calqued construction, control remoto, but the abbreviation that is commonly used for the whole thing is control (e.g. Sp. ¡Dame el control! ~ Eng. Give me the remote!). Another phrase for remote control in Spanish is mando a distancia, usually abbreviated to mando ‘remote’.

The last set of words that contain the root mot‑ have to do with rebellion of sorts: Spanish motín and English mutiny are close nouns. Spanish took motín in the 16th century from French noun mutin (same meaning), derived from the adjective mutin ‘rebellious’ (derived from Old French muete ‘revolt’, and ultimately from Vulgar Lat. *movita, feminine past participle of movēre (equivalent to Sp. movida, see above). Spanish motín can translate as mutiny when it’s done by soldiers or sailors, but also as ‘riot’ or ‘uprising’. English mutiny can also be used as a verb, in which case the Spanish equivalent is the verb amotinarse ‘to mutiny’. Another word for the English noun mutiny is the Spanish noun amotinamiento, derived from the verb amotinar.

[i] Cf.


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