For example, the English word spoor comes right from the Afrikaans spoor, meaning trail or track. This is from an identical Dutch word which is descended from the Proto-Germanic *spurą, from which came an Old English word- spor. (Also spurn)

Another example of this is with valkyrie, the English word for the choosers of the slain in Norse mythology. Etymonline says it entered English in the 1700s, from the Old Norse. (From valr + kjósa, the Proto-Germanic roots of which are from where choose and the Middle English wal come from.) However, Old English had a word for the Valkyries too- wælcyrge.

So my question is, can we call valkyrie and spoor (plus similar borrowings, like falcon when we had the Old English fealca) cognates of the Old English words, or are they just borrowings?

1 Answer 1


They are both cognates, and borrowings.

They are indeed related to the Old English words, which makes them cognates. However, because they (as I take it) fell out of usage before being borrowed into the language, they are also what the people who spoke at the time took them to be: borrowings. They were not aware that cognates once existed in a past form of their language. That is why it is both.

  • 2
    +1 Interesting, indeed. Anything by way of 'Further Reading?'
    – Kris
    Commented Dec 11, 2013 at 11:12
  • 1
    Sorry, I don't. Perhaps the best analogy I can give you is this: Triple is a borrowing from Latin, and is related to English thrice. I would say this is both a word that is cognate to the English, and a borrowing at the same time.
    – Ledda
    Commented Dec 11, 2013 at 11:58

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