Do these two words have any common root?

I looked up in the RAE, and didn't find there any connection between these words. According to the RAE, cuchillo comes from Latin "cultellus", and cuchara comes from verb "cuchar".

So it looks like there are no real connections there, maybe it's only this, but I still see that both words share the common part "cuch". And it seems to me that cuchillo also comes from cuchar, with just adding the suffix -illo.

So how come that the Latin word cultellus transforms itself from knife to something spoon-like?

  • 2
    IS there such a connection??
    – Jose Luis
    Commented Dec 11, 2011 at 16:30
  • 1
    I think it really is just a nice coincidence. Commented Dec 11, 2011 at 17:27
  • @hippietrail maybe, but in this case, when these two words are commonly used together in daily life. I want to believe that they are somehow connected to each other. But I understand that I can be terribly wrong here.
    – Igor Milla
    Commented Dec 11, 2011 at 18:04
  • 3
    I would say the roots are different. I think it is cuchill (cuchillo, cuchillazo,...) and cuchar (cucharilla, cuchara, cucharazo) so they don't have the same root.
    – Juanillo
    Commented Dec 11, 2011 at 20:46
  • @Juanillo that's a very good point, you can post it as an answer
    – Igor Milla
    Commented Dec 11, 2011 at 22:26

3 Answers 3


No. As you say, they have different roots:

  • PIE *(s)kelH- ("to cut")
    • Latin culter ("knife; razor")
      • Latin cultellus ("small knife; dagger")

  • PIE *kongʰ- ("shell, mussel")
    • Ancient Greek κόγχη (kónkhē, "mussel")
      • Ancient Greek κοχλίας (kokhlías, "spiral, snail shell")
        • Latin cochlea ("snail; snail shell")
          • Latin cochleāre ("spoon")
            • Old Spanish cuchar ("spoon")

The reason their modern forms look more similar than might be otherwise expected from their Latin roots is explained here:

Latin /-l/ in the -ŭlt- sequence developed in the same way as the syllable-final velar consonants considered in 5.1. That is, it semivocalized and then caused the following consonant to palatalize:

  • cŭltĕllum [koɫˈtεllo] > [kojˈtεllo] > [kuˈtʃjeʎo] > [kuˈtʃiʎo] cuchillo ‘knife’
  • mŭltum [ˈmoɫto] > [ˈmojto] > [ˈmutʃo] mucho ‘much’


The Linguistics of Spanish: History: Consonants: 5. Semivocalization of syllable-final velars and /-l/: 5.2 Syllable final /-l/, Ian Mackenzie


If you follow through another step with the DRAE you'll find that it indicates the etymology of cuchar as the Latin word cochleāre; according to latin-dictionary.org this means spoon and was originally a spoon for extracting snails from their shells; snail being cochlea. So actually cuchillo has come further in form from its Latin root (cultell- to cuchill- vs cochle- to cuch-).


I would say the roots are different. I think it is cuchill (cuchillo, cuchillazo,...) and cuchar (cucharilla, cuchara, cucharazo) so they don't have the same root.

  • Juanillo, just for clarify, you should also answer the OP's specific yes/no question: is there a connection or not? Commented Dec 12, 2011 at 8:13
  • 2
    What's your reason for analysing cuchillo as coming from a stem cuchill- rather than a diminutive of ?cucho? Commented Dec 13, 2011 at 11:34
  • @Peter Taylor It's the first time I see that word, but looking at RAE dictionary the definitions don't have anything to do with a knife (it means crooked, cat...). It would be as if you compare in English "tun", "tune" and "tunnel"... they don't have a coomon context meaning, while "cuchillo, "cuchillada", "cuchillero"... does
    – Juanillo
    Commented Dec 16, 2011 at 14:38

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