The Spanish word "santiguar" means "to make the sign of the cross". So for instance, when a Catholic enters a church, s/he "se santigua" (s/he makes the sign of the cross on her/himself).

According to Wiktionary, this word comes from the Latin sanctifico, which means "to sanctify". In effect, according to link above, "santiguar" also means "to sanctify", which could explain its origin (I still have doubts though). In any case, nowadays, "santiguar" is no longer used to mean "to sanctify". There is a more direct Spanish word for it: "santificar". Thus, "santiguar" is used only to refer to making the sing of the cross.

My question is about how "santiguar" gained such meaning. Did it gain it already when the word was incorporated into Spanish, or does such meaning also comes from Latin? From what I can see, sanctifico does not mean "to make the sign of the cross". Actually, I've struggled to find how that is said at all in Latin! The sing itself is called signum crucis, but I can't find a verb that reflects the action of making such sign.

Any idea on this? I think looking for medieval religious texts might be key here. I did an early search and signum crucis is of course ubiquitous, but as a "noun" and not as a verb.

1 Answer 1


In the general instructions of the Breviarium Romanum I found the verbs ‘munire’ (= defend, protect) and ‘signare’ in the phrases ‘De ratione signo crucis se muniendi’ and ‘Omnes signant se signo crucis’.

In addition, Du Cange. 1886. Glossarium mediae et infimae latinitatis, vol. 7. p. 480, has a lemma 'signare', which says: 'signum crucis digitis ac manu effingere'.

The reference for the first two phrases is signum crucis (see picture below): Breviarium Romanum. 1961. Paris, Desclée. It is the official book for Roman catholic priests reciting the daily office. It consists of two volumes, the first of which starts with general instructions (rubricae generales breviarii). There is one page on the sign of the cross. I include an image of this page. The grammar appears to be all right.

Breviarium Romanum

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    Could you provide a reference for the first two phrases from the Breviarium? I couldn't find them, and they actually seem ungrammatical.
    – brianpck
    Dec 20, 2019 at 15:34
  • Thanks for the update! It looks like you accidentally changed "signo" to "signum" :)
    – brianpck
    Dec 23, 2019 at 20:07
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    I chose to call the picture "signum crucis", because I did not want to use the ablative "signo" there. Dec 23, 2019 at 20:17

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