21 July 2009

Dark and Obscure

The word in Spanish for dark is oscuro. It's also obscuro.

I had always asked around about this, and all the native-Spanish speakers I had talked to all told me that they're synonyms, with no different connotations or anything.

Why is this?
ob⋅scure /əbˈskyʊər/ appeared in [Middle] English around 1350–1400 from the Old French oscur, obscur which came from the Latin for dark, obscūrus.

HOWEVER, when it first entered the English language, in 1481 obscurity was recorded in sense of "absence of light" and not until 1619 with meaning "condition of being unknown."

Looking further into the Latin, we're looking at ob- "over" + -scurus "covered". So really, we're looking at the same problem in French, with both oscur and obscur meaning the same thing. BUT in Modern French, the word oscurer no longer exists. Looks like it was last used in the 1500s. It's been replaced by obscurer. Both still exist in Modern Spanish.

In English, dark and obscure have different connotations.
In Spanish, oscuro and obscuro are used interchangable to mean both dark and obscure.
In French, obscurer is used to mean both dark and obscure.

And really, in English, OBSCURE can mean both unclear/vague and physcially dark.

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