Spanish: Oler / Huelo


Senior Member

I would like to know the reason why in the conjugation of the Spanish verb ''oler'' (to smell) there is an initial H in all persons where the stress is on the diphthong ue:
Huelo vs. olemos.

(The Latin verb 'olēre' had of course no H)

In this thread I've read two contradictory explanations: Huele feo.... (cf. #3 , #4).

Thank you.
Last edited:
  • anahiseri

    Senior Member
    Spanish (Spain) and German (Germany)
    I don't know the reason, but it's a fact that "uele" etc. looks horrible to me, and probably to any native speaker. In fact, I think that all words with the sound "ue" take an "h": egg = huevo, fruit - garden = huerto, bone = hueso, huella = footprint. I can't think of any word with "ue" that hasn't got this "h".


    Senior Member
    Français (Québec)
    In latin, there was no letter u, only v.

    The h was added to distinguish, for example, velo = velo de velo = huelo.


    Senior Member
    Catalan (Catalonia), Spanish (Spain)
    As Terio said, the reason for the Spanish spelling in this has to do with Medieval writing, in order to avoid confusion with v. If it had been codified today, there would be no h in those words.

    This is what happens with modern codification in Aragonese, for instance. If you happen to go to Huesca, in northern Aragon, you may see how the H of Huesca in road signs is often crossed out with paint, because in modern Aragonese spelling there is no H for this, being as it is antietymological (Uesca, from Latin Osca; inhabitants are oscenses, no h). The same duality happens with the words mentioned by anahiseri that have an antietymological h: huevo but ovado, ovario...; hueso but óseo, osario..., and also huérfano but orfanato, hueco but oquedad, etc.