I always think of the Spanish verb "ser" being related to "essence", which can be contrasted with the verb "estar", which is related to "state".

"Ser" is also a noun with various meanings including "being" as in "ser humano" = "human being", and "essence". There is also another Spanish word "esencia" meaning "essence".

But am I actually correct in thinking "ser" is related to "esencia", "essence", "essential", etc? Or is it just one more linguistic coincidence after all?

(I've checked Wiktionary and the Dicc. RAE but didn't find a full answer so I bring it here to the experts.)

2 Answers 2


Some forms of ser are cognate with "essence", but ser itself is not.

Ser in Spanish is a "suppletive verb", which is missing some of its forms and has stolen them from other verbs to compensate. Compare English "go", which doesn't have the past-tense form *goed; instead, it's stolen the past form "went" from the unrelated verb "wend" (as in "wend your way").

Ser itself comes from Latin sedēre "to sit" (*). (Estar on the other hand is from stāre "to stand".) English has various cognates of sedēre, but "essence" isn't one of them.

However, forms such as the present-tense soy, es, somos, son come from the Latin sum, es, sumus, sunt: the present indicative of the verb esse, "to be". "Essence" and related words do come from esse; the participle ending -nt- was added to esse to form a word meaning "being". Thus "essence" is "that which is being", and "essential" is "related to essence", and so on.

As far as the noun ser, I'm afraid I don't know its etymology, but I'd assume it's related to the verb.

(*) The etymology I'm familiar with is sedēre > seder > seer > ser, though as pointed out in the comments it could also be from esse > essere > esser > ser. Most likely the two forms influenced each other, because there are some forms of ser that are definitely from esse and others that are definitely from sedēre.

  • 4
    Ser itself comes from Latin sedēre "to sit". There is a counterargument that ser is cognate with Italian essere, at least partly. Commented Feb 27, 2018 at 9:19
  • 2
    "Essentia" is used by Quintilian. That is as classic as you can get.
    – fdb
    Commented Feb 27, 2018 at 10:57
  • For some speakers, it undoubtedly is related to esse or essere; for others, undoubtedly it's not. There's 2000 years of history here, with millions of speakers, and trillions of usages, all of which are different. The idea that there is one source for a word like ser is as silly as the idea that one mutation created human speech.
    – jlawler
    Commented Feb 27, 2018 at 21:04
  • @fdb Didn't know that! Fixed.
    – Draconis
    Commented Feb 27, 2018 at 22:56
  • @A.M.Bittlingmayer Huh, I wasn't familiar with that argument. It does make sense, though the loss of initial /e/ seems odd to me without at least some influence from sedēre. Added a note!
    – Draconis
    Commented Feb 28, 2018 at 19:41

As Draconis says, some conjugations of ser are cognate with Latin esse derived words in English, but not all. I made this chart (based on this blog post) a while ago, it details which are which:

^ Note for ve

In voseo dialects, the 2nd person sing. pos. (vos) imperative for ir is andá (from Latin ambulare). This is cognate with Spanish andar, Catalan anar, Italian andare, French aller (all meaning to go/to walk).


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