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How the English Language Evolved

Updated on May 10, 2015
Silva Hayes profile image

Silva has a background as a technical writer and in addition to how-to articles she writes about cooking, travel, and personal experiences.

A simplified version of how our American English developed and evolved. "It's complicated."

Lovely | Source
Luminous | Source
Symphony | Source
Celestial (a mosaic)
Celestial (a mosaic) | Source
Gossamer | Source

The English language is complicated and fascinating and one could spend a lifetime studying how it all came about and evolved.

Here’s a greatly simplified version: Around 450 AD three Germanic tribes, the Saxons, the Angles, and the Jutes, crossed the North Sea from what are now Denmark and Northern Germany into Britain, and pushed the Celtic speakers north and west into what are now Wales, Scotland, and Ireland.

The Angles came from Englaland, and their language was Englisc. That’s where the words England and English came from. The resulting language was called “Old English” and was spoken until about 1100 AD.

William the Conqueror invaded and conquered England in 1066, bringing with him a kind of French that was then spoken only by the upper class. The lower classes continued to speak English. Eventually the two merged and modern English became the common language (1800 to present).

When North America was colonized, a distinct American variety of English came into being. Spanish, French, and West African languages added flair and pizzazz to the American English, along with Native American, German and Yiddish words. Then of course there are Latin roots and a smattering of Dutch and Greek; it’s a wonderful hodgepodge and it’s still evolving.

100 of my favorite words are offered for you readers and writers out there, along with definitions I selected from among many and illustrations that I created.

Here’s the list of 100 of my favorite words, which I chose because I like the sound of them, or the images they evoke, or just because of the way they make me feel.

Abundance – a plentiful amount

Aquamarine – a transparent blue-green gemstone

Aubergine – a dark purple color

Babushka - a woman's head scarf, folded and tied under the chin

Bask – to lie in or relax in

Bathe - to suffuse with

Bejeweled – ornamented with

Bevy – a group of birds

Bismallah – prayer of thankfulness and awe

Bizarre – odd; extravagant

Blossoming – developing

Boggle (as in mind-boggling) - shocking

Bonanza – a large amount of something valuable

Boogaloo – Cuban-style rhythm

Bossa nova – a type of music from Brazil

Brilliant - marked by unusual and impressive intellectual acuteness

Burgeoning – expanding rapidly

Candelabra – a set of candlesticks

Caribbean – comprised of the Caribbean Sea and many islands

Celestial – relating to heaven

Contemporaneous – happening during the same period of time

Copacetic - fine

Coursed – moved swiftly

Damsel – a maiden

Deep – vast, immeasurable

Delicious - delightful

Dilettante - dabbler

Divine – supremely good or beautiful

Doozie - something extraordinary or bizarre

Eclectic – employing individual elements from a variety of styles

Effervescent – showing high spirits

Enigma – something mysterious

Epiphany -a sudden intuitive realization

Escapade – a carefree romp

Essence – the most important ingredient

Ethereal – celestial; almost as light as air

Eucalyptus – a tree native to Australia having aromatic leaves

Euphoria – a state of happiness and well-being

Extraordinary - exceptional; remarkable

Fabulous – astounding; almost unbelievable

Fascinating – enchanting; alluring

Fiddle faddle – nonsense!

Flabbergasted – overcome with astonishment

Flamboyant – ostentatious, showy display

Flounce – move in an exaggerated or bouncy manner

Frolic – romp merrily

Funky – music relating to blues, jazz, and soul; original

Gallivant – roam about in search of pleasure

Gossamer – soft, sheer, delicate, light

Graceful – beauty of movement

Groovy – wonderful; chic

Harmony – pleasing combination

Incandescent – emitting light

Indefatigable - tireless

Indigo – dark blue-violet

Insouciance – light-hearted, carefree attitude

Iridescent – a display of lustrous, rainbow-like colors

Lackadaisical – languid; carelessly lazy

Loquacious - talkative

Lovely – beautiful and delightful

Luminous - glowing

Luscious – sweet and appealing

Mélange – a disordered mixture

Mesmerizing - enthralling

Mojo – personal magnetism

Mosey – to saunter

Myriad – a vast number

Nuance – subtle shade of meaning

Panache – verve

Peace - harmonious relations

Picturesque – interesting in an unusual way

Pizzazz – flamboyant style

Plethora – super abundance

Posh – upper class, smart, and elegant

Precocious – ahead in development

Quintessential – perfect example

Rapture – transported by ecstasy

Rhapsody – a beautiful musical piece

Sashay – to walk in a showy way

Sassafras – a North American tree with aromatic bark, leaves, and branches

Sauté – fry briefly while tossing over high heat

Savoir-faire - knows how to respond appropriately to any situation.

