A loanword is a word borrowed from a donor language and incorporated into a recipient language. By contrast, a calque
In linguistics, a calque or loan translation is a word or phrase borrowed from another language by literal, word-for-word or root-for-root translation.-Calque:...

 or loan translation is a related concept where the meaning
Meaning (linguistics)
In linguistics, meaning is what is expressed by the writer or speaker, and what is conveyed to the reader or listener, provided that they talk about the same thing . In other words if the object and the name of the object and the concepts in their head are the same...

 or idiom
Idiom is an expression, word, or phrase that has a figurative meaning that is comprehended in regard to a common use of that expression that is separate from the literal meaning or definition of the words of which it is made...

 is borrowed rather than the lexical item
Lexical item
A Lexical item is a single word or chain of words that forms the basic elements of a language's lexicon . Examples are "cat", "traffic light", "take care of", "by-the-way", and "it's raining cats and dogs"...

 itself. The word loanword is itself a calque of the German
German language
German is a West Germanic language, related to and classified alongside English and Dutch. With an estimated 90 – 98 million native speakers, German is one of the world's major languages and is the most widely-spoken first language in the European Union....

 Lehnwort, while calque is a loanword from French. The terms borrow and loanword, although traditional, conflict with the ordinary meaning of those words because nothing is returned to the donor languages. However, note that this metaphor is not isolated to the concept of loanwords, but also found in the idiom "to borrow an idea;" An additional issue with the term loanword is that it implies that the loaning is limited to one single word as opposed to phrases such as déjà vu, an English loanword from French. While this phrase may be used as one lexical item by English speakers, that is to say, an English speaker would not say only déjà to convey the meaning associated with the full term déjà vu, in the donor language (French), speakers would be aware of the phrase consisting of two words. For simplicity, adopt/adoption or adapt/adaption are used by many linguists, either in parallel to, or in preference to, these words. For these reasons some researchers also use the term lexical borrowing.

Loanwords entering a language

Donor language terms generally enter a recipient language as a technical term (terminus technicus) in connection with exposure to foreign culture. The specific reference point may be to the foreign culture itself or to a field of activity where the foreign culture has a dominant role.

External associations (from travel abroad)

A foreign loanword is arguably still outside the recipient language, and not yet a "loanword" when it is fixed in the local culture. What is "exotic" varies from language to language. Thus, English names for creatures not native to Great Britain are almost always loanwords.

Loanwords from a dominant field of activity

Examples of loanwords from a dominant field of activity:
  • Arts - Most of the technical vocabulary referring to classical music (e.g. concerto
    A concerto is a musical work usually composed in three parts or movements, in which one solo instrument is accompanied by an orchestra.The etymology is uncertain, but the word seems to have originated from the conjunction of the two Latin words...

    , allegro
    Allegro may refer to:* Allegro * Musical tempo meaning cheerful or brisk; see Tempo#Italian tempo markings* Allegro library, a computer game programming library* Allegro , a typeface designed in 1936...

    , tempo
    In musical terminology, tempo is the speed or pace of a given piece. Tempo is a crucial element of any musical composition, as it can affect the mood and difficulty of a piece.-Measuring tempo:...

    , aria
    An aria in music was originally any expressive melody, usually, but not always, performed by a singer. The term is now used almost exclusively to describe a self-contained piece for one voice usually with orchestral accompaniment...

    , opera
    Opera is an art form in which singers and musicians perform a dramatic work combining text and musical score, usually in a theatrical setting. Opera incorporates many of the elements of spoken theatre, such as acting, scenery, and costumes and sometimes includes dance...

    , soprano
    A soprano is a voice type with a vocal range from approximately middle C to "high A" in choral music, or to "soprano C" or higher in operatic music. In four-part chorale style harmony, the soprano takes the highest part, which usually encompasses the melody...

    ) is borrowed from Italian
    Italian language
    Italian is a Romance language spoken mainly in Europe: Italy, Switzerland, San Marino, Vatican City, by minorities in Malta, Monaco, Croatia, Slovenia, France, Libya, Eritrea, and Somalia, and by immigrant communities in the Americas and Australia...

     and likewise in ballet from French
    French language
    French is a Romance language spoken as a first language in France, the Romandy region in Switzerland, Wallonia and Brussels in Belgium, Monaco, the regions of Quebec and Acadia in Canada, and by various communities elsewhere. Second-language speakers of French are distributed throughout many parts...

