There are words (not paired normally) which are, say, close relatives with (sometimes) totally different lives. For example, praeternatural = (Lat. praeter [beyond] + natura [nature]) and metaphysical = (Gr. meta [beyond] + phusis [nature]).

The both have different meanings, at the same time they are calques of each other.

Do you know of any other such pairs?

P. S.: It is interesting that in Russian one of such pairs has just been created within my generation: the word прейскурант (from German Preiskurant) had to make room in usage for the more recently introduced прайс-лист (from English price list).


By myself: Praeternatural (Lat. praeter [beyond] + natura [nature]) / Metaphysical (Gr. meta [beyond] + phusis [nature]).

By Colin Fine: Adrenaline (Lat. ad [to, near] + renal [of the kidneys]) / Epinephrine (Gr. epi [near] + nephros [kidneys]).

By Janus Bahs Jacquet:

  1. Aqua vitae (Lat.) / Whisk(e)y (abbr. whiskebae/usquebaugh < Irish uisce beatha/ Scottish uisge beatha). Water of life.
  2. Vladimir (Slavic vladi- [rule] + mir [world]) / Henry (Germanic heim(i)- [home, world] + rīkaz [rule]). Ruler of the world.

By choster: Sarcophagus (from Greek) / Carnivore (from Latin). Both stem from words meaning flesh-eating.

By Fred2: Overman (over + man) / Superman (Lat. super [over] + man). Coined to translate German Übermensch.

By Merk:

  1. Putsch (Swiss German blow) / Coup (Old French blow), former meaning 'riot, revolt', the latter any sudden, decisive political act (popularly restricted to the overthrow of a government).

  2. Chirography (Gr., chiros (hand) + graphe (which is written)) / **Manuscript (Latin, manus (hand) + scriptus (which is written).

  • 1
    ‘Supernatural’ would be a third player in this set of calques, with simply a different prefix to translate μετἀ. While not really bilingual examples, pairs like ‘hyperbole’ and ‘metabol(ism)’ are also similar, in that words of different meanings are created from synonymous elements. Sep 26, 2013 at 8:14
  • 2
    Sarcophagus/Carnivore? Torpedo/Narcosis? Periscope/Circumspect? But I suppose those wouldn't meet the strict definition of calque. This is a very interesting question, though.
    – choster
    Sep 27, 2013 at 0:32
  • 1
    Note that Aristotle's Metaphysica (ta meta ta phusika, "the [writings] after the physical [writings]") were simply the books that came meta ta phusika, "after the Physica", in the ordering of the Alexandrine canon. The meaning is not related to "beyond the physical". Artistotle's own title is ta peri tês prôtês philosophias, "the [writings] concerning first philosophy". Sep 30, 2013 at 11:11
  • 1
    PIE roots produces many doublets (like grain/corn or canine/hound), or on occasion triplets (like thermos/furnace/burn) in English through words borrowed from various daughter languages. Since roughly half of English vocabulary is borrowed (mostly from Latin and French, with lots of Greek technical terms), just knowing Grimm's Law gives you a way to come within earshot of a paired borrowed word for many Germanic words. Of course you have to learn to distinguish them. Oct 1, 2013 at 0:04
  • Note that ‘piranha’ has an alternative (and superior, if you ask me) etymology that holds that it is not from Tupí-Guaraní piraña ‘scissors’ (< pira ‘hair’ + raim- ‘cutter’), but rather from Tupí-Guaraní piráña ‘toothfish’ (< pirá ‘fish’ + aña ‘tooth’). Oct 1, 2013 at 11:19

11 Answers 11


Eau-de-vie (< French eau de vie < Lat. aqua vītae)
Akvavit/aquavit (< Scandiwegian akvavit < Lat. aqua vītae)
whisk(e)y (< abbr. ‘whiskebae’/‘usquebaugh’ < uisce beatha [Irish] / uisge beatha [Scottish])
— all types of locally important, strong alcoholic beverages meaning ‘water of life’.


Vladimir (< Slavic vladi- + mir¹)
Henry (< Germanic heim(i)- + rīkaz)
— ‘rule the world / ruler of the world’


Benedict(ion) (< Latin bene + dict(iōn-) < dicō)
euphem(ism) (< Greek εὐ- + φήμη < φημί)
‘well-speaking’ / ‘something well spoken’


(I’m sure there are many more, just can’t think of any off the top of my head)


¹ If we choose to believe that it is indeed from mir, rather than from *mēr ‘greatness’.

