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The word bomba can translate to English as any of the following, depending on the region:

  • bomb
  • pump
  • spray
  • major piece of news
  • bubble
  • fire truck
  • fire station
  • gas station
  • plus a few more...

That always confused me, as most of those are very different concepts to me as a native English speaker. How did a single Spanish word come to mean all those things? What is the word's etymology?

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2 Answers

up vote 6 down vote accepted

I think most of the meanings you outline are variations on two basic meanings, namely "bomb" and "pump". For example, "gas station" and "fire station" seem to be obvious extensions of the word "pump", since both stations are based on a pump.

The use of "bomba" meaning a piece of news is, IMO, figurative. In English we sometimes refer to a sensational mews item as a "bombshell". Back in the 1940s, "bombshell" also was used to refer to an exceptionally pretty girl.

With regard to a single word having a multitude of meanings, English is probably the worst language of them all.

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I completely agree with WalterMitty. The other words can be thought of as slang or jargon based upon the two, shall we say, dictionary meanings. –  Paul Sep 9 '12 at 17:36
Just to add to Walter Mitty's answer, the use of bomba to refer to gas station, fire station, or fire truck is a good example of a synecdoche. –  Michael Wolf Dec 10 '12 at 20:34
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I can think of so many words with such wide, strange arrays of meanings that to me, the multiple meanings of "bomba" is really nothing special. In most cases, an imaginative mind can extrapolate why a word has taken on an extended, possibly figurative meaning with no problem.

Consider "major piece of news". The idea of something extremely urgent or important has figurative ties with explosions, bombs, etc. in every language I'm familiar with. "Bubble" might come from the stereotypical shape of bombs, or the fact that a bubble pops like a bomb explodes, etc.

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