Fun with words: Loanwords and Loan Phrases in English

Fun with words: Loan words and Loan Phrases in English

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We all are aware how important the English language is for us. Therefore, it becomes equally important for every individual to put a strong emphasis on English learning at a young age. For this, the students can join online spoken English classes to further improve their communication skills. From convenience to reduced travel costs, learning English online has immense benefits.

Learning new words creates an interest to learn, thereby improving communication skills. In this segment of “Fun with words”, we shall learn about loan words.

What are Loan words?

Did you know that many English words and phrases come from other languages? Well, yes, these are called Loanwords or Loan Phrases. Loanwords and loan phrases are terms that have been taken from other languages and used as English words and phrases. It can also be called a borrowing. This means they are used by a speech community that speaks a different language from the one they originated in. For example, English speakers adopted the word ‘garage’ from French, almost using the French pronunciation.

Presumably the very first speakers who used the word in English knew some French and heard the word used by French speakers. The new word becomes conventionalized when more speakers can become familiar with a new foreign word. At this point we call it a borrowing or loanword. Not all foreign words do become loanwords; if they are out of use before they become widespread, and are used by many people on a daily basis.

How do Loan words make their way in everyday conversations?

English has gone through many periods in which different words from a particular language were borrowed. It is part of the cultural history of English speakers that they have always adopted loanwords from the languages of whatever cultures they have come in contact with. When loanwords and loan phrases first enter the English language, they are generally used by bilingual speakers and these speakers usually maintain the original pronunciation from the source language. As other English speakers come to know and adopt these loanwords and loan phrases, the pronunciation may change according to the English speakers’ accents.

Loanwords are words borrowed from a foreign language with little or no modification. These make up 80% of English. There are 350 other languages whose linguistic contributions actually make up about 80% of English. Ranking from most popular to least, English is composed of words from: Latin, French, German, Italian, Spanish, Dutch, Scandinavian, Japanese, Arabic, Portuguese, Sanskrit, Russian, Maori, Hindi, Hebrew, Persian, Malay, Urdu, Irish, Afrikaans, Yiddish, Chinese, Turkish, Norwegian, Zulu, and Swahili. And, we have a lot more!

Therefore, whether you prefer chai, a mojito or cappuccino, pause to remember these words have been adapted from foreign languages and countries.

Loan words and loan phrases borrowed from different languages:

Interestingly many loan words are nouns, pertaining to food and drink. This is perhaps because the British couldn’t find English equivalents to many such culinary delights, so it was simple to borrow the words from the other languages- such as sushi (from Japan) or chutney and samosa (India)- into the English language. And, that’s how the Indian chai, basmati or balti, the French aperitif, croissant, baguette, have been added to the English language. Be it latte, bistro, or the Italian pizza, all these words are part and parcel of the English language. Words with spiritual connotations such as guru, avatar, yoga, and karma are now intertwined into contemporary English vocabulary.

Let’s look at a few more loan words and loan phrases borrowed from different languages:

French: jewel, painting, government, salon, brigade, infantry, grenade, quiche, beef, salmon, ballet, café, croissant, entrepreneur, faux pas, genre, hors d’oeuvre, renaissance, rendezvous, art, dance

Latin: agile, abdomen, anatomy, area, capsule, compensate, dexterity, discus, excavate, expensive, fictitious, gradual, habitual, insane, janitor, meditate, notorious, orbit, peninsula, physician, superintendent, ultimate, vindicate, agriculture, language, justice, science, forum, circus, opium, dominatrix, religion, apostle, city, master, paper

Greek: odyssey, democracy, psyche, atlas, platonic, biology, comedy, tragedy, history, anonymous, atmosphere, autograph, catastrophe, climax, comedy, critic, data, history, ostracize, parasite, pneumonia, skeleton, tonic, tragedy

German: pretzel, lager, zeppelin, delicatessen, bum, dunk, feldspar, quartz, hex, lager, knackwurst, liverwurst, loafer, noodle, poodle, dachshund, pretzel, pinochle, pumpernickel, sauerkraut, schnitzel, zwieback, (beer)stein, lederhosen, dirndl

Italian: broccoli, spaghetti, parmesan, pesto, pizza, cappuccino, latte, alto, arsenal, balcony, cameo, casino, cupola, duo, fresco, fugue, ghetto, gondola, grotto, macaroni, madrigal, motto, piano, opera, pantaloons, prima donna, regatta, sequin, soprano, opera, stanza, stucco, studio, tempo, torso, umbrella, viola, violin

Spanish: guitar, burrito, junta, guerrilla, macho, patio, plaza, piñata, siesta, armada, adobe, alligator, alpaca, armadillo, barricade, bravado, cannibal, canyon, coyote, desperado, embargo, enchilada, mesa, mosquito, mustang, ranch, taco, tornado, tortilla, vigilante

Dutch: buoy, cruise, dock, freight, dyke, yacht, easel, landscape, sketch, booze, coleslaw, cookie, gin, avast, boom, bow, bowsprit, buoy, commodore, cruise, dock, keel, keelhaul, leak, pump, reef, scoop, scour, skipper, sloop, smuggle, splice, tackle, yawl, yacht

Scandinavian: smorgasbord, ski, fjord, saga, sauna, maelstrom, slalom, ombudsman, anger, blight, by-law, cake, call, clumsy, doze, egg, fellow, gear, get, give, hale, hit, husband, kick, kill, kilt, kindle, law, low, lump, rag, raise, root, scathe, scorch, score, scowl, scrape, scrub, seat, skill, skin, skirt, sky, sly, take, they, them, their, thrall, thrust, ugly, want, window, wing

Japanese: samurai, geisha, hara kiri, judo, jujitsu, kamikaze, karaoke, kimono, soy, sumo, sushi, tsunami, ninja, karate, origami, tsunami

Arabic: Nadir, artichoke, arsenal, zenith, hijab, doner kebab, imam bayildi, sheshbesh, gal, Hamas, Hezbollah, Taliban or Taleban, emir, jakir, gazelle, giraffe, harem, hashish, lute, minaret, myrrh, salaam, sirocco, sultan, vizier, bazaar, caravan, alcohol, bedouin, harem, lute, algebra, zero, zenith, giraffe, gazelle, sultan, caravan, mosque, sheikh

Sanskrit: avatar, karma, mahatma, swastika, yoga

Hindi: shampoo, bandanna, bangle, bungalow, juggernaut, jungle, loot, pajamas, punch (drink), hintz, cot, cummerbund, dungaree

Portuguese: albino, dodo, emu, fetish, tempura

Persian: check, checkmate, chess

Russian: apparatchik, borscht, czar/tsar, glasnost, icon, perestroika, vodka, glasnost, Lunokhod, Mir, Lunik, Politburo, sputnik, icon, mammoth, muzhik, samovar, Troika

Loanwords merge discreetly and undetectably, into a language, helping it develop, grow and thrive. The openness of the English language has not only enhanced the spread of loan words and usage, but benefited its assimilation of foreign words and creation of new words. Modern loan words not only enrich English vocabularies but also make them productive.

English is now much more of a lender than a borrower. But English still continues to borrow words in the 21st-century. Recent popular loanwords include wiki (a Hawaiian word describing a user-controlled Website-Wikipedia), Sudoku (the Japanese puzzle in which missing numbers need to be filled), and latte (an Italian coffee made with hot steamed milk and espresso. Although many words from French, German, Russian, Spanish, Japanese, and Arabic have been used in the English language, its wide usage, flexibility, and creativity make it possible to be the main body of international language in the merging of vocabularies.

Contributed By- Anjana Dutta

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