Learning Spanish Words Through Etymology and Mnemonics
A New Approach to Vocabulary Study

2020-02 Update I'll post updates or any thought to my author blog on Goodreads. (Note it's a blog not about this single book, but about the Learning Foreign Language Words series.)

Learning Spanish Words Through Etymology and Mnemonics is the first book in the “Learning Foreign Language Words Through Etymology and Mnemonics” series (the second being Learning French Words and the upcoming third Learning Italian Words). It makes use of etymology to help you remember Spanish words, and failing that, suggests a mnemonic. Combination of these two approaches in one book separates it from other books on the market. The amount and depth of etymology is carefully chosen to be practical and not overwhelm an average reader. The suggested mnemonics aim to help an educated English-speaking person. An adult or young adult who likes learning vocabulary with some word analysis instead of rote memory will find this book to be helpful and a joy to read. With about 3000 words selected from 15000 in the Real Academia Española corpus sorted in frequency order, this booklet can be used either as a dictionary or for leisure reading. The hint provided for each word is particularly helpful for short-term memory needed in taking an exam, while the etymological and cultural information will serve you for years to come.

"Yong Huang offers in the introduction a clear and detailed explanation of the methodology employed throughout the work, which presents a practical balance between scholarly research and light reading... Yong’s work is an important addition to the field of language study, and will be a welcome supplement to anyone’s vocabulary-building tools."
Edward A. Roberts
Professor Emeritus of Central Michigan University, author of A Comprehensive Etymological Dictionary of the Spanish Language

"(Yong Huang's book) filled a niche on my language-learning bookshelf I hadn't even thought of before... the system works as an efficient road map to boosting vocabulary by steering readers directly to the most effective words for building understanding and fluency fast, while pointing out shortcuts and possible pitfalls along the way. It's especially useful for well-read adults and polyglots."
Miranda Metheny
Spanish Teacher at District of Columbia Public Schools, polyglot, volunteer admin of Facebook Polyglots group

Different Study Methods

Etymology ⎤
               ⎡ Word analysis <-⎢           ⎥-> this book
               ⎢                 ⎣ MnemonicsStudy method <-⎢
               ⎣ Rote memory (e.g. flash cards)


Sample Chapters and Pages

(The main text of this book arranges the words in the order of their usage frequency per Real Academia Española corpus, with index at the end of the book of the paperback edition. Cognates serve as the most important learning aid.)

More Preview

Google Books


Major: Amazon Kindle edition if read on its online cloudreader loses all bold font style; all headwords are in plain font. And the book is not searchable. Reading it offline with Kindle reading app solves both problems. Specifically, go to www.amazon.com/gp/help/customer/display.html?nodeId=201245960 to download and install the Kindle reader. (I installed version 1.17.1 on my PC.) Open it. Logon to Amazon if prompted. Then in Downloaded, you'll see this book. Open it. Click the magnifying glass to the left of the app window to do word search.

Minor (ignore page numbers if using an e-book)

Suggestions and Updates (an e-book may not have page numbers)

Author Biography and Contact

I have a PhD in Chemistry and M.A. in Philosophy. I have taught myself linguistics with an emphasis on morphological and phonological changes in the history of Romance languages, and have learned to read in multiple European languages. Please contact me by email to yong321@yahoo.com or by filling the form with comments or corrections.


Amazon (where most readers' reviews are)
Goodreads (reader Marina wrote an excellent and well-balanced review: "It may be more useful to a first-time language learner who has no experience with Latin, French or Italian... I'm finding this book fun enough that I'm reluctant to skip anything")
Barnes and Noble
Learning French Words Through Etymology and Mnemonics

Q & A

Why are the words not ordered alphabetically? The e-book does not have page numbers nor the index.
Since the book is not strictly a dictionary and is meant to be a study material, I thought ordering the words by usage frequency would make more sense so the reader can go to a section matching his vocabulary level and start to read. I apologize for the problem with the e-book, which I realized only after the book was published. Searching the e-book for a word, however, does work. See the instruction in the Errata/Issues section shown above.
The book does not actually show etymology for some words. Why?
The decision to omit detailed etymology for some easy words (e.g. "claro, from Latin clarus") is intentional. I want the book to be light-weight. Since Wiktionary provides etymology for most words in clear and concise format, I consider repeating that content to be unnecessary. But if some effort may be needed to digest the etymology or even find it, I point that out. (See for example, the entry for
lidiarFrom Latin litigare. The intervocalic g (between two vowels) tends to be dropped when a Latin word entered Spanish (as in the case of integer > entero, legalis > leal, regale > real). And t changed to d through loss of aspiration.
chantajeFrom French chantage ('blackmail'), from chanter ('to sing') + -age (suffix for noun). According to J.S. Farmer's Slang and Its Analogues Past and Present published in 1891, some bad guys extorted money from singers to be performing at a London music hall. If they were refused the money, they would hoot and hiss during the show.
.) Had I included all known etymological information for all the words, the book would be many pages bulkier. Another concern is copyright infringement, which is very easy to get into when writing a dictionary-like book; while I can easily adjust word definitions, the generally accepted etymology almost always must be copied as is.
Will the book be free?
At this time, no. Sorry.
How long did it take to write this book? How was the time divided in writing it?
It took over a year, not counting the preparatory work. About 40% of the time was on etymology, 40% on mnemonics, 20% on the history of morphology and phonology. Nowadays etymology is easy due to other people's work. Mnemonics took longer than expected because it was completely original.

Revised Edition

There is no official second edition. But if you want to know more, click here.

Yong Huang
January 2015 — June 2024