Tagged Questions

Questions about words borrowed by English from another language.

learn more… | top users | synonyms (2)

2
votes
4answers
538 views

Should “romaji” be capitalized?

Should, "romaji", a loanword from Japanese, be capitalized because it is ultimately related to "Rome", which is a proper noun? I came across Should capitalization be preserved in loanwords? , but ...
7
votes
5answers
6k views

How did “gesundheit” work its way into common American usage?

Once upon a time I was hanging out with a fairly international group of people. Somebody sneezed, and one of the Americans reflexively responded, "Gesundheit!" A German in the group seized on the ...
23
votes
7answers
62k views

How did “sinister”, the Latin word for “left-handed”, get its current meaning?

Sinister is the Latin word for left-handed. What evolution of meaning turned left-handed into evil and threatening?
5
votes
1answer
228 views

Etymology of charlâtanerie

Can anyone provide me with the etymology and details of usage of the word charlâtanerie ? I came across this word while reading The Murders in the Rue Morgue by Edgar Allan Poe.The following passage ...
6
votes
1answer
1k views

Origin of “they”, “them”, and “their”

I know that they, them, and their did not exist in Old English. What language are they derived from?
18
votes
3answers
34k views

Why is the word 'bologna' pronounced like 'baloney'?

Why is the word 'bologna' (as in a bologna sandwich) pronounced so differently from the way it's spelled? The word 'lasagna' isn't pronounced 'lasagney'... The American sausage is derived from a ...
8
votes
4answers
6k views

Why is the initial “ts” sound (e.g “tsunami”) pronounced as “s”?

Why is the word "tsunami" often pronounced as "sunami"? Can English speakers pronounce "ts"? Is it because the initial "ts" looks foreign?
3
votes
3answers
2k views

What is the meaning of the suffix “‑don”?

What are the meaning and origin of the suffix ‑don, as in the words pteranodon and megalodon?
5
votes
4answers
10k views

Why do some English speakers pronounce “fête” as “fate”?

In French, from whom we’ve borrowed the word, it’s /fɛt/ “fet”. But if we pronounced it as if it were an English word after dropping the accent, it would be /fi:t/ “feet”. Yet the pronunciation we ...
3
votes
1answer
260 views

What is the word of Spanish or Portuguese origin starting with “a” and meaning enthusiast?

There is a word starting with "a" (along the lines of "afinados") meaning enthusiast, connoisseur or fan. What is it?
4
votes
4answers
8k views

Pronunciation of foreign words in American vs. British English?

One of the differences between modern US English (hereafter referred to as "American English") and British English is the way in which we pronounce foreign words, particularly those of French origin ...
8
votes
2answers
736 views

Where is the root morpheme in Modern English ambassador, embassy?

If there were no such a word as embassy, I would consider ambassad as a root and -or as an agent derivational suffix here. But embassy makes me puzzled. If we accept that segmentation shold be done ...
6
votes
2answers
1k views

Latin (or Greek) -x becomes -ght?

I have attested two words in English that come from two Latin words. These are "night" and "light". They derive from the words "nox" and "lux" respectively; both Latin — in the case of the word "nox", ...
2
votes
2answers
876 views

What is the correct plural of “chaise longue”? [closed]

Is it "chaises longues" or just "chaise longues"? Both examples exist in different dictionaries. Or should it be something else entirely?
5
votes
2answers
10k views

Is the -re “supposed” to be silent in the pronunciation of “macabre”?

Is the "-re" supposed to be silent in the pronunciation of the word macabre? I'm aware that dictionaries give two pronunciations, \məkäb\ and \mekäbrə\, but is one of them just a fixed "error" of the ...
5
votes
3answers
540 views

Is it common to use the borrowed noun-adjective form for borrowed French phrases?

Lately, something has struck me. I've been hearing several expressions in English, some clearly borrowed from French and preserving their noun-adjective form. Some examples are: Attorney General ...
0
votes
3answers
515 views

English from Icelandic?

