There are dozens of examples of words in Spanish that are spelled with a (silent) H, for which you can find at least one cognate in another language that is spelled with F. Most languages followed the original Latin spelling. I don’t like this, haha, why do we have to be different to the rest of the languages? Who in the old Spain came up with this great idea? Obviously, we are the ones who are “wrong”. As you can see, sometimes this is true even when comparing English words. Here is my research.
French FR, Italian IT, Portuguese PT, Romanian RO
|fève FR, fava IT, fava PT, fasole RO
|to do, to make
|faire FR, fare IT, a face RO, fazer PT
|faucon FR, falcão PT, falcone IT, falcón in less modern Spanish
|fazenda, Ministério de Fazenda PT. In Italian, they simply got rid of the H or F, azienda. Hacienda uppercase if like the IRS.
|fée FR, fata IT, Fee German, fada PT
|fame IT, faim FR, fome PT, foame RO
|farine FR, farina IT, farinha PT, făină RO
|fecha (date) comes from the old Spanish word writen on a letter, meaning made or done, indicating the date when the document was made. In Italian it would be fatta, for example.
|fatto IT, fait FR, fapt RO, fato PT
|fougère FR, felce IT, ferigă RO
|ferir PT, ferire IT
|frumos, frumoasă RO (sometimes Spanish and Romanian are more similar than the rest of the Romance languages)
|frère FR, fratello IT, frate RO (Spanish rendered this word almost unrecognizable, and in this case Portuguese even more, irmão, but it looks a little like Spanish). We still have the word fraternal, and English has fraternity
|ferver PT, a fierbe RO (Spanish 3rd person singular is hierve)
|fer FR, fier RO, ferro PT, ferro IT. we have fierro in less modern Spanish.
|foie FR, fegato IT, fígado PT, ficat RO
|fico IT, figue FR, figo PT,
|figlio IT, fihlo PT, fiu RO, fils FR
|fil FR, filo IT, fio PT, fir RO
|leaf, sheet of paper
|foglia IT, feuille FR, foaie RO, folha PT (we still use the words folio and foja, but they are very formal)
|horma de zapatos
|forme pour élargir FR, forma per scarpe IT
|fourmi FR, formica IT, formiga PT, furnică RO
|four FR, forno IT, forno PT
|fuir FR, fuggire IT, fugir PT, a fugi RO, fliehen German
|fumée FR, fumo IT, fumaça PT, fum RO. We still have the f in the verb fumar, to smoke
|furet FR, furetto IT, furão PT, Frettchen German
|furto IT, furt RO
|refuser FR, rifiutare IT, a refuza RO
Something similar happened with the Spanish J. We pronounce it differently than most other languages. Ladino or Judaeo-Spanish, which is the old Spanish spoken by the Jewish people in old Spain, still keeps a J sound similar to its current international pronunciation.
My guess is that this happened because in Spain they already had the characteristic TH sound for C and Z that sometimes can be confused with the F sound. If on top of that you added the F sounds of the H, plus the PH of Greek and Latin, the language would end up sounding like FFFTHTHFFFTHTH, like a highly lisping language.
This is an explanation (in Spanish) about the change in the pronunciation of the old Spanish F, and how it ended up as today’s silent H,
Originally published on 20090515, updated on 20090528, last update 20210429 (spanishNY.com) top