I'll admit that I could go on about this for hours, but instead I'll just mention the moment I realized just exactly how much our language borrows from others. I was in Spanish class my freshman year of high school. We were studying vocabulary and, more specifically, the meaning of the word "salud." After explaining the meaning of health behind the word, the teacher explained that when she would raise a class, she would call out, "Salud!" The irony was, earlier that day in English class, we studied the word "salubrious," which means promoting or favorable to health! A coincidence much? Much too much!
Yet another moment that opened my eyes was when I began playing a game called Balderdash, which takes obscure words from our language and has the players guess the definition. The further you get into this game, the more you realize that many of our more obscure words are taken directly from the original Native American meanings!
If one studies the history of the English language, particularly the various peoples who invaded and occupied England over history, one can see that it is a combination of many languages. At its root, English is a Teutonic language, derived from the Germanic tribes who once invaded, primarily the Angles, Saxons and Jutes. The Danes occupied a portion of Northern England during the reign of Alfred the Great; and thus Danish/Scandinavian language has also become a part of the mixture. After the Norman Invasion of 1066, Norman French became the dominant language of England; yet many common folk still spoke the Anglo-Saxon "Old" English. The end result is a language comprised of a multiplicity of languages, which renders it one of the richest (and most complex) languages spoken in the world. Ironically, because of the vast extent of the former British Empire, this complex language has become the true International Language of the world.
Many of our English words are adaptations of words from other languages. Many use Greek and Latin roots. The amalgamation of different languages is one thing that makes ESL learners struggle with our vocabulary. Don't forget also that Shakespeare made up many words for his writing, and some of those have also been assimilated into the lexicon.
Over 60% of the words in the English language are derived from French, which was itself derived from Latin, so there are many, many words that were not originally English. In addition, other languages have influenced American English out of necessity, as it were. For instance, when the Scandinavian immigrants came to the states of the Northern Midwest such as the Dakotas, Minnesota,and the like, they became farmers. Since there were no English words for some of the tools and farming methods and crops, the Norwegians and Swedes used their native words, words which became part of American farm terminology. Likewise, in Texas many Spanish words entered the vocabulary of cowboys; words such as rodeo, lasso, mesa are Spanish, for instance.
Borrowing has left modern English with a greatly expanded vocabulary. This borrowing has been going on for such a long time that we are not aware of the foreign origins of many words.
The only real impact, though, is to give us different words for concepts that could have been expressed in "Native" words. For example:
- We have pajamas, but they could just as easily be called sleep clothes.
- We have karaoke, but it could just as easily be called a sing along machine.
So borrowings have not really changed the language -- they have just given us a broader range of words that we can use.
Words from other parts of the world
- avatar, karma, mahatma, swastika, yoga
- bandanna, bangle, bungalow, chintz, cot, cummerbund, dungaree, juggernaut, jungle, loot, maharaja, nabob, pajamas, punch (the drink), shampoo, thug, kedgeree, jamboree
- curry, mango, teak, pariah
- check, checkmate, chess
- bedouin, emir, jakir, gazelle, giraffe, harem, hashish, lute, minaret, mosque, myrrh, salaam, sirocco, sultan, vizier, bazaar, caravan
- banana (via Portuguese), banjo, boogie-woogie, chigger, goober, gorilla, gumbo, jazz, jitterbug, jitters, juke(box), voodoo, yam, zebra, zombie
American Indian languages
- avocado, cacao, cannibal, canoe, chipmunk, chocolate, chili, hammock, hominy, hurricane, maize, moccasin, moose, papoose, pecan, possum, potato, skunk, squaw, succotash, squash, tamale (via Spanish), teepee, terrapin, tobacco, toboggan, tomahawk, tomato, wigwam, woodchuck
- (plus thousands of place names, including Ottawa, Toronto, Saskatchewan and the names of more than half the
states of the U.S., including Michigan, Texas, Nebraska, Illinois)
- chop suey, chow mein, dim sum, ketchup, tea, ginseng, kowtow, litchee
- geisha, hara kiri, judo, jujitsu, kamikaze, karaoke, kimono, samurai, soy, sumo, sushi, tsunami
- bamboo, gingham, rattan, taboo, tattoo, ukulele, boondocks
- boomerang, budgerigar, didgeridoo, kangaroo (and many more in Australian English)
Modern English (1650-present)
Period of major colonial expansion, industrial/technological revolution, and American immigration.
