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Of course, having checked both Wiktionary and the Real Academia Española, I know that the word "anteojos" is etymologically derived from "antojo", which in turn is a combination of the Spanish words "ante" and "ojo".

However, I'm curious about exactly how the word "antojo"--which, taking its etymological constituents literally, I suppose means something like "before eye", but in terms of actual language means "whim", "craving", or "birthmark"-- might have lead to the introduction of the word "anteojos", which is really just going back to the original etymological roots of "antojo", and yet which denotes a pretty distinct concept.

I find that it makes pretty good sense for the concepts of "whim" and "craving" to be described with a word that means "before eye", as I'm assuming it has to do with the idea that such things are, in a sense, before one's eyes, beckoning to or tempting the observer. I'm a bit less certain about why it would come to describe a birthmark, though I'm guessing it has something to do with a birthmark's conspicuous visibility.

Now, the intuitive explanation for this word being slightly morphed to describe glasses/spectacles would be that they make it easier for a person to see what is before his or her eyes. That seems clear enough, at least to me. Edit: Actually, I just found an answer to an earlier question on here that I missed in my initial search, which explains that they were called such because glasses sit on the face before the eyes. Duh. My bad.

So, my first question is, am I wrong with any of my above thinking?

My second question is, how exactly does a word like "anteojo" come about? The Real Academia Española etymology box for "anteojo" says "De antojo, con recomposición etimológica." but I'm not quite sure what a so-called "etymological recomposition" is. Does that imply a sort of conscious recomposition of the etymological roots of "antojo" in order to coin a word to describe a new invention, or does it imply a more natural and incidental process that amounts to the same thing?

  • About the birthmarks: the popular belief if that a birthmark represents an unfullfilled craving during pregnancy. Just that. – Charlie Jan 18 '17 at 8:18
  • The first part of your question may be difficult to answer, because in 1495 the word "antojo" already had both the "craving" and "spectacles" meanings (in Nebrija's Spanish-Latin dictionary). I figure that the second question may be answered as just the natural way of the language to tell apart both meanings. One of them just went to be included in another word ("anteojos"). – Charlie Jan 18 '17 at 8:34
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It seems quite intuitive to think that "anteojos" as seeing glasses comes from having a device in front of your eyes. We have some questions already1 that could highlight that some of these terms can be used refer to a specific part of the device sometimes.

Antojo as a craving is also quite intuitive, as you point out in the questions. In English there's the expression "My eyes are bigger than my stomach" and in Spanish "Me entra por los ojos". There are many other expression that could illustrate the close relation between seeing something and have a desire for it.

Antojo is indeed Spanish for "birthmak", along with "lunar 2". There was the misconception that birthmarks where actually cravings during pregnancy that were not fulfilled. The same goes with "lunar" since another misconception explained birthmarks and the influence of the moon.

You may have a little bit of "egg and chicken" problem here, trying to figure out if these myths/misconceptions gave name to the birthmarks or if it was just that by these words being homonyms of something else triggered such speculations and misconceptions.

About anteojo coming from "antojo, con recomposición etimológica", I cannot really explain the process itself is or how it happened, but I'm more prone to believe that it implies a more natural and incidental process.

Such process (recomposición etimológica), and specifically for this case, has been researched by Pedro Alvarez de Miranda, from the RAE in his book El doblete "antojo" / "anteojo": cronología de una recomposición etimológica.... This 24-pages book probably explains the effect on great detail.

I doesn't seem likely that "anteojo" would be coined as new word purposely from a word meaning "craving" or "birthmark". On the other hand, as the etymology o "anteojo" points out, there's more than just "ante + ojo(s)", which is the research of Alvarez de Miranda.


1.Interesting related questions

2. A "lunar" is also a circle, like (polka) dots in a dress. The etimology of all these meanings could be related to them being circular as the moon.

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Both words have "ant" at the begining, this mean what have something before.

Example:

  • anteojo, before eyes
  • antojo, before food (but is more complicated in this case)
  • antepasado, before relative
  • antediluviano, before "Noé"
  • antepuesto, placed before something
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    Note that the word "antojo" meant both "craving" and "spectacles" in the XV century, but the "spectacles" meaning tilted towards another word ("anteojo") via an etymological recombination. The question is asking for the causes of this process, so the answers must contain a bit of history in them. – Charlie Jan 20 '17 at 13:27

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