The English language is a fine example of a linguistic melting pot. It is a kaleidoscope of cultures, languages, and histories that came together to form one multicolored discourse. This coming together has contributed to making English the lingua franca of our times.
English has borrowed many words from countries across the world. You might be surprised to discover that words you use daily are not as “English” as they sound.
Old Norse words
Anger, birth, cake, drag, get, kid, leg, root, same, trust, take, wrong, window and wise all come from Old Norse, the language Vikings were speaking when they came and settled in England around 793 AD.
Old Norse brought into the English language several words related to war and violence. Slaughter, scathe and club, for instance, all came from the war-loving Vikings.
Words such as husband, sale, and law seem as English as they get but they are from Old Norse also.
In fact, Old Norse is a basic root of modern English. English would resemble German and Dutch today if it weren’t for the Norman invasion to the British Isles in 1066. Which brings us to the next group of words borrowed from the French.
Oh mon Dieu! The French are coming!
About 50 percent of English words are from French or Latin. Words we’re using everyday like bacon, button, comfort, crime, marriage, salary, search, uncle, and tax are all French in origin.
Your ‘honor’ is French and so is your ‘joy.’
In your French ‘leisure’ time when you ‘question’ the ‘reason’ ‘bacon’ is so darn good, you’re using concepts and words that are French!
Latin. Not as dead a language as we think
While many French words are themselves derived from Latin, the English language has a rather distinct set of culture-based borrowed words. This rather long list includes words such as crisis, dictator, diploma, doctor, echo, ego, exterior, investigate, labor, senior, junior, prospect, and virus.
Greek loan words in the English language
The Greek language has offered words that allow us to speak about and understand government, conceptual/philosophical topics, and subjects related to drama and medicine.
Words like biography, anatomy, architecture, grammar, and hygiene are words the English have borrowed from Greek origins.
English words with Italian roots
Italy and its appealing culture have given the English a piece of that culture with words such as balcony, carpet, dilettante, magazine, qnd piano.The arts of music, food and culture in general have pushed many Italian words in the English dictionary and everyday discourse.
Words borrowed from Japanese, German, Chinese, Arabic and Russian
Apart from the big influencers, there are other language and cultures that contributed words to make the English language even more diverse and multicultural.
For example, admiral, henna, jar, coffee and lemon are commonly used English words with Arabic origins. The Germans have given us aspirin, glitz, and waltz while the Chinese have made English even more multicolored with Zen, typhoon, wok, and kumquat.
The Russian language has enriched the English language with kefir, cosmonaut and babushka. Words such as bonsai, haiku, kimono and akita are from Japanese.
Perhaps next time you say you can speak English, you could even go as far as argue that you speak a number of other languages — thanks to English!