Words from European languages
French continues to be the largest single source of new words outside of very specialized vocabulary domains (scientific/technical vocabulary, still dominated by classical borrowings).
- High culture—ballet, bouillabaise, cabernet, cachet, chaise longue, champagne, chic, cognac, corsage, faux pas, nom de plume, quiche, rouge, roulet, sachet, salon, saloon, sang froid, savoir faire
- War and Military—bastion, brigade, battalion, cavalry, grenade, infantry, pallisade, rebuff, bayonet
- Other—bigot, chassis, clique, denim, garage, grotesque, jean(s), niche, shock
- French Canadian—chowder
- Louisiana French (Cajun)—jambalaya
- armada, adobe, alligator, alpaca, armadillo, barricade, bravado, cannibal, canyon, coyote, desperado, embargo, enchilada, guitar, marijuana, mesa, mosquito, mustang, ranch, taco, tornado, tortilla, vigilante
- alto, arsenal, balcony, broccoli, cameo, casino, cupola, duo, fresco, fugue, gazette (via French), ghetto, gondola, grotto, macaroni, madrigal, motto, piano, opera, pantaloons, prima donna, regatta, sequin, soprano, opera, stanza, stucco, studio, tempo, torso, umbrella, viola, violin
- from Italian American immigrants—cappuccino, espresso, linguini, mafioso, pasta, pizza, ravioli, spaghetti, spumante, zabaglione, zucchini
- Shipping, naval terms—avast, boom, bow, bowsprit, buoy, commodore, cruise, dock, freight, keel, keelhaul, leak, pump, reef, scoop, scour, skipper, sloop, smuggle, splice, tackle, yawl, yacht
- Cloth industry—bale, cambric, duck (fabric), fuller's earth, mart, nap (of cloth), selvage, spool, stripe
- Art—easel, etching, landscape, sketch
- War—beleaguer, holster, freebooter, furlough, onslaught
- Food and drink—booze, brandy(wine), coleslaw, cookie, cranberry, crullers, gin, hops, stockfish, waffle
- Other—bugger (orig. French), crap, curl, dollar, scum, split (orig. nautical term), uproar
- bum, dunk, feldspar, quartz, hex, lager, knackwurst, liverwurst, loafer, noodle, poodle, dachshund, pretzel, pinochle, pumpernickel, sauerkraut, schnitzel, zwieback, (beer)stein, lederhosen, dirndl
- 20th century German loanwords—blitzkrieg, zeppelin, strafe, U-boat, delicatessen, hamburger, frankfurter, wiener, hausfrau, kindergarten, Oktoberfest, schuss, wunderkind, bundt (cake), spritz (cookies), (apple) strudel
Yiddish (most are 20th century borrowings)
- bagel, Chanukkah (Hanukkah), chutzpah, dreidel, kibbitzer, kosher, lox, pastrami (orig. from Romanian), schlep, spiel, schlepp, schlemiel, schlimazel, gefilte fish, goy, klutz, knish, matzoh, oy vey, schmuck, schnook,
- fjord, maelstrom, ombudsman, ski, slalom, smorgasbord
- apparatchik, borscht, czar/tsar, glasnost, icon, perestroika, vodka
Many words have been taken from the French to be used in our english language and if you took the time to learn several languages you would often come across many cross-overs. For example may day- a distress call for pilots comes from the french M'aider- to help me.
Also cafe is now seen in the english language as a 'cafe' but this word comes from the french also