English Language: A Tree That Can’t Make a Forest

It is an obvious fact that English Language has various words, but most of these words are borrowed from languages like French, Spanish and Latin. This can be likened to the case of “no man is an Island”, and with these words, learning English vocabulary has become easy because variants of other languages’ dialect are present in English’s vocabulary.

What are Borrowed Words?

Something borrowed is supposed to be returned right? As the ordinary meaning of borrowing denote. However, borrowed words or Loan words in this sense are not returned, these words are imported or adopted from a source language (original Language) into a native language, a borrowed language can also be variations of the same language. Speakers of borrowed languages have knowledge of the sourced/ foreign language and this help them to fit the borrowed word perfectly into their native languages.

It should be noted that not all foreign words spoken or used in a native language become a borrowed word because a word become borrowed only when it is widely accepted and used by speakers of a language community.

Why are Words borrowed into English?

English is a powerful and popular language and this may make you wonder why it has to borrow from other languages, however, there are so many reasons why languages borrow from others which include; the ability to expand the language vocabulary converse with one another and to improve language skills for example.

Saying “coup d’état” puts a sense of urgency on the tone of the sentence than saying “overthrowing a government”

Saying a lady is “stylish” will be appreciated, but using “chic”

Sometimes, it could also be to feel the fashion and to better imitate the language community.

What Brought About Borrowing?

In English Language for instance, borrowing of words, occur as a result of cultural contact between other languages (English and French for instance).

Borrowing of words may also occur when there is no direct meaning or equivalent meaning of the foreign word, example is “gemutlich”, “loess”, “auifeis” used in Geology.

The expansion of trade between countries also influences borrowing of words, the need to interact and perform sales operations and foster unity among language communities.

Likewise, Christianisation in the 6th century that forced more people to adopt other words, other than the English language through the church example is Latin.

Words borrowed into English from Other Languages.

Latin- Dexterity, orbit, fictitious, superintendent, janitor, agile, anatomy, capsule, disc, vindicate

Spanish- plaza, siesta, algebra, algorithm alchemy, admiral, azimuth

French- ballet, café, croissant, entrepreneur, genre, rendezvous, Renaissance, cognac, sachet

Italian- balcony, violin, gazette, casino, broccoli

Russian- vodka, glasnost, icon

Scandinavian- ombudsman, ski, czar, vodka

Chinese- ketchup, tea, ginseng, Kung fu

Japanese- tsunami, karate, ninja, karaoke, sushi, soy

Australia- boomerang, Kangaroo, budgerigar

German- fest, waltz, kindergarten

Does English Still Borrow Words?

English borrows for reasons listed above and these words reflect in cases where they are being borrowed like military’s term Grenade, Battalion borrowed from French and Semester, Seminar borrowed from German’s innovation in higher education. With various technology innovations words are formed in English and they include: business, internet, computer, cell phone etc. However, in recent times, English has become a donor and lender of a word rather than a borrower.


Article by: Busayo Tomoh

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