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Histories of common English words

Take a look at:


  • comes from the Greek word skiouros, which means 'shadow-tail'


  • has evolved from the Latin word 'currere' in which it literally means running place


  • comes from the Old Norse word afugr, which actually means 'turned the wrong way around'.


  • initially meant ‘a ball of thread’. Its current meaning literally came from the idea of thread being used to guide somebody out of a maze..


  • derived from French, it means to be able to move around quickly and gracefully


  • comes from the Russian word 'commisar' which means an official

Seeing the history of commonly used words in the English language and how they've adapted from other languages. Before doing research, I wasn't aware that many of these words have derived from other languages spoken elsewhere.

Does anyone else know of any words that have adapted from other languages? Thanks!

July 16, 2017



They're called loan words, and it happens more often than one would think. Here's a Wikipedia article that lists a vast amount of English words that were borrowed from different languages. Enjoy!



I think loanwords are different. They're the original words from one language used in another language (because that language may not have its own word for it). In Dutch we use the French words taille (waist) and plafond (ceiling); we didn't change the spelling of those words and we pronounce them more or less like the original French words.


LavethWolf's link begins with the clarification that native Anglo-Saxon words are listed in a separate article. I think the distinction you're mentioning relates to how assimilated the loanword is. B/c of what a mongrel English is, it probably has well more than the average quantity of loanwords for even the most basic concepts, which have been fully assimilated (i.e. you'd never guess they're loanwords without access to an etymological dictionary) for centuries: "birth" is in its origins a Norse loan, for instance; it displaced a related native Anglo-Saxon word. Remarkably, even "get," that ever-present grammatical staple is a Norse loanword.


I have to admit I haven't looked up the definition of a loanword, but I always thought it was just the original word borrowed (or loaned) from another language without changing the spelling or meaning of that word. The original post seems to be more about currently used words that were derived from words of another language and changed meaning and spelling over time. Maybe those are also considered loanwords? Just look at the history of the word filibuster. I wouldn't call that a loanword: https://www.wyzant.com/resources/lessons/english/etymology/words-mod-filibuster.


Didn't know that, perhaps my definition for loan words may be off. Thanks for the information.


There are many interesting parallels between English and German words:

edge - Ecke

hedge - Hecke

ridge - Rucken (means 'back' - the spine, I guess, is like a ridge)

midge - Mucke

stretch - Strecke

dodge - (sich) ducken (means 'to cower' 'to cringe')

Another Pattern:

sorrow - Sorge

morrow - Morgen

borrow - borgen

follow - folgen

bellows - Balg (for blacksmithing)

  • 1541

These words are most likely similar because English is a Germanic language.


"car" from Gaulish via Norman French. Presumably originally horse-drawn. "bin" also from Gaulish. Plus check these out: "dog" "pig" both NO known etymology.


None? Thanks for your response; I didn't know about the words "dog" and "pig", thanks!


In my dictionary it gives dog from late Old English dogca, of unknown origin; pig from O.E. picga or pigga with no cognates. Strange!


I recently read that person, people, vagina (which meant sheath) and military all came from Etruscan through Latin.


Cookie comes from the Dutch Koekie or Koekje. And the word Yankee was supposedly derived from the Dutch name Jan-Kees.


An interesting similarity that I learnt about recently is the word 'matinee', which is English for an afternoon performance at a show or concert. However, in French, 'matinée' actually means morning! It's interesting that these words mean opposite things in different languages :)


I've been learning languages for awhile and English class has helped me a bit as well so I find it very fun just looking at words in English which have Germanic origin (I can't nail down specifics like Anglo-Saxon, German, Old Norse, etc.). Like I can count 34 words in those past sentences which I believe are of Germanic origin, 4 from Romance, and 1 or 2 that I'm not sure of.

I find stuff like this very intriguing :)


Reminds me of the dad from My Big Fat Greek Wedding: “Give me a word, any word and I’ll show you how the root of that word is Greek!"


"orange" comes from Sanskrit by way of Persian, Arabic, Venetian, Italian, Medieval Latin, and French.

"jaguar" comes from Tupi (predominant pre-colonial language of what became Brazil) by way of Portuguese; Tupi is a close relative of modern Paraguayan Guaraní. In Guaraní, jagua means "dog."

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