How did por and para come to mean so differently in Spanish while they both come from the same source, i.e., Latin?

2 Answers 2


I have been researching a bit because I found the question really interesting:


The preposition por comes from the latin pro (meaning forward, move forward; like probabilidad, progenitor or progreso) with the influence of per- (meaning through, complete; like perplejo). Both come from the same indoeuropean root per from where a lot of greek prefixes come from (para-, peri-, pro-, proto-).


Some say that the preposition para, previously used as pora, comes from latin pro ad (forward to), but others say that it comes from per ad (for).

I see that the sources are not exactly the same. We can say that one is related to the other, but it is not the same word. This difference between por and para happens also in Portuguese (they use the same words por and para), I'm not sure but also in French I think (par, and pour [some French-speaker check this please]), but it's not like that in Italian (per). I guess they lost that distinction somewhere, however other languages did not.

  • And you can go even crazier with Asturian — which added an extra one and distinguishes por, per, and pa. Aug 15, 2014 at 16:12
  • Yes, French has par and pour. However, the distinction between these two does not map to the distinction between por and para in Spanish. Par is used in French in a smaller number of cases than para is used in Spanish.
    – Louis
    May 18, 2015 at 11:12

Según el RAE:

para proviene del antiguo pora

por del latin pro influenciado por per.

Como puedes apreciar sus orígenes son distintos, aunque para en una de sus definiciones puede usarse en lugar de por

Para: 8. prep. Por, o a fin de. Para acabar la pendencia, me llevé a uno de los que reñían.

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