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English Words-Or Are They? Word Origins- English Words Derived From Other Languages
English Word Origins
Many of the English words we speak today are derived from other languages. They are called loanwords or borrowings. Wikipedia has lists of English words derived from many other languages. The work wiki comes from the Hawaiian word wiki-wiki which means fast. Always wondered why it was called Wikipedia, very appropriately named! I searched and picked out a few words from most of the listed languages. Some of the origins would have been easy to guess like bonsai or pizza. But there were numerous words I was amazed at the origin, i.e. ketchup.
The English Language
English is a member of the Germanic languages which is a subfamily of the Indo-European group.
The Germanic languages consist of:
East: included Gothic (the only one with known text) which are all extinct.
North: (Scandinavian or Norse) includes Danish, Swedish, Norwegian and Icelandic.
West: includes English, Frisian (spoken in the Netherlands and Germany), Dutch, Afrikaans, German and Yiddish.
There are many people in this country who think we should only speak English. They are speaking other languages without even realizing it!
So follow me on a word origin journey (a French word) around the world.
dingo, kangaroo, koala, wombat, boomerang
I never could get a boomerang to come back to me!
aardvark, banana, jamboree, voodoo, yam, zebra
Why does aardvark start with two a’s?
Algonquian (Native American)
caribou, chipmunk, hickory, hominy, moccasin, moose, muskrat, opossum, pecan, persimmon, powwow, raccoon, skunk, squash, succotash, toboggan, totem, woodchuck
Many animal names came from the Native American tribes.
admiral, coffin, guitar, orange, zero
I never would have guessed guitar to be an Arabic word.
brainwashing, gung-ho, ketchup, silk, tofu
I would have guessed ketchup to be an American word. We drown everything in it!
dollar, howitzer, kolache, polka, robot
I want to thank the Czech’s for inventing the kolache. They are fantastic! My favorites are cherry and lemon. There is a large community of Czech’s in the city where I live and the bakery in the Czech village has the best pastries.
French (29% of our words are derived from French)
abbreviation, ability, bacon, bicycle, blonde, brunette, career, celebrate, change, dessert, eagle, example, family, feast, female, flower, genius, guide, hotel, imaginative, inform, justice, male, marriage, novel, ocean, opinion, parent, passion, perfect, quarter, quest, quiet, reason, restaurant, sample, sex, table, tax, unique, view, village, wage, war, waste
There are numerous items in this list to be thankful for! And a few to avoid!
Bratwurst with Sauerkraut
angst, blitz, bratwurst, kindergarten, poltergeist, sauerkraut, wanderlust
Love the bratwurst but not with sauerkraut! It must be eaten with mustard of horseradish mustard...not ketchup!
amen, cherub, cider, jubilee, kosher, satanic
The first and last words in this list are on opposing sides!
coach, goulash, itsy-bitsy, paprika
I love Hungarian paprika. It is a key ingredient in my deviled eggs.
banshee, bard, galore, kibosh, smithereens
The Irish have some pretty cool words… and fun to say!
artisan, balcony, cartoon, graffiti, gallery, grotesque, replica, studio, villa, virtue
many food words came from Italian: amaretto, artichoke, bologna, broccoli, caviar, cauliflower, coffee, lasagna, latte, macaroni, maraschino, marinara, pasta, pepperoni, pizza, spaghetti, tutti-frutti, and zucchini among others
Hurray for Italian food!
bonsai, karaoke, soy, tsunami, tycoon
Bonsai would be an interesting hobby.
agar, amok, gingham
I never would have pictured gingham coming from Malaysia.
gherkin, kielbasa, schmuck
I know a few people I would like to call the last word, especially when I’m out driving on the Interstate!
cashew, embarrass, tank, tapioca, savvy
Tapioca pudding is one of my favorites. We used to call the tapioca frog eyes when we were kids.
cheetah, cot, dinghy, guru, jungle, loot, shampoo, thug
Guru has become a popular word these days in the US.
caddy, golf, gumption, rampage, tweed, wee
Of course golf and caddy would come from Scotland!
Serbia or Croatian
Many people are fascinated with vampires and some believe they really do exist!
gauntlet, moped, smorgasbord
A smorgasbord is a diner’s idea of heaven!
boondocks, cooties, yo-yo
Yo-yo's are so much fun!
But there is an art to making them work and it is fun to watch someone who is skilled.
More Word Fun
- What is in a Name: Calligraphy – Beautiful Writing
Calligraphy is a Greek word meaning ‘beautiful writing’. I took some calligraphy classes back in the 1980’s. It was a very fascinating hobby which could either be very satisfying or very frustrating...
- Obscure Words A to Z: Fun with Words
Do you have a logolepsy (obsession with words) or a verbophobia (fear or dislike of words)? I’m betting everyone in here has a logolepsy. I thought it would be fun to find an obscure word for each letter of...
balderdash, freckle, penguin
Love the word balderdash. Much more fun to say than nonsense!
bagel, glitch, schmooze, spiel, tush
Shall we go schmooze with someone important?
How many words origins surprised you? And how many were what you expected? Hope you had fun and learned something new. I know I did!
All photos and illustrations are either Public Domain or clipart/images I own.