  • 2
    Aqua vitae / whiskey is excellent and the most likely candidate to claim the fifty.
    – Mykola
    Sep 26, 2013 at 8:39
  • Heimi is rather home, while mir is indeed world, so this is a miss, though very close :)
    – Mykola
    Sep 26, 2013 at 8:45
  • Heimi can mean both ‘home’ and ‘world’ in Common Germanic (in Old Norse and Modern Icelandic, for example, the noun nearly always means ‘world’, ‘home’ having a suffix: heimili). It is hard to tell whether one or the other meaning was intended in the name. Sep 26, 2013 at 8:48
  • Looked that up and agree, so Henry and Vladimir are welcome (though not so excellent as the 'water of life' pair).
    – Mykola
    Sep 26, 2013 at 9:21
  • Just thought of a random parallel between the two: the beatha ‘life’ part of the Irish and Scottish terms is etymologically closely related to bith, which means … ‘world’! (Beatha is also an exact cognate to Latin vīta, but that is more incidental) Sep 26, 2013 at 9:31

How about quintessence and Pentium? They both mean "the fifth element".

quintessence (< Latin quint-us/a, fifth + essentia, (classical) element)

Pentium (< Greek pente, five + -ium, suffix for chemical elements, after the style of early-named elements like helium)


Melancholic – gloomy [Greek melanos- black khole- bile]
Atrabilious – ill-natured, spiteful [Latin atra- black bilis- bile]

Magnanimous [French magnanimite magnus- great animus- breath]
Mahatma [Sanskrit maha- great atman- breath]
Both literally meaning great-souled but with difference in application.

Theodore [Greek god’s gift]
Jonathan [Hebrew god gave]

kamikaze [Japanese Kami (divine) kazi (wind)]
typhoon [Chinese Tai (great) fung (wind)]
[Reckless, destructive person or attack / violent storm]


From least to most interesting:

putsch and coup

[does not meet the dual root critierion, but both mean 'slap'/'attack' in German and French respectively]


troika and trinity

both with the roots 'three' + 'set of'

preface and prologue

preface: 1350–1400; Middle English prefas, which is from Old French preface (from which derives the modern French préface), from Medieval Latin prefatia, for classical Latin praefatio (“a saying beforehand”), from praefor (“to speak beforehand”), from prae- (“beforehand”) + for (“to speak”)

prologue: [from Latin prologus, from Greek prologos, from pro-2 + logos discourse]

chirography [handwriting, penmanship] and manuscript

[Greek hand + writing; Latin hand + writing]

bacchanology and Festschrift

bacchanology: The study of drinking and its preparations, and history. (bacchanalia = drunken feasts) + (logos = study/writing)

Festschrift: a volume of writings by different authors presented as a tribute or memorial especially to a scholar. German, from Fest celebration + Schrift writing

kamikaze and spiritus sanctus

[from Japanese, from kami divine + kaze wind, referring to the winds that, according to Japanese tradition, destroyed a Mongol invasion fleet in 1281] [sanctus: consecrated, sacred, inviolable, venerable, august, divine, holy, pious, just; spiritus: breath, breathing; light breeze; spirit, ghost...]

  • 1
    Also: prolegomenon. The same as prologue, "to say beforehand." Rarely used, though.
    – Talia Ford
    Sep 29, 2013 at 11:27
  • I like ‘kamikaze’ and ‘spiritus sanctus’—never thought about that before! If one were more humorously inclined, of course, one might also argue that ‘kamikaze’ and ‘Budapest’ are parallels (though not with any proper etymology, of course): 神 kami ‘god’ + 風邪 kaze ‘common cold, disease’ = ‘Buddha’ (a kind of godish being) + ‘pest’. :-D Sep 29, 2013 at 15:16
  • Perhaps add the definitions or links to "putsch" and "troika" for those like myself, who are clueless as their meanings?
    – Mari-Lou A
    Sep 30, 2013 at 4:53
  • I doubt whether troika and trinity meet the op requirements. They both really just mean threesome (as per the definition #1 in the American Heritage Dictionary). Some others are like that too. I thought the "totally different lives" was a must. But the kamikaze/spiritus sanctus has got to win some kind of a medal. The baddest entry yet.
    – Talia Ford
    Sep 30, 2013 at 9:30
  • If I were a persnickety fussbudget, which of course I'm naturally not of course, I would notice that only a couple of entries really meet the requirements, which are the following, as exemplified in the op: 1) both paired words need to have become part of English to the extent of having shed their exoticism; 2) their last derivational step, the one which English used for calquing, must not involve either the same language, or, if it does, the same words; 3) they both need to have gone on living different semantic English lives.
    – Talia Ford
    Sep 30, 2013 at 16:16

An interesting example, in that the meanings are almost the same except for a subtle distinction in usage, is insectivorous and entomophagous (and the related forms insectivore, entomophagy, entomophage, etc).

Both words refer to the consumption of insects. The difference is that an insectivore (Latin insectum + vorare) is an animal or plant that consumes insects, while entomophagy (Greek entomon + phagein) usually refers to the practice of humans consuming insects (here is a typical example).

