We get many English words from foreign languages. Our infographic lists nine of them, from aardvark to tycoon.
English Words from Foreign Languages: The Numbers
The phrase “English words from foreign languages” may seem redundant. After all, an enormous amount of English vocabulary comes from other tongues. Below are some statistics on words that we get from other languages:
- An astonishing 80% of the words in an English dictionary come from other languages—mainly Latin, Greek, and French.
- More than 60% of all English words come from Greek or Latin.
- Latin- and Greek-derived words make up as much as 90% of English vocabulary in technology and the sciences.
- As much as one third of English vocabulary comes from French.
Our list is just the tip of the iceberg. (Listing all English words from foreign languages would be impossible.)
Many factors contribute to the high number of foreign words in English. Conquest, colonization, trade, travel, international marriages—the list goes on. It makes sense that there are so many English words from foreign languages. (English is a relatively young language.)
Of course, the reverse is true as well. The French say marketing, the Germans have der Airbag, and the word básquet (basketball) is used in Spanish. The takeaway? Languages aren’t purebreds—they’re mutts.
“The problem with defending the purity of the English language is that the English language is as pure as a crib-house whore. It not only borrows words from other languages; it has on occasion chased other languages down dark alley-ways, clubbed them unconscious and rifled their pockets for new vocabulary.”
—James Nicoll, “The King’s English,” rec.arts.sf-lovers, May 15, 1990.