Why cuidado means "watch out!"/"caution!" when it is the past-participle form of cuidar?

The word seems to be a conjugation of "cuidar". If you are telling people to be careful (imperative), you would use the "cuida"/"cuide"/"cuiden" form. I can imagine "cuidate" being correct as well.

So, can somebody help me understand why "cuidado" is used? "cuidado" is the past-participle according to

March 27, 2018


Good question. It is because "cuidado" (past participle of cuidar) comes from a Latin word meaning "thought", "considered". Then it evolved to "close attention" (English: care ;) ) and then into "worry" (English: care :) :) ). Then, "¡Cuidado!" is the short form for "¡Ten(ga) cuidado" (lit.: Have care! -> Be careful! / Be cautious!).

Today it is used like a normal noun that means "caution". ¡Cuidado con el perro! = Beware of dog!

March 27, 2018

Thank you so much. From your answer, it seems like it is similar to seeing "Caution!" in English signboards.

March 28, 2018

I've always understood "cuidado" to be a noun, when it's not being used as a past participle. It turns out that is sort of true, but "cuidado" is fairly complicated:

It might help, though, to realize that "cuidado," when used in this sort of context, is best not understood as a verb.

March 27, 2018

It's a noun, derived from a past participle. It's usual in Spanish, analogous to using gerunds as nouns in English.

March 27, 2018

Just a guess here but doesn’t -ado suffix mean something has happened? Pez=fish pescado =fished? Cuida = warning cuidado = warned

Maybe not the best explanation or even the correct one

March 27, 2018
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