We call the monarchs of Germany, Russia and Ancient Egypt "Kaiser", "Tzar/Czar" and "Pharaoh" respectively, but the monarchs of France, Spain, China and Japan "king" or "emperor". Is there any sort of pattern or rule about when loan words are used or not for monarchs, or is it just random?

  • 2
    If it's English, it's random. – Hot Licks Jul 6 '18 at 0:01
  • 1
    For "king" or "queen," maybe it has to do with whether the role itself was synonymous, because Britain, France, and Spain used to follow a feudal system that was similar to one another and different than the systems of Germany and Russia. As for "emperor," that denotes colonization, ruling over territories outside the homeland itself, that also puts said "emperor" over a king or queen or equivalent. – Billy Jul 6 '18 at 0:11
  • By the way, when we call, for example, the sovereign of Portugal "king" instead of "rei," that's called an "exonym" -- just a bit of trivia as a sort of antithetical term for your usage of the term "loanword" (i.e., When we apply an exonym instead of a loanword to the sovereign of a country...). – Billy Jul 6 '18 at 0:16
  • 1
    Why do we use terms like prefecture, oblast, or governorate when we could just label everything a province? Why say diet, thing, or duma when parliament would do? Or to get away from politics, why say Paris Métro when the Paris Underground or Paris Subway would be adequately understood? The answer is that you could— and in fact Peter the Great elevated himself from Царь to Император, so Emperor is arguably more accurate. The localized terms provide precision, or exoticism under the pretense of precision. – choster Jul 6 '18 at 1:17
  • 1
    Not to do with the English language, the original words are used where they exist and are more popularly understood, and native (of the language of the writing in question) words where they don't or are not widely known. – Kris Jul 6 '18 at 8:41

Possibly because of how recently we have been referring to them. The English have been 'dealing' with the kings of France and Spain (or Castille and Aragon) for a 1000 years and so the same word was used as for their native leaders.

German Kaisers and Russian Czars are a more modern introduction and had a novelty value. Similarly Pharaohs would only have come into common use with Victorian archaeology.

  • And Asian words for king or emperor weren't imported because native English speakers found them difficult to pronounce? – Matthew Cline Jul 10 '18 at 0:30
  • They were used at the time, Victorian literature is full of Sheikhs and Nabobs (even if not used accurately) and the whole of Gilbert and Sullivan is the novelty of the titles of eastern potentates – mgb Jul 10 '18 at 3:36

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.