A Language of Loanwords

You may know that English has borrowed many words from other languages because of war, prestige, or trade. For example, deep English language roots trace back to Old Norse and other Germanic languages. During the Norman invasion in 1066, many French words were introduced into the language. Latin and Greek were also highly prestigious languages, from which English speakers kept many academic words. Although these language connections are the most widespread, English actually has words borrowed from nearly 150 languages! Take a look at this short list of words taken from other languages. You may be surprised where these English words actually come from!
  • alphabet – Greek (taken from the first and second letters in the Greek alphabet “alpha” and “beta”)
  • anchovy – Basque, spoken by a small population in  Northern Spain and Southwest France (means “dried fish”)
  • banana – Wolof, spoken by countries in West Africa
  • barbecue – Carib, spoken in the Caribbean (It means “wooden frame on posts.” Barbecue is usually cooked over wooden frames over fire.)
  • bikini – Marshallese, spoken in the Marshall Islands (two-piece bathing suit named after one of the islands)
  • candy – Sanskrit, an ancient language spoken in Northern India (means “crytalized sugar”)
  • coach – Hungarian (named after its town of origin)
  • cola – Temne , spoken in Sierra-Leone (named after a nut used to make drinks)
  • dollar – German (named after its town of origin)
  • garbage – Arabic, spoken in much of the Middle East and Northern Africa
  • kindergarten – German (means “children’s garden")
  • lemon and lime – Farsi, spoken in Iran and Afghanistan
  • magic – Avestan, an ancient language spoken in ancient Persia (means “sorcerer”)
  • massage – Portuguese (It means “dough.” Dough is usually kneaded.)
  • paper – Egyptian (from “papyrus”)
  • purse – Punic, an ancient language spoken in ancient Carthage (means “ox hide”)
  • rice – Farsi, spoken in Iran and Afghanistan
  • robot – Czech (means “forced labor”)
  • Santa Claus – Dutch (the Dutch word for “Father Christmas”)
  • shampoo – Hindi, spoken in Northern India (means “massage”)
  • shark – Maya, spoken in Southern Mexico
  • silk – Lithuanian (named after its town of origin)
  • ski – Norwegian (means “split wood”)
  • tomato – Nahuatl, spoken in Central America and Mexico (from “tomatl”)
  • tsunami – Japanese
  • tulip – Turkish (It is the Turkish word for “turban.” Tulips resemble turbans.)
  • ugly – Norse, the ancient language of the Vikings (means “to dread”)
  • Utah – Navajo, a Native American language
  • yo-yo – Tagolog, spoken in the Philippines (a toy for children)
  • zero – Arabic (many Arabians were mathematicians)
Do you know any other borrowed words? Visit this website for more interesting facts! Learn more vocabulary at Nomen Global!

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