The English language has a very rich vocabulary. Many of these are ‘loan words’ This means that a word is adopted from one language and incorporated into another language without translation. This is in contrast to ‘cognates’ which are words in two or more languages that are similar because they share an etymological origin.
According to research, words originating from French and Latin make up 29% of the English language respectively. In fact from the 1000 most commonly used words, almost 50% have French origins
Here are some examples I am sure you are familiar with:
RSVP, chic, déjà vu, parachute, detour, encore…
Most of the technical vocabulary associated with classical music is borrowed from Italian and that of Ballet from French. Many loan words come from food and drink from around the world
Examples include: pasta, expresso, soufflé, crepe, linguine
There are lots of borrowed (or loan words) from many other languages and cultures.
Here are some of the most common which I included in my quiz:
Loot (from Hindi)
This is pronounced and defined in the exact same manner in English as in the original language Hindi, meaning ‘stolen goods and property
Safari (from Arabic)
An expedition or observing animals in their natural habitat is called a ‘safari’. The word originates in the Arabic language and since having been borrowed by the English language is now widely used across the globe to refer to such an activity.
Cigar (From Spanish)
You may well know what a cigar is but did you know that the technical definition is ‘a cylinder of dried and fermented tobacco rolled in Tabacco leaves for the purpose of smoking’
Quite wordy for such a small thing! It brings back lovely memories of my trip to Vinales in Cuba, where I had the joy of rolling my own – but that’s for another blog!
The English term originates from the Spanish equivalent ‘ciagarro’ which was derived from the Mayan language from ‘sicar’
Cartoon (from Italian)
This word originates from the Italian word ‘carton’ which referred to a drawing on hard paper which was then transferred into comical representation.
Wanderlust (from German)
Meaning ‘a passionate desire to travel’ this term was borrowed from the German language in 1902.
Cookie (from Dutch)
The English language derived this from the Dutch word ‘koekie’ defined as akin to cake to describe sweet biscuits.
Ketchup (from Chinese)
Originating from its Chinese equal ‘ke’stiap’ which was a concoction of pickled fish and spices in 1692.
Fast forward 100 years in the Western world when tomatoes were added to the sauce to create a famous condiment called ketchup.
Penguin (from Welsh)
The origin of the word penguin is very much debated. One theory is that it comes from the Welsh ‘pen-Gwyn’ which means white head. However, some say that it was used for the great auk of the seas which is now extinct but used to be around Newfoundland in Canada.
Which of these surprised you the most? For me it was Ketchup, closely followed by Penguin.