  • Religion - religions may carry with them a large number of technical terms from the language of the originating culture. For example:
    • Hebrew (Judaism) - Some terms in the Hebrew Bible have been carried into other languages due to being borrowed rather than translated in Bible translations. For example Hebrew shabbat ("day of rest" שַׁבָּת) has been borrowed into most languages in the world: in Greek the word is Σάββατο; Latin sabbato; Spanish sábado; and in English Sabbath. The major exceptions are languages like Chinese, Japanese and Korean where pictographic characters traditionally prevent transliteration and the ideogram is translated "peace-breath-day" (安息日 an soku jitsu in Japanese pronunciation) rather than transliterated. Semantically this is still a loanword since the concept is foreign to Japanese.
    • Greek (Christianity) - Likewise Greek words like baptisma have entered many languages as baptism or similar.
    • Latin (Catholicism) - Latin words like missa and communio have entered English as mass and communion
    • Arabic (Islam) - Arabic words like hijab
      The word "hijab" or "'" refers to both the head covering traditionally worn by Muslim women and modest Muslim styles of dress in general....

    • Sanskrit (Hinduism) - words like guru
      A guru is one who is regarded as having great knowledge, wisdom, and authority in a certain area, and who uses it to guide others . Other forms of manifestation of this principle can include parents, school teachers, non-human objects and even one's own intellectual discipline, if the...

  • Business - English exports English terms to other languages in business and technology (examples le meeting to French).
  • Science (Latin) - medicine (itself a Latin loanword) uses a large vocabulary of Latin terms (sternum
    The sternum or breastbone is a long flat bony plate shaped like a capital "T" located anteriorly to the heart in the center of the thorax...

    , appendix
    Appendix may refer to:In documents:*Addendum, any addition to a document, such as a book or legal contract*Bibliography, a systematic list of books and other works...

    ), as a result of medieval advances in medical science being conducted in Latin - even if some of the earliest Latin medical texts were translations from Greek and Arabic.
  • Philosophy - many technical terms, including the term philosophy
    Philosophy is the study of general and fundamental problems, such as those connected with existence, knowledge, values, reason, mind, and language. Philosophy is distinguished from other ways of addressing such problems by its critical, generally systematic approach and its reliance on rational...

     itself, derive from Greek dominance in philosophy, mathematics, linguistics, economic theory and political theory in Roman times. Examples include democracy
    Democracy is generally defined as a form of government in which all adult citizens have an equal say in the decisions that affect their lives. Ideally, this includes equal participation in the proposal, development and passage of legislation into law...

    , theory
    The English word theory was derived from a technical term in Ancient Greek philosophy. The word theoria, , meant "a looking at, viewing, beholding", and referring to contemplation or speculation, as opposed to action...

     and so on.

Loanword passing into general currency

When a loanword loses foreign cultural associations it has passed into general use in the language. This is the case with many English language terms where a dictionary entry will show that the etymology
Etymology is the study of the history of words, their origins, and how their form and meaning have changed over time.For languages with a long written history, etymologists make use of texts in these languages and texts about the languages to gather knowledge about how words were used during...

 is French (typically from the Norman Conquest onwards) and not from Anglo-Saxon
Anglo-Saxon may refer to:* Anglo-Saxons, a group that invaded Britain** Old English, their language** Anglo-Saxon England, their history, one of various ships* White Anglo-Saxon Protestant, an ethnicity* Anglo-Saxon economy, modern macroeconomic term...

 origins, but any distinction between Anglo-Saxon and Norman French etymology

Loanword resistant areas

By contrast, function word
Function word
Function words are words that have little lexical meaning or have ambiguous meaning, but instead serve to express grammatical relationships with other words within a sentence, or specify the attitude or mood of the speaker...

s such as pronouns, and words referring to universal concepts, are the most static words within each language. These function words are borrowed only in rare cases such as: (e.g., English they from Old Norse
Old Norse
Old Norse is a North Germanic language that was spoken by inhabitants of Scandinavia and inhabitants of their overseas settlements during the Viking Age, until about 1300....

 þeir). Sometimes only one word from an opposite pair is borrowed, yielding an unpaired word
Unpaired word
An unpaired word is one that, according to the usual rules of the language, would appear to have a related word but does not. Such words usually have a prefix or suffix that would imply that there is an antonym, with the prefix or suffix being absent or opposite.Unpaired words can be the result of...

 in the recipient language.

Linguistic classification

The studies by Werner Betz (1949, 1939), Einar Haugen
Einar Haugen
Einar Ingvald Haugen was an American linguist, author and Professor at University of Wisconsin–Madison and Harvard University.-Biography:Haugen was born in Sioux City, Iowa to Norwegians from the town of Oppdal in Norway. When he was a young child, the family moved back to Oppdal for a few years,...

 (1950, also 1956), and Uriel Weinreich
Uriel Weinreich
Uriel Weinreich was a linguist at Columbia University. Born in Vilnius , he earned his Ph.D. from Columbia, and went on to teach there, specializing in Yiddish studies, sociolinguistics, and dialectology...

