I noticed that in Spanish, "beer" is called cerveza and "cherry" is called cereza. The only difference in these spellings is the letter "v". Likewise, their Portuguese cognates are cerveja and cereja respectively. Once again, the only difference in the spellings is the letter "v".

My questions are:

  1. What is the origin of these two similar names? Did Latin have a more practical reason for having two different words that represent a similar spelling ?

  2. Why haven't modern Spanish and Portuguese reformed this coincidence, using completely different spellings for "beer" and "cherry"? Most other aspects of Spanish and Portuguese vocabulary seem to be completely coherent.

  • Comments cleared. Please use comments only to suggest improvements or ask for clarification.
    – wimi
    Commented Feb 13, 2021 at 22:19
  • 1
    Spanish and Portuguese are very close, but here, the language is only about Spanish. Whenever a word in Spanish and Portuguese are the same or almost the same, they have the same root. Before asking these questions, you can look up the etymologies.
    – Lambie
    Commented Jul 3, 2021 at 21:08

1 Answer 1


It's coincidence - both these words were similar in Latin (and hence maintained their similarity through to Spanish), but ultimately come from unrelated origins:

cereza esp ← ceresia vulg lat ← cerasium lat ← κεράσιον ancient greek? anatolian

cerveza esp ← cervesia lat ← *kurmi proto-celtic

  • 2
    Note: There are many pairs of similar sounding but conceptually distinct words in languages, and this rarely leads to confusion. E.g. "carriage" vs "carnage".
    – jacobo
    Commented Feb 13, 2021 at 14:50
  • And, similarly, there are many words that sound similar (or even identical) in different languages but have completely different meanings. See for example the German ‘gift’ and English ‘gift’. There are only so many phonemes the human vocal apparatus can produce, so you will end up with duplication or near duplication with some regularity, even without borrowing words across languages. Commented Feb 13, 2021 at 16:26

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