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A loanword (or a borrowing) is a word taken in by one language from another. The name is somewhat misleading since the words are not given back. On the other hand, loanword itself is a loanword, having come from the German lehnwort.

Although loanwords are typically far less numerous than the "native" words of most languages (creoles being an obvious exception), they are often widely known and used, since their borrowing served a certain purpose.

English has many loanwords, due to England coming in contacts with numerous invaders in the Middle Ages, and English becoming a trade language in the 18th century. The table below lists languages from which English borrowed more than 1000 words:

  • Classical Latin - kitchen, street
  • Ancient Greek - idiot, tragedy
  • Norman French - guardian, pork, parliament
  • French - champion, beautiful, chase
  • Old Norse - they, skin, dike, sky, through, father, "are"

The Latin and French words together make up about 40% of English vocabulary. Norman French is also common. Greek is almost exclusively found in scientific terms and is the source of about 50% of these words.

The Norse loanwords amount to about 2% of all significant vocabulary. However, the Norse words are used more often than the rest of the loanwords put together. Some Norse words form, with English ones, vocabulary couplets. In each case below, the Norse word is first. Often, if the Norse word starts with an /sk/ sound, the English one will start with /S/.

Egg (on) - edge
Scatter - shatter
Skirt - shirt
Dike - ditch
Skin - hide

In addition, some words like think are of shared English-Norse origin. The modern word descends from one, or more likely, both forms.

The Norse loanwords are actually part of the grammatical skeleton of English. It is possible to spend a whole day without using a Latin, French, or Greek borrowing, but the only way to never use a Norse borrowing (or an Old English descendant) is not to speak.

A significant part of the technical vocabulary used by musicians comes from Italian.

More exotic source languages include Arabic, Hebrew, Quechua, and Russian. Many words for foods, animals, and plants not found in Great Britain are borrowed from other languages.

Affixes and idiomatic expressions[?] can also be borrowed. Often, a loanword is used as an euphemism for a less polite term in the original language

French set phrases are called Gallicisms[?]:

Goes without saying, in lieu of

Latin set phrases are called Latinisms[?]:

Et cetera, exempli gratia, id est, vide licet (viz)

Here are some common borowed affixes:

  • -s (verb suffix) from Norse. English plural ending is not from French
  • -in Latin
  • -able Latin
  • -ity Greek
  • -tion Latin

Many Hebrew loanwords have been incorporated into English, including: amen, behemoth, Goliath, jeremiad, jubilee, leviathan, shalom, shibboleth, hallelujah, messiah, cherub, seraphic, Sabbath, hosanna, Armageddon, Israel, kibbutz, golem, Satan, cabal (from Kabbalah), chutzpah, Bar/Bat Mitzvah,

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