What is the influence of French on the English language? Give suitable illustrations in your answer.What is the influence of French on the English language? Give suitable illustrations in your answer.

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Lorraine Caplan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

French has had a huge influence on English since the Normans invaded England in 1066.  Because French-speaking people were the rulers, most of our words having to do with the legal system and ruling are French in origin. Examples include words like "administration," "royal," and "trial." Many of the words we use for food are French in origin as well.  Examples are "mutton," "beef," and "bacon." "Pastry" is French in origin, too.

The influence of French did not stop in 1066, and many French words and terms have entered English since then, particularly words in the areas of food and the arts. Examples are "du jour" and "à la carte" in restaurants, and in the arts, we have ballet and the novel. 

Of course, language drifts both ways. For example, the French use "le weekend" and "le drugstore," both taken directly from English. 

I have provided a link to a website that has a list of words of French origin, but all you need to do is open any dictionary and check at the end of a definition to see if a word is French in origin.  According to some experts, approximately 40% of our words are French in origin.   

enotechris eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The strength of the English language is a result of the weakness of early "Angleand."   The original Celtic language was overrun by Norsemen from what is now Scandinavia, then Saxon from what is now Germany, then Latin from what was Rome.  Being an island, over time England was invaded many times, the invaders bringing their language and politics.  When the Normans finally defeated the Anglo-Saxons, the island became subordinate to France -- and French influence spread.  Because they were the ruling class, many French words reflected the upper ruling class, whereas the old Anglo-Saxon or Norse words reflected the lower conquered class.  And here's where the richness of the language comes -- From 1066 onward, the conquered lived in a hovel or a haus, from the Saxon; the rulers lived in a maison, from the French. Today we have two words in English to describe domiciles, a house for most of us and a mansion for the wealthy.

pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Because the Normans invaded England in 1066, the French language has had a tremendous impact on the English language.  The French of that time has impacted English vocabulary with French words making up something like 40 percent of English words.

The words that have come from French are not limited to obvious ones.  Many words that we now think of simply as English have their origins in French.  For example, the words story, servant, messenger, and baron all come from French and were borrowed after the Norman Conquest.

Some other words that have become so much a part of English that we do not think of them as French are: government, state, royal, judge, jury, felon, art, music, painting and color.

As you can see, these are words that do not sound French to us, but nonetheless come from that language.


brettd eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The English language, especially its American dialect, is largely words borrowed from other languages, including French.  Words like Rendezvous, a la carte, and concierge, among hundreds of others, are French words that have made it into common everyday English usage, although it is safe to say that most Americans don't remember or realize that they have French origins.

In the United States, a large number of places in the Mississippi River Valley still bear the original French names - Des Moines, Baton Rouge, New Orleans, and while the French pronunciation is mostly lost when spoken by Americans in the English language, the French language in the form of these words is used every day.

By the way, Go New Orleans Saints!  How many people have said those French words today?

litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator
A large percentage of the words in English come from French or have French origins. We also use a large number of French words. Although the grammar is not the same as in the English language, the words had a great influence. This is largely because of the strong historical connection between the two countries.