 (1953) are regarded as the classical theoretical works on loan influence. The basic theoretical statements all take Betz’s nomenclature as their starting point. Duckworth (1977) enlarges Betz’s scheme by the type “partial substitution” and supplements the system with English terms. A schematic representation of these classifications is given below:
On the basis of an importation-substitution distinction, Haugen (1950: 214f.) distinguishes three basic groups of borrowings: “(1) Loanwords show morphemic importation without substitution. [. . .]. (2) Loanblends show morphemic substitution as well as importation. [. . .]. (3) Loanshifts show morphemic substitution without importation”. Haugen has later refined (1956) his model in a review of Gneuss’s (1955) book on Old English loan coinages, whose classification, in turn, is the one by Betz (1949) again.

Weinreich (1953: 47ff.) differentiates between two mechanisms of lexical interference, namely those initiated by simple words and those initiated by compound words and phrases. Weinreich (1953: 47) defines simple words “from the point of view of the bilinguals who perform the transfer, rather than that of the descriptive linguist. Accordingly, the category ‘simple’ words also includes compounds that are transferred in unanalysed form”. After this general classification, Weinreich then resorts to Betz’s (1949) terminology.

Models that try to integrate borrowing in an overall classification of vocabulary change, or onomasiological
Onomasiology is a branch of linguistics concerned with the question "how do you express X?" It is in fact most commonly understood as a branch of lexicology, the study of words .Onomasiology, as a part of lexicology, starts from a concept which is taken to be priorOnomasiology (from — to name,...

 change, have recently been proposed by Peter Koch (2002) and Joachim Grzega
Joachim Grzega
Joachim Grzega studied English and French in Eichstätt, Salt Lake City, Paris-Sorbonne University and Graz. He has taught since 1998 at the Catholic University of Eichstätt-Ingolstadt. Grzega obtain his doctorate in 2000 in the subjects of the Roman, English and German linguistics. His habilitation...

 (2003, 2004).

Ghil'ad Zuckermann
Ghil'ad Zuckermann
Ghil'ad Zuckermann is an Israeli-Italian-British-Australian linguist, expert of language revival, contact linguistics, lexicology and the study of language, culture and identity...

's analysis of multisourced neologization (2003) challenges Einar Haugen
Einar Haugen
Einar Ingvald Haugen was an American linguist, author and Professor at University of Wisconsin–Madison and Harvard University.-Biography:Haugen was born in Sioux City, Iowa to Norwegians from the town of Oppdal in Norway. When he was a young child, the family moved back to Oppdal for a few years,...

's classic typology of lexical borrowing. While Haugen
Einar Haugen
Einar Ingvald Haugen was an American linguist, author and Professor at University of Wisconsin–Madison and Harvard University.-Biography:Haugen was born in Sioux City, Iowa to Norwegians from the town of Oppdal in Norway. When he was a young child, the family moved back to Oppdal for a few years,...

 categorizes borrowing into either substitution or importation, Zuckermann explores cases of "simultaneous substitution and importation" in the form of camouflaged borrowing. He proposes a new classification of multisourced neologisms, words deriving from two or more sources at the same time. Examples of such mechanisms are phonetic matching, semanticized phonetic matching and phono-semantic matching
Phono-semantic matching
Phono-semantic matching is a linguistic term referring to camouflaged borrowing in which a foreign word is matched with a phonetically and semantically similar pre-existent native word/root....

. Phono-semantic matching is distinct from calquing. While calquing includes (semantic) translation, it does not consist of phonetic matching (i.e. retaining the approximate sound of the borrowed word through matching it with a similar-sounding pre-existent word/morpheme
In linguistics, a morpheme is the smallest semantically meaningful unit in a language. The field of study dedicated to morphemes is called morphology. A morpheme is not identical to a word, and the principal difference between the two is that a morpheme may or may not stand alone, whereas a word,...

 in the target language
Target language
Target language may refer to:*Target language, in applied linguistics and language education, the language which a person is learning, also called second language*Target language, in translation, the language to which a source text is translated...


In English

English has often borrowed words from the cultures and languages of the British Colonies. For example:
float:left;"> EWLINE
Spanish definition | English definition
"hat" "a wide-brimmed festive Mexican hat"
Other examples of words borrowed to English
from Hindi from Afrikaans from Malay
r> dinghy

[from Persian origin]
[via Afrikaans from Malay]

Some English loanwords remain relatively faithful to the donor language's phonology, even though a particular phoneme
In a language or dialect, a phoneme is the smallest segmental unit of sound employed to form meaningful contrasts between utterances....

 might not exist or have contrastive status in English. For example, the Hawaiian
Hawaiian language
The Hawaiian language is a Polynesian language that takes its name from Hawaii, the largest island in the tropical North Pacific archipelago where it developed. Hawaiian, along with English, is an official language of the state of Hawaii...

Lava refers both to molten rock expelled by a volcano during an eruption and the resulting rock after solidification and cooling. This molten rock is