A stray discuss /r/Spanish gained me thinking around muñeca, the word that, bizarrely, method both ‘doll’ and ‘wrist’. The ‘doll’ an interpretation is primary. It’s the one listed very first in dictionaries, and if you do a Google photo search on muñeca, friend see an ext dolls than wrists. It’s the first definition that i learned, since ‘wrist’ is just one of the less vital body parts. As soon as I eventually learned the second meaning, I to be surprised that one word could have two such totally unrelated interpretations.

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I’ve just looked up the background of muñeca in my can’t-live-without-it etymological dictionary by Joan Corominas. It transforms out that the word’s original meaning was neither ‘doll’ no one ‘wrist’, yet something entirely different: ‘milestone’, in the physical feeling of a roadway marker.


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Muñeca ‘milestone’ turns right into both ‘wrist’ and ‘doll’.


How did this bizarre change take place? according to Corominas, the key was the translate of a milestone marker as something that sticks up the end of the ground: a bump, or utilizing fancier English, a protuberance. The word was climate extended to ‘wrist’ since the wrist bone protrudes from the arm. The roadway to ‘doll’ started with the extension of muñeca come a bumpy bundle of rags, and from over there to a rag doll, and then other dolls.

Muñeca‘s original an interpretation of ‘milestone’ has been lost from everyday discourse, however is still contained in the actual Academia’s thesaurus — but only after ‘doll’, ‘wrist’, and also other interpretations related come ‘doll’, such together ‘cadaver’ and ‘bimbo’.

Incidentally, the earlier background of muñeca is obscure. It is not Latin, however seems to come indigenous a pre-Roman language, perhaps Celtic.

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This entry was posted in Vocabulary and also tagged etymology, muñeca, Spanish ~ above 19 May, 2016 by jhochberg.

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11 thoughts on “The strange history of muñeca”

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Diane 3 May, 2020 at 1:00 pm

So happy to discover this! I had actually only known the “doll” definition and was startled to uncover the very different meaning “wrist” in a Spanish class I’m taking. Gift curious, I just “had” to understand why. As soon as I was in elementary college (long ago!!) i was (embarrassing to admit) part of a cliquish girls’ group that the leader had actually named “Las Muñecas” quiet none of us knew much Spanish. Currently I laugh to think the running around in mine “gang” sweatshirt that can easily have actually been read as “The Wrists”. Ha, we assumed we were so cool!


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Melissa 19 May, 2021 at 7:28 pm

I’m curious regarding how the leap to be made native a timeless Guatemalan doll come Celts. Deserve to you intricate on exactly how you reached this? I’m largely Irish & Norwegian therefore anything Celt or Norse bring away my fist quickly. Say thanks to you in advance!


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