According to etimologias.dechile.net, it looks like elegir and escoger might be cognates, they seem to have the very same Latin origin. However, the entries are quite laconic and I'd like to know more.


escoger está formada con raíces latinas... sus componentes léxicos son: ex- (hacia fuera), con (todo, junto) y legere (escoger, elegir, leer).


elegir proviene del latín eligere ... e-/ex- (de, desde, de entre) y legere (escoger, leer).

Are elegir and escoger really cognates? If so, is it known how they evolved into two different words? Do we know more about the history of the two words? How happened that they were imported twice (a vulgarismo/cultismo pair?)?

1 Answer 1


Yes, escoger and elegir are cognates.

Elegir comes from Latin ēligere, from ex- (“out of, from”) +‎ leg- (“choose, select, appoint”). Note that ex- changes to long ē- before the following consonant already in Latin, as it also happens e.g. in eludir (from ēlūdere < ex- + lūdere). The shifts in Latin between e and i in the root are probably (I'm no Latinist) a kind of Ablaut. The irregularity of elegir (elijo vs. elegimos, eligió vs. elegía, etc.) is more recently evolved.

Escoger comes from the same exact morphemes plus the prefix con-. In Latin there was already colligere (“bring together, gather, collect”), from con- + leg- (note the assimilation of -nl- to -ll-), which in Spanish gives us a doublet:

  • the learned form colegir (“gather, understand”) and
  • the vernacular form coger (“take, grasp, grab”, from something like *[kol:i'jer] > *[kol'jer] > *[ko'ʎer] > *[ko'ʒer]; [ʒ] was then merged with [ʃ] and velarized to [x]).

(also, of course, colegio, which means both “school” and “association, professional body”).

From colligere derives the (unattested) Vulgar Latin *excolligere, whence finally Spanish escoger with (irregular, but rather common) simplification of x /ks/ to /s/.

The variation between -er and -ir between these two verbs is a matter of chance; there were many Latin verbs originally in one class that ended up in the other as the system was reorganized.

By the way: the synonym seleccionar (from selecto) also comes from this root: sēlēctum is the supine of sēligere, from sē- (“without; apart, aside”) + leg- (meaning “to choose out”); the prefix sē- is the same as in separar and seducir.

  • Seleccionar as yet another cognate is a surprise for me! I am still not sure: which of them are vulgarismo and which cultismo? Can you also describe the reason behind the triple import, if all of them (now) carry the same meaning? Commented Nov 8, 2019 at 14:50
  • I'd say both escoger and elegir are normally evolved, so vulgarismos, but at least in my area escoger is unheard of except in formal registers. The rest comes down to variety and subtleties of meaning.
    – pablodf76
    Commented Nov 8, 2019 at 15:18
  • cult and vulgar are not accurate here. You mean: the "cultured" (Greek and Latin) and vernacular forms.
    – Lambie
    Commented Nov 8, 2019 at 18:33
  • 1
    @Lambie From what I've read the preferred terms seem to be "learned" vs. "vernacular". I've taken the opportunity to add a link to the very interesting article about doublets in Wikipedia. Thanks for your corrections!
    – pablodf76
    Commented Nov 8, 2019 at 23:03
  • "Tienen un lenguaje culto" is not learned, It is educated. Though culto can mean learned sometimes. Learned is very literary.
    – Lambie
    Commented Nov 9, 2019 at 18:23

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