This question reminded me of a question I've often asked myself: is there such a thing as a non-native vocabulary?

I can think offhand of three words that I have only heard from foreigners: the one in the question, touristic, the related folkloric, and academician (usually from Russians, even though the Russian equivalent, академик, is directly cognate to the actual English word, academic).

Is this a thing? Are there other words in the same category? Or somewhere are there native English speaker who use these words?

  • 2
    The answer is "yes", but there's not really any exhaustive way to answer this question other than giving a long list of words. Feb 6, 2014 at 4:16
  • The "nativeness" of one's English is governed not just by vocabulary, but by usage, phraseology (e.g. use of idioms and other expressions), and of course accent and prosody. Moreover there is wide dialectical difference in vocabulary among "native" speakers; you don't walk on banquettes in L.A. and corners aren't catawampus in Boston, and that is just within the U.S. I would thus caution that this list will be both extensive and contested. I am a native speaker and certainly use academician and folkloric, though perhaps not in the same ways you see it used.
    – choster
    Feb 6, 2014 at 4:44
  • No one ever used all the words of any dictionary.
    – Kris
    Feb 6, 2014 at 6:44

5 Answers 5


I’ll give you three words that are still very much used in Philippine English which, I was told, are no longer (or, at best, rarely) used in the UK or America:

  1. Thrice
  2. Viand
  3. Solon
  • I would have guessed that viand referred specifically to meat, and I had never heard of solon before.
    – TRiG
    Feb 6, 2014 at 4:28
  • 1
    "Viand" is meat (could be chicken, pork, fish, beef, seafood) that goes with rice. "Solon" is another word for "congressman" in the Philippines.
    – Louel
    Feb 6, 2014 at 4:30
  • 3
    "Thrice" is not completely gone from AmEng, but it is usually intentionaly archaic when used. (In my experience.) The other two words were unknown to me until now.
    – TecBrat
    Feb 6, 2014 at 4:30
  • I've never used those words non-ironically, but I'm very glad to hear that someone still does. Feb 6, 2014 at 5:40
  • Are you saying that Filipinos who spoke English from birth wouldn't use those words? (Incidentally, I'd certainly use the first two of those, though not very often).
    – Jon Hanna
    Feb 6, 2014 at 10:53

I definitely think there are some words not generally used by native speakers that one can find in the dictionary. But they will get taken out of the dictionary if no one is using them. Of course that depends on the type of dictionary, The OED never loses words but some of their other products do.

On a more interesting note, Collins (the company) removed the word supererogate which is a word I would understand as a philosopher but I only use supererogatory.see here.

I would think unused English words that appear in the OED would fall under three categories:

(1) words no longer in common usage anywhere [removed from most other dictionaries] (2) words used by specialists (3) words used by people only in some region of the word (including possibly ones where English is not the primary language).

  • 2
    I like your ... somebody find me an archaic word for list. Feb 6, 2014 at 8:28
  • The "obsolete words" list made me rather sad. They all seemed like such useful words. Charabanc? Frigorific? I love them. Feb 7, 2014 at 0:57

There are many of those words. In Germany a mobile phone for example is called Handy, or if you watch a soccergame in public with many other people, it's called public viewing.

Those words do exist in the native vocabulary, but have a way different meaning.

  • 2
    Yes,"handy" as a noun means something quite different in English. Feb 7, 2014 at 0:52

All three of those words are in my working vocabulary.

A similar example of an English phrase that is commonly used by Japanese native speakers is "epoch-making". It's perfectly good English, but you won't often hear it from a native speaker.

I expect that the quest for single-word terms that convey the same meaning as a non-English word leads inevitably to rarely used English words and phrases being used by non-native speakers. It's not that (literate) native speakers don't understand, it just sounds foreign because we would have used different words to convey a similar meaning.

  • I'm not sure where you are getting your claim about "epoch-making," I am presently in Japan and hear plenty of Japanese attempts at English but that phrase is not one I often hear
    – virmaior
    Feb 6, 2014 at 3:30
  • It's used in newspapers and breathless corporate press releases. I don't think it's needed in ordering mochi cakes or other everyday activities. Eg. tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/… theguardian.com/business/2013/jan/22/… Feb 6, 2014 at 3:34
  • If you can find such a press release that would be great. I would guess they should be using the word era but instead take the wrong word.
    – virmaior
    Feb 6, 2014 at 3:37
  • I think a native speaker would use a term such as "revolutionary". See above for two examples. Feb 6, 2014 at 3:38
  • 1
    Quite beautiful. They are literally painting a new era. "Epoch-making" is so ugly in comparison. Feb 6, 2014 at 4:43

This is not an easy question to create a list for (thankfully; SE decries lists), because native speakers don't use the words non-native speakers might; and if non-native speakers knew their particular words were indicative of non-native English they wouldn't use them. Neither constituency is going to have a ready means of identifying candidate words.

But words which have surfaced in questions here are words like receival or issual, nouns formed from verbs where there is a perfectly good English word like receipt, reception, issue or [maybe] issuance.

In the case of the verb receive, its related nouns do not have the same stem and are not obvious to construct; and the noun issue is exactly the same as the verb, which doesn't occur very often. The suffix -al can be used to create nouns, so why not use that in receival or issual?

Other words might be used because they appear superficially similar to English words but actually mean different things. I can't think of examples in English, but mistakes I have seen made in other languages are using the French word petrole [hair oil] for petrol instead of benzine or the German word Uhr [clock] for hour instead of Stunde.

Answer: the vocabulary list will contain words formed more regularly than they are in English, or words which appear very similar to native words but are different in English.

The three specific words in the question are used in English, but they have a specialised usage and aren't likely to occur very often. It's possible that touristic is a malapropism from French, where touristique is an adjective which would normally be rendered as the noun adjunct tourist in English: route touristique = tourist route. Similarly academician is a member of an Academy rather than someone who is otherwise involved in education (an academic).

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