The English language contains many words that originated in another country, but some words have travelled a lot further than others to be a part of our everyday speech. Without some of these borrowed phrases, we wouldn’t have a whole range of everyday words like concert, cash and even sky. But where do most of these words come from? And what’s the history behind the mixed-up English language?
English Words Borrowed from Europe
Thanks to the Norman invasion of England in 1066, English contains a huge number of words that are borrowed from the French language. Many legal words such as defendant, jury and plaintiff are all of French origin as after the Norman conquest French was spoken by the upper classes and royalty. But there are plenty of other words taken from French too, including; dentist, restaurant, queue and amuse.
Not surprisingly, Italian has given a huge number of food-related words to English, but there are also lots of music words too, such as cello, opera, piano, viola, concert and diva. Another area is that of money and banking, with notable words like, bankrupt, cash, lotto, and tariff coming from Italian origin.
Sweden and Norway
The Vikings spoke a language called Old Norse and this has provided a lot of common English words; give, take, hit, leg, skin, sky, and even the pronoun they. Even Thursday is named after Thor, the Viking God. A lot of the words also have a violent connection to them, appropriate for Vikings, such as knife, club, die, ransack and even slaughter!
Borrowed from further afield
Arabic has provided the basis for many of the most widely used English words. Food and drink owes a lot to the Arabic language, with words such as alcohol, coffee, lemon and orange all coming from here. There are plenty of words used in mathematics too, such as algebra and zero. Other words are mattress, magazine and sofa.
Bungalow, thug, dungaree, pyjamas and shampoo are just a few of the many words that have been introduced into the English language from India. From the time when Britain was a colonial power in India, local words and phrases were used by British staff serving in India and made their way into everyday use. There is even a dictionary, called the Hobson-Jobson Dictionary, which details all these words and the story behind their original meaning and what they now mean in English.
Some of the most colourful words in the English language have come from the other side of the world. The native languages in Australia have given us famous words that we associate with that country, such as boomerang and didgeridoo. But there are also a lot of animals, including koala, kangaroo and budgerigar (or budgee).