Inspired by this question on Italian SE

In Italian, French and English (and probably other languages) there are words cognate to Spanish doblar, which mean "to round (a cape, an isle etc.)" in the narrow nautical sense: "to double Cape Horn", doppiare il Capo di Buona Speranza etc.

The Treccani dictionary states that at least in Italian, it's a calque from Spanish:

2, è un calco dello spagn. doblar

I don't speak Spanish, so I might be wrong, but my understanding is that, unlike the other languages, doblar in Spanish means "to change the direction of movement" in the general sense, and not just in this narrow nautical sense.

Etymological dictionaries do state that it came from Latin duplus ("double"), but don't expand on the semantic development of this word: how exacly the meaning shifted from "to double" to "to turn". At least I could not find anything. DRAE only mentions Del lat. duplāre, de duplus 'doble'., same for Wiktionary.

So how exactly did doblar came to mean "to turn" in Spanish?


2 Answers 2


It seems clear that the original meaning is "to duplicate".

Entry #4 in the DLE may give a hint on its evolution. It can be translated as "to fold". By folding paper (papyrus?) or tissue you duplicate the number of layers.

In order to do that you need to bend it, which takes us to Entry #6.

And when, instead of bending paper, you bend your trajectory, you get the meanings #10 and #11.

Just a hypothesis.

  • In Italian it is similar, the sharp English distinction beetween to fold and to turn doesn't exist. Piegare (doblar in Italian) means both to fold or to turn: piegò a destra intr. , is Doblé a la derecha. Oct 4, 2023 at 16:19

Doblar has several meanings and, according to its etymology, they all fall within the origin of the word.


El verbo doblar (aumentar en dos, torcer algo encorvándolo, volver una cosa sobre otra) viene del latín duplare, compuesta con duplus (doble) y la terminación -are usada para formar verbos.

La palabra duplus nos dio: doble, doblete, doblez, etc. Se relaciona con dos raíces indoeuropeas.

  • La primera es dwo (dos) que daría diploma y dipluro.
  • La segunda es pel-5 (doblar, plegar), que parece ser una variante de plek (plegar, trenzar).

Source etimologiasdechile.net


I think the relationship between to fold and to turn may be related to the etymology described in the first part of the answer.

The root plek has the same origin as plicāre which means doblar and is the origin of llegar (to arrive). Therefore, putting both meanings together, it is not difficult to interpret the mixture between to arrive and to turn that results in doblar as to turn.

See from plicare to llegar

plicāre (Latin)
Inflection of plicō (present active infinitive)
Inflection of plicō (second-person singular present passive imperative)
Inflection of plicō (second-person singular present passive indicative)

plico (Latin)
From Proto-Indo-European *pleḱ-‎ ("to plait, to weave") (with i from the compounded forms). Cognate with Latin plectō.
(transitive) I fold, bend or flex; I roll up
(transitive) I arrive (this meaning comes from sailors, for whom the folding of a ship’s sails meant arrival on land)

  • According to most sources, Latin duplus and duplex, although similar in meaning, come from two different PIE roots. This dictionary states that duplus comes from the same root that gave -plex, which contradicts that. Also, you answer seems to assume that duplare meant "to turn" in some pre-Spanish stage of Latin as well. Do you know of any examples of such usage?
    – Quassnoi
    Oct 3, 2023 at 18:06
  • Sorry, the link was wrong, fixed. Where do you read Duplex?
    – Danielillo
    Oct 3, 2023 at 18:11
  • Your link mentions *pleḱ which gave duplex (and other words in -plex) but not duplus in Latin (at least according to most sources). This source seems to assume that it gave duplus as well.
    – Quassnoi
    Oct 3, 2023 at 18:15
  • But my larger question is how the word meaning "to double" came to mean "to turn". Just to clarify, are you saying it was this way in Latin already, or this is a later innovation?
    – Quassnoi
    Oct 3, 2023 at 18:18
  • Answer updated.-
    – Danielillo
    Oct 5, 2023 at 12:33

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