I was thinking about how when the Italian Fascists were in power they often turned loanwords into Italian words. They wanted to conserve the Italian nature of the language:

Under Fascism an Italian chauffeur became an autista; soccer turned into calcio; a bar was rechristened qui si beve (here one drinks). Shakespeare’s name, like other foreign appellations, had to be pronounced as if it were Italian: Shah-kay-spay-ah-ray.

I understand too that there is a similar movement in France to guard against the encroaching force of loanwords.

What is a term for this?

  • Defeated (may not always be true).
    – compman
    Commented May 10, 2011 at 0:58
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    If you hadn't mentioned it, I would have answered 'French'.
    – Mitch
    Commented May 10, 2011 at 1:12
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    – Mitch
    Commented May 10, 2011 at 1:13
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    There's a word in German for it but...you know.
    – Mitch
    Commented May 10, 2011 at 1:13
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    In describing Académie française as resisting loanwords, Wikipedia uses the word ... conservativism. Commented May 10, 2011 at 2:08

2 Answers 2


There is a term for the concept if not a term for a person who follows it: "Linguistic purism". So perhaps there are various forms such as "language purist", "linguistic purist", "English purist".

Besides French, some other languages resist foreign loanwords more strongly than does English. Estonian and Icelandic are two that spring to mind. Sometimes nationalism is a factor but not always. English as a language does not resist loanwords at all but there are of course many English speaking mavens who have such peeves.

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    "Purist" is a strange word to use, since the word is itself etymologically derived from both Greek and Latin...!
    – shipr
    Commented May 10, 2011 at 3:16
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    @Roger: I don't think people commenting on the phenomenon are necessarily people involved in the phenomenon. They are likely to be linguists and linguists tend to be passive observers of and commentators on linguistic phenomena these days. So it might be a case of descriptivists labelling prescriptivists. But you're right they certainly don't seem to be Latin or Greek purists (-: Commented May 10, 2011 at 3:25
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    @Roger: I think "Pure" and "-ist" are both long-enough-standing features of English that, despite their history, make "Purist" actually a combination of two English parts. Commented May 10, 2011 at 12:55

I don't think there is any standard English term for such a person, or for the activity. Probably because resistance to loanwords has never been common in English — quite the opposite.

In fact, I expect it is virtually impossible to prevent the adoption of loanwords unless you have a language regulator like the Académie française.

There a number of phrases you could use to describe such a person (e.g. linguistic conservative). However they could equally be applied to someone who is opposed to other things: recent coinings, slang, text-speak, jargon, grammatical errors, punctuation errors, the "breaking" of certain arbitrary rules, particular usages.

Language purist is probably the best of a bad bunch. I think it is the closest, but still does not quite convey the specific opposition to loanwords.

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