Why is it that so many English words, as one traces their etymologies, run through Icelandic as one goes back?
5
votes
2answers
2k views

Proper usage of “status quo”

I was attending my college re-union and a speaker just said that "Having an ebook reader is status quo". Apparently, it means that it is in vogue or in fashion. I do not think it is the correct ...
6
votes
3answers
550 views

Using “RSVP” as a noun

RSVP literally means "Please respond", however it seems to have turned itself into a noun in common usage: "What's your RSVP for the party?" "I'm attending" Is it acceptable to refer to a ...
6
votes
5answers
2k views

What is the origin of the place name “Abbottabad?”

We know that Abbottabad is named after Major James Abbott, an officer in the Indian Army who founded the town. But where does the "...abad" come from? Does it have any relationship to the English word ...
12
votes
6answers
2k views

How would you spell “Tehran” in English for it to be pronounced “correctly” (i.e. as in Persian)?

Native English speakers do not pronounce the h in Tehran so it is pronounced like "Teran". But in the original pronunciation in Persian the h is pronounced, resulting in /tehˈɾɒːn/. Is there any ...
7
votes
2answers
702 views

How does one use the adjectival noun “l'enfant terrible”?

I have seen this phrase bandied about from time to time, usually in more "academic" works; my problem is that I remember it rarely being applied to children, as a direct translation might imply ...
7
votes
2answers
185 views

Monsters! another question about what-was-it-then

Etymonline has the original meaning of monster as c.1300, "malformed animal, creature afflicted with a birth defect" but I am curious to know the term used at that time -- and even earlier -- for ...
9
votes
1answer
2k views

Are “tomorrow” and “morning” etymologically related?

I know this is true for German and Spanish: Morgen morgen and Mañana por la mañana both mean "tomorrow morning". There may well be other examples too. I wonder- since these languages ...
2
votes
4answers
2k views

What's up with the hyphen in “orang-utan”?

For most of my life 'till about a couple of years ago, I had only seen the spelling orangutan written to describe those delightful red-headed apes from the tropical forests of Borneo. Lately, though, ...
13
votes
1answer
13k views

Why is the “a” in “cocoa” silent?

Not being a native speaker of English, one of those words that tripped me up is “cocoa”. Besides having its vowels inverted from “cacao”; it also is pronounced exactly the same as “coco”, whereas ...
8
votes
7answers
2k views

Why are there so few words in English that are derived from Welsh?

Why are there so few words in English that are derived from Welsh? Wikipedia mentions only 11.
4
votes
2answers
81 views

Use of 'blancbec' in English

In the March 4 issue of TLS a Mr. Brown wrote a letter recalling how when he was an undergraduate at Columbia and Allen Ginsberg came to give a reading, it was in fact the students that heaped scorn ...
28
votes
1answer
4k views

From which language has English borrowed the most words?

From which language has English borrowed the most words?
9
votes
4answers
13k views

“Shnide”? “Schneid”? Which is it and what's this term's origin?

"Getting off the shnide." (Obviously I'm not sure of the spelling.) It's an expression I hear almost exclusively in sports commentary to indicate a team has finally won a game after a protracted ...
3
votes
4answers
925 views

What loan-words keep their native pronunciation?

Being a non-native English speaker I recently discovered that for some words you don't use English pronunciation. For instance you seem to be omitting the l's when saying tortilla. Yet this isn't ...
4
votes
6answers
2k views

Example of sentence using “sang-froid”

In which context should sang-froid be used? Can you provide an example?
7
votes
2answers
456 views

Should capitalization be preserved in loanwords?

The fundamental principle of gestalt perception is the law of prägnanz (German for pithiness). In German, all nouns are capitalized. Should the above text be written as is, or with "the law of ...
6
votes
3answers
605 views

Did “et cetera” gain its popularity from “The King and I”?

