Questions about words borrowed by English from another language.

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28
votes
1answer
3k views

From which language has English borrowed the most words?

From which language has English borrowed the most words?
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, ...
21
votes
7answers
45k 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?
17
votes
8answers
2k 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 ...
16
votes
5answers
11k views

“Czar” vs “tsar” - origins and pronunciation

How did the word come into English with the two variants czar and tsar? The 'ts' spelling is a transliteration of the Russian 'царь', but the 'cz' spelling is what interests me more. To me it looks ...
16
votes
3answers
23k 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 ...
13
votes
6answers
1k views

Should nouns borrowed from Japanese be pluralized?

As someone who has watched a lot of subtitled Japanese animation, it seems odd to hear a word such as ninja (used in the plural) in the dialogue and see it transliterated as ninjas. It somehow seems ...
12
votes
6answers
1k 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 ...
12
votes
1answer
10k 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 ...
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: ...
11
votes
3answers
306 views

How should a person holding a foreign military rank be addressed?

While researching how to call a person that holds a rank at a foreign (non English speaking) military, I came to very confusing results: Wikipedia is not consistent on the issue: it sometimes gives ...
10
votes
5answers
1k 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 ...
9
votes
2answers
461 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 ...
9
votes
1answer
1k 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 ...
8
votes
2answers
605 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 ...
8
votes
2answers
391 views

Have any pseudo-anglicisms become proper English words?

There are plenty of pseudo-anglicisms in other languages around the world: Handy, Pullunder, Showmaster and Beamer¹ in German. These words, though borrowed from English, are used differently from ...
7
votes
3answers
18k views

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

In English, we us 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 ...
7
votes
2answers
10k 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'?
7
votes
5answers
351 views

Not “schadenfreude”, but related?

I'm thinking that there must be a word that means, rather than "feeling pleasure in the misfortune of another", "the pleasure of feeling superior to another". This certainly seems (at least) as ...
7
votes
6answers
1k 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.
7
votes
2answers
396 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 ...
7
votes
2answers
566 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
5answers
4k 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 ...
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 ...
7
votes
2answers
178 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 ...
6
votes
6answers
1k views

How did the Swedish word “fartlek” make it to the English language running vocabulary?

This is a question originally from Fitocracy by ivh: Btw, does anybody know how the Swedish word "fartlek" made it into English running lingo?
6
votes
5answers
1k 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 ...
6
votes
5answers
718 views

Generic foreign words with specific English meanings

There are many words in English that are borrowed from other languages, but acquire a much more specific meaning along the way. For example, salsa in Spanish simply means "sauce", and could be ...
6
votes
4answers
4k 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?
6
votes
2answers
817 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", ...
6
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 ...
6
votes
3answers
524 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 ...
6
votes
1answer
466 views

Why Abraham and not Avraham?

In the Hebrew scriptures Abraham's name is Avraham and not Abraham (אַבְרָהָם). Is has a v and not a b. The same goes for Rebecca, who is called Rivka in Hebrew. Both v and b sounds are represented by ...
6
votes
3answers
4k views

Naïve, naïf, naïvety, naïveté

I have two related questions about the word "naïve" and its relatives. The first is, shouldn't it be "naïf" if the subject is male? I've been told that it's correct to use the correct ending of ...
6
votes
2answers
434 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
1answer
846 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?
6
votes
2answers
238 views

Is there a term for loanwords that are borrowed back into their original language? [closed]

Is there a word for double loanwords? The only example I can think of right now isn't in English, but it should clarify what I mean. Küçük, meaning small/young, the original Turkish word, was ...
6
votes
3answers
8k 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 ...
6
votes
1answer
685 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?
6
votes
2answers
247 views

Has the incorporation of foreign phrases in English stopped?

I know English contains many words taken directly from another language - chauffeur, for example - but I am interested in foreign phrases. These are phrases you'd see in writing or spoken aloud, such ...
5
votes
3answers
313 views

Why are foreign words used in modern vernacular?

Why are seemingly foreign words such as hors d’œuvres, maître d’, garçon, and Gesundheit used in American vernacular?
5
votes
2answers
6k 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
163 views

Why is “poignant” pronounced /ˈpɔɪɲənt/?

I felt a little bit strange when I heard poignant pronounced as /ˈpɔɪɲənt/. It is also pronounced as /ˈpɔɪgnənt/, but the former seems to be more popular. A word stagnant has similar spelling, but ...
5
votes
4answers
8k 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 ...
5
votes
1answer
503 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 ...
5
votes
2answers
829 views

Why is quixotic pronounced as it is?

Since "quixotic" was coined with Don Quixote as its basis, why is it pronounced "kwicks-OTT-ick" when it should by rights/origin be pronounced "Key-HO-tick"? It even sounds more onomatopoeiatic the ...
5
votes
3answers
238 views

Anglicization from Hebrew

How should one transliterate the well-known Jewish Holiday that usually takes place in December (or late November)? Hannukah or Chanukah
5
votes
1answer
208 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 ...
5
votes
2answers
1k 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 ...
5
votes
3answers
450 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 ...