Scintillating – animated and brilliant

Seductive - enticing

Segue – to move smoothly from one thing to another

Shocking – highly disturbing (I like saying it: Shocking!)

Smoldering – burning with little smoke and no flame

Soulful – expressing profound thoughts

Sparkle – give off flashes of light

Spiral – coiling around an axis

Subliminal – below the threshold of conscious awareness

Sultry – arousing desire

Symphony – harmony of sound or color

Tempestuous – tumultuous; stormy

Thicket – a dense growth

Titillating – exciting in a superficial manner

Translucent – transmitting a diffused light

Ukulele – a small Hawaiian guitar

Umbral – the darkest part of the shadow

Willowy – tall, slender and graceful

The definitions were selected from:

Here’s a link to more amazing words:

This list includes jewels such as amaranth – an imaginary flower that never fades;bliss – ecstasy, joy; eunoia – beautiful thinking; and frangipani – fragrant flower.

Read more about how English and American English differ:

Want help with how to pronounce a word? Go here:

What are some of your favorite words?


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    • k@ri profile image

      Kari Poulsen 4 months ago from Ohio

      LOL, love that last picture. Love your words also :)

    • Silva Hayes profile image

      Silva Hayes 3 years ago from Spicewood, Texas

      Yes, you understand exactly! Thanks for reading and for your comments.

    • Glenn Stok profile image

      Glenn Stok 3 years ago from Long Island, NY

      I enjoyed reading this. At the same time, I was amazed to discover words I didn't know. But I'm always glad to learn something new. I agree with you that some words in English actually evoke images of their meaning. And I also like how some words roll off my tongue. It's kind of a nice feeling. As you said, you like the way it makes you feel.

    • Silva Hayes profile image

      Silva Hayes 4 years ago from Spicewood, Texas

      It is truly amazing! Thanks for the visit and comment, MYWIKISTEP.

    • profile image

      MYWIKISTEP 4 years ago

      Hello Silva Hayes,

      Sometimes it is amazing learning the roots and culture of a nation.

      Great hub!

    • Silva Hayes profile image

      Silva Hayes 4 years ago from Spicewood, Texas

      Thank you for the visit and comments, Shyron.

    • Shyron E Shenko profile image

      Shyron E Shenko 4 years ago from Texas

      Hi, Silva, I love our English Language, and the Etymology (evolution of our living language,) but I wish I could learn the languade of part of my ancestors, the Native American.

      This is a fantastic hub, will share and pin, Voted up and useful, interesting and all of the above.

    • Silva Hayes profile image

      Silva Hayes 4 years ago from Spicewood, Texas

      jainismus and torrilynn, thanks for the visits and comments.

    • torrilynn profile image

      torrilynn 4 years ago

      silva hayes, interesting hub you have here. i love the the meanings of the words that you included and the history behind the English language. thanks and voted up.

    • jainismus profile image

      Mahaveer Sanglikar 4 years ago from Pune, India

      I enjoyed reading the words with their meanings, and also description of the subject at the beginning of this Hub. Thank you for sharing.

    • Silva Hayes profile image

      Silva Hayes 5 years ago from Spicewood, Texas

      James, thank you so much for your comment! I am so glad you like my list of words.

    • James A Watkins profile image

      James A Watkins 5 years ago from Chicago

      I love this Hub! I too enjoy words, sometimes simply because of how they sound. Your list is fabulous! Thank you for the pleasure of reviewing it. Well done.


    • Silva Hayes profile image

      Silva Hayes 5 years ago from Spicewood, Texas

      Thank you so much for your comment, and for "Coquelicot," a fascinating word I've never heard before.

    • Sharkye11 profile image

      Jayme Kinsey 5 years ago from Oklahoma

      This was a lovely read. I too love words simply for the way they sound as well as there meanings. "Aubergine" is one of my favorites. Another beautiful word, that had no English translation for a long time, is "Coquelicot". It was another name for the corn poppy. I found it in a very old book one time, used to describe the color of a girl's dress.