Finding etymological similarities between language families

Are you ever (pleasantly!) surprised when you learn a word in your target language, only to find there are similarities to that word and one in English - or another language you’re familiar with that is not within the same language family? If you are an English speaker, you may find a lot of similarities within the Germanic tree, and likely several common words in the Romance languages. These are often easiest for us to remember by association. What about words that you stumble upon that you didn’t realize that were related to another language family?

An example for me is the word парасолька (par•ahs•OLK•ah) which sounds very much like the word we have for parasol, which has more roots in the Romance languages.

What are other examples across different language families that you find similarities in?


My favorite example is the Finnish word “orpo”, (orphan). which looks fairly similar to “orphan”, “huérfano”, “orfano”, etc., but still too different to be a direct loan from a contemporary language.

It turns out that “orpo” is an ancient loan from some very early Indo-European language, long before Finnish, English or even Latin were established languages!


I’m constantly amazed that I ever thought learning Spanish was difficult because of the plethora of etymologically similar words in English.