A few more usage notes: Insectivorous is the more common term, and seems strictly applied to non-humans - or at least I can't find any source in which (modern) humans are described as insectivores. Entomophagous, on the other hand, is occasionally applied to animals - for example, see this article on entomophagous parasites.


Here's a quick contribution:

Listless < Old English lystan "pleasure" + -lēas "devoid of"

Anhedonic < Greek an- "without" + hēdonē "pleasure"


witchcraft (German wicce - conjurer kraft - skill) - sorcery
thaumaturgy (Greek thaumatos - conjurer ergos - work) - magic

Extempore (Latin ex- out of tempus- time)
anachronism (Greek ana- against kronos- time)

Metamorphosis (Greek meta-beyond morphos- form -osis)
Transformation (Latin trans- across formare- form -ion)

polyglot (Greek polys- glossa- tongue)
multilingual (Latin multi- lingua- tongue)

Sinciput (Latin semi- caput- head)
Migraine (Greek hemi- kranion- skull)

Coup de foudre ( French strike, blow; lightning) now meaning love at first sight
Blitzkrieg (German lightning; war, violence)

  • 1
    ‘Witchcraft’ is not from German, it is a native English word. Oct 5, 2013 at 19:48
  • I was recently browsing a bookstore and came across this book which traces the etymology of this word. It is uncertain and pretty complex, which is why I presume standard dictionaries avoid it. Current opinion favours a PIE or prot-Germanic origin.
    – user49727
    Oct 7, 2013 at 19:19
  • 1
    Germanic, yes—German, no. Both parts are definitely traceable back to Common Germanic, and the English word is not a loan word from German. Oct 7, 2013 at 20:51

Insect (Latin) vs Entomology (Greek)

Adrenaline (from ad-renal, Latin) vs Epinephrine (from epi-nephros, Greek)

  • I'm gratefully accepting the both, with these comments: 1) the 'adrenaline/epinephrine' pair: technically Latin ad- is not an exact counterpart of Greek epi-; 2) the 'insect/entomology' pair: can you please edit it to make 'insectology/entomology'?
    – Mykola
    Sep 24, 2013 at 11:00
  • I don't know a word insectology.
    – Colin Fine
    Sep 24, 2013 at 11:07
  • Etymonline knows it: "Hybrid insectology (1766, from French insectologie, 1744) is not much used." (etymonline.com/index.php?term=entomology)
    – Mykola
    Sep 24, 2013 at 11:09
  • @Mykola, only just saw your first comment now. When used with the accusative, ἐπὶ is actually quite a close match with ad in Latin; Thucydides, for example, wrote of ἡ ὁδὸς ἡ ἀπὸ τῶν Πυλῶν ἐπί τὸ Ποσειδώνιον”. Oct 2, 2013 at 20:16
  • Thank you, @Janus. I'm studying Koine Greek right now and yesterday's topic has been 'Prepositions' so now I see exactly what you mean.
    – Mykola
    Oct 4, 2013 at 9:24

A calque doesn't need to have a different meaning, but it must be a word-for-word or morpheme-by-morpheme or root-for-root translation of a word in another language. This might alter the definition, but not necessarily.

Olde English:Werewolf:"man" +"wolf"


American:Salary Man




Chevorlet's sales of the Nova model of car tanked in South America because--> American:Nova:powerfully exploding star brighter than any other in the sky

Spanish: No va:does not go



American:Handyhelpful, skilled at repair & maintenance, close at hand when needed

German:Handya cell phone

American:DiscotechA nightclub that features music & dancing as the prime social activity

French:Discoteque:A record library

American:High School

Spanish:Escuela altaSchool high



American:Pantstrousers, slacks, blue jeans

English:Pantsunderwear, breifs, boxers

  • 3
    I think the OP understands what a calque is. The question specifically asks for cases where the meanings do differ.
    – choster
    Sep 30, 2013 at 13:42
  • Possibly, but I can't feel sure of the true desire without more clarification.
    – Ace Frahm
    Sep 30, 2013 at 13:46
  • @choster: Ciseaux (not even a borrowing as far as I can tell) and piranha are not calques, but OP seems to think they are...
    – Merk
    Sep 30, 2013 at 21:15
  • @Merk: not anymore, I agree that the etymology differs from what EOD says.
    – Mykola
    Oct 4, 2013 at 9:18

If you permit phrases used in English, how about carte blanche, clean slate, and tabula rasa. They all literally mean a blank slate or piece of paper for writing on. Metaphorically, they mean quite different things.

  • I believe that 'carte blanche' and 'tabula rasa' is standard English, so they count.
    – Mykola
    Oct 4, 2013 at 9:17

What about overman and superman? They are both calques of Übermensch.

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