What words does English have more? Romance or Germanic ?


2 Answers 2


Wikipedia gives the results of one study given on sources of words in the English lexicon:

According to one study, the percentage[s] of modern English words derived from each language group are as follows:

  • Latin (including words used only in scientific / medical / legal contexts): ~29%
  • French (Latin): ~29%
  • Germanic: ~26%
  • Others: ~16%

Other surveys, by Thomas Finkenstaedt & Dieter Wolff (1973), and Joseph M. Williams in 'Origins of the English Language' are in broad agreement.

So Germanic origin is not the main source.

  • 4
    It would be interesting to know too how frequently words of each origin are encountered in speech and in writing. One suspects that the incidence of Germanic roots would then be higher, but one can't find a ready source of data to back that up. Commented Mar 3, 2020 at 15:25
  • 1
    You can find estimates of how often individual words 'are used' (whatever caveats that needs) and the 500 say 'most frequently used words', so it should only take a week or so to come up with some sort of estimate. Commented Mar 3, 2020 at 15:29
  • 1
    @HighPerformanceMark ... That would be another (interesting) question. I heard once that the hundred most common English words are all of Germanic origin, but there are some words of Romance origin in he second hundred.
    – GEdgar
    Commented Mar 3, 2020 at 15:44
  • @GEdgar See the linked question.
    – CJ Dennis
    Commented Mar 3, 2020 at 23:01

Unfortunately, the question is probably not answerable with much percentage accurateness. If we take the word "high" (Germanic) do you include higher, highest, height, highness, giving 6 words, or is it just one? And are you including obsolete and rare words? What about dialect? What of all the forms of English? What of Germanic words that came from a Romance source?

That said, Google is your friend: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Foreign_language_influences_in_English which says there are more words from Romance languages in total. BUT read the whole article and bear in mind that the samples are relatively small.)

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