What percentage of current English words are of native Anglo-Saxon origin? I have seen stats about how large percentages of the English words currently in use come from French, Latin, or German origins, but I want to know how many truly native words the English language has left.

  • 3
    Seems a little odd to call Anglo-Saxon (or Old English) "native" since it replaced the Celtic languages spoken by the "native" inhabitants of Briton (who themselves only arrived there in the 6th century BCE). Even Latin speakers had been in Briton for a few hundred years before the Anglo-Saxons took over. And thus, Old English itself contains loans from Latin, a few from Celtic, and some from Old Norse. On top of that, the Angles and Saxons had already borrowed Latin words before leaving continental Europe. The point is, how would you define an authentically Anglo-Saxon word? – Juhasz Apr 7 '20 at 18:55
  • I guess I'm just asking how many English words currently in use come from Old English. I tried doing the math myself. The best I could find was Wikipedia's list of Anglo-Saxon rooted words, which had a total of about 4,000 entries. Most sources estimate English to have about 170,000. So I did 4,000/170,000 and that came out to about 2.4%. Now that doesn't seem quite right to me, so I'm thinking Wikipedia's list does not include all such words, but I have no way of checking at the moment. If anyone could point me to a source where I can verify this, that would be much appreciated. – EmaJ Apr 7 '20 at 20:52
  • @Juhasz Then (or rather previously), ther'e Beakerspeak. – Edwin Ashworth Apr 8 '20 at 14:12
  • @EdwinAshworth, yes that was truley the Bell Epoque of English culture. (Sorry, that was terrible). – Juhasz Apr 8 '20 at 15:59
  • @Juhasz I bet they didn't make nearly as many types as us civilised typos. – Edwin Ashworth Apr 8 '20 at 18:26

I can't find a duplicate.

This Wikipedia article gives:

Estimates of native words (derived from Old English) range from 20%–33%, with the rest made up of outside borrowings.

References are given at the end of the article, but it is not mentioned which ones contain surveys arriving at these estimates.

  • 2
    Percentages vary a lot with style and context. Scientific literature is very high in Latinate and Greek "intestinal" terms, with fewer "gutsy" Germanic words. And speech is very different from writing here, so, as with any analysis, one can't say much without specifying precisely what area one is counting, and how the count is conducted. When I was teaching freshman etymology, I used to tell students to pick a paragraph they particularly liked and look up the roots of every word in it. It's not a hard thing to do if you have a dictionary. – John Lawler Apr 7 '20 at 20:11

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