Is it possible that et cetera gained its popularity thanks to the 1956 movie The King and I? Since I wasn't around before 1956, I'm not sure how common "et cetera" was in day to day speech. Or was it ...
22
votes
5answers
2k views

How do you spell Muammar Qaddafi?

This name, which is spelled القذافي in Arabic, is spelled in so many different ways in the Latin alphabet: Gadafi, Gadaffi, Gaddafi, Gaddaffi, Gadhafi, Gadhaffi, Ghadafi, Ghadaffi, Ghaddafi, ...
1
vote
3answers
463 views

Is there a term for French words adopted by the English language, such as “hors d'oeuvres” or “objet d'art”

I would call them "Frenchisms" or some such -ism, but I figured I'd at least ask first. So is there a name for such adopted foreign phrases? Also, how about those adopted from languages other than ...
11
votes
5answers
1k views

Diacriticals and non-English letters in anglicized loan words: keep 'em, dump 'em, italicize the words, or what?

Take an expression like déjà vu. This is a French term which is frequently seen in English. In fact, it is included in English dictionaries. But it is often seen in English in a variety of forms: ...
1
vote
6answers
3k views

Does 'soi-disant' have a close English equivalent?

I considered 'self-proclaimed' but that, I believe, suggests an element of self-promotion (the proclamation aspect) whereas soi-disant, at least as I think of it, is more about self-presentation and ...
8
votes
3answers
42k views

Does the casual use of “a la ___” in English preserve the French meaning?

In English, we use a la carte and a la mode, but it is also common for people to add their own word to the basic construction. For example, one might comment on someone's dancing: He showed us ...
5
votes
1answer
586 views

What's the term for flickering eye movement

If you're looking out of the window of a moving train and at things as they go by (rather than a single object that you're leaving behind), your eyes appear to be flickering. There's a specific term ...
17
votes
8answers
3k views

How should foreign words (with foreign characters) be written in English text?

This question is not about italicisation or how to construct plurals. I wonder what are general guidelines for writing foreign words based on a Latin alphabet in English text. I know that, for ...
7
votes
2answers
14k views

How is the word “qua” used?

I play Scrabble. I'm learning words with the letter 'q'. What is the usage of the word 'qua'?
3
votes
6answers
415 views

How do you say 'Twisted' Congress power balance?

Currently Japan’s ruling party (Democratic Party) holds a majority in the Lower House, but fewer seats in the Upper House than the opposition party (Liberal Democratic Party). We call the state of ...
3
votes
1answer
164 views

Literal echelons?

Merriam-Webster and the OED list only figurative senses of the word echelon (i.e. military formations and organizational ranks). Would it be incorrect to use it in the literal sense of the French word ...
7
votes
1answer
2k views

Why is baba ghanouj pronounced with a final “sh” sound?

Baba ghanouj is a delicious Middle Eastern dip made from roast eggplant and garlic. I've found the name spelled a multitude of different ways on the internet, but there are two peculiar things about ...
9
votes
2answers
496 views

Do the Eskimo/Inuit languages really have more words for snow than English

I've read in some sources that there are more words in the Eskimo/Inuit language to describe types of snow that have arisen out of necessity. I've also read in other sources that this is just urban ...
6
votes
1answer
815 views

Interjection “et voilà”

I know et voilà is a French interjection and means there it is. It is very much used in the US. Why is the use of et voilà so popular in the US? Which historical fact has made it so popular?
10
votes
6answers
2k views

fait accompli – to italicize, or not to italicize

Background I was looking up the rule about italicizing foreign phrases and found an apparent consensus that the criterion is if the phrase is familiar. Well, who gets to decide that? I know perfectly ...
5
votes
3answers
7k views

How do I pronounce Gaudí, the architect?

How do I pronounce 'Gaudi', in the name of Antoni Gaudí (the architect)?
7
votes
4answers
1k views

Plurals of foreign words

What rules of thumb govern when to pluralise a foreign word as it should be in the original language and when it should be pluralised as an English word? For example, you'd get some funny looks using ...