In English, we know each country or nation has its own derived adjective. Examples

  • England - English
  • Wales - Welsh
  • Poland - Polish
  • France - French
  • China - Chinese
  • India - Indian
  • Russia - Russian
  • etc

However when referring to two nations in a common subject matter, the first nation's adjective can get transformed into a secondary form that I am not sure of their origin and true purpose. (Was not taught anything about this as a school kid)

  • Anglo-French wars
  • Franco-German competition
  • Sino-Japanese war
  • Russo-Turkish war
  • Anglo-American forces
  • Indo-Pakistani tensions
  • etc

My main probe is what exactly is the benefit of using that form? Is there some disadvantage to just plainly say for example "English-French wars"?

And then the follow-up question as to the origin of these forms - when were they first (individually) introduced into English language? Surely something must have happened that triggered the existence and usage of (and necessitated?) these secondary forms, but I don't know why and when.

Furthermore, as far as I've seen, not every nation on the planet has the "honour" of owning this secondary form, so what rules for consistency when pairing up two nations together for a subject matter is beyond me.

  • The full (subscription-only) OED says that French was Formed within English, by derivation. But they say the "combining form" Franco- was A borrowing from Latin, and that Germano- was A borrowing from Latin, combined with English elements. Commented Oct 6, 2018 at 18:06
  • My guess would be Latinate forms sound more poetic.
    – Ricky
    Commented Oct 6, 2018 at 18:40
  • So these have their roots from Latin? Which sounds optional to me then.
    – icelava
    Commented Oct 11, 2018 at 1:50

1 Answer 1


So far as Anglo is concerned, it originates from post-classical Latin, the earliest examples being from the late-sixteenth century. Perhaps the earliest such combination was Anglo-Saxon, meaning an English person of Saxon origin.

The OED has a substantial reference on Anglo-Saxon with a lot on the etymology. It follows the classical Latin and Greek form of adjectival connection, such as sacrosanctus - "sacredly sanctified".

All of these forms, such as Franco, Germano, Indo etc are undoubtedly borrowings from Latin.

Of course the term Anglo-American has more than one meaning. One can speak, for example of an Anglo-American corporation, or let's say Anglo-American ideas etc meaning a combination of the two. There is however another way in which Anglo-American is used - meaning an American of English origin. This is a much later sense, and appears in the nineteenth century.

Anglo-Indian can mean either a person of mixed English and Indian ethnicity, or it could mean an Indian of English origin i.e. typically during the Raj, a white person settled in India.

Etymology: < post-classical Latin Anglo-Saxones the English people, sometimes (in British sources) apparently spec. the West Saxons together with the Mercians (860, a1010 in continental sources; from 10th cent. in British sources) < Anglo- , combining form of classical Latin Anglus (see Angle n.3) + post-classical Latin Saxones , plural of Saxon- , Saxo Saxon n.; compare the earlier collocation Angli Saxones , Saxones Angli , lit. ‘the English Saxons’, the English people, in contradistinction to the continental Saxons (8th cent. in a continental source). With use with reference to Old English compare earlier Saxon n. 2. In post-classical Latin Anglo-Saxones , Anglo- , combining form, is used adverbially, as in similar Latin and Greek compounds, e.g. classical Latin sacrōsanctus sacredly sanctioned (see sacrosanct adj.), Hellenistic Greek Ἰνδοσκυθία Indian Scythia, Scythia of the Indus (compare Indo-Scythian adj. at Indo- comb. form1 2), Hellenistic Greek Συροϕοῖνιξ , classical Latin Syrophoenix , Phoenician of Syria (see Syrophœnician n.). Compare also classical Latin Gallograecī (see Gallo-greeks n. at Gallo- comb. form1 1b).

Post-classical Latin Anglo-Saxones , which had become rare after the Norman Conquest, was apparently revived in historical use by Camden (writing in Latin) in the late 16th cent.: 1586 W. Camden Brit. 43 (running title) Anglo-Saxones. 1607 W. Camden Brit. (rev. ed.) 94 Nunc..Anglo-Saxones ad differentiam eorum in Germania, vocatos. 1607
W. Camden Brit. (rev. ed.) 128 Maiores nostri Anglo-Saxones Wittena-ge-mott, .i. Prudentum Conuentus..vocârunt. Compare earlier English-Saxon adj. Compare also earlier use of Angle-Saxon denoting Old English ( < Angle n.3 + Saxon n., after post-classical Latin Anglo-Saxones): 1589 G. Puttenham Arte Eng. Poesie (new ed.) iii. iv. 120 I meane the speach..so is ours at this day the Norman English. Before the Conquest of the Normans it was the Anglesaxon, and before that the British.

  • So these have their roots from Latin? Which sounds optional to me then.
    – icelava
    Commented Oct 11, 2018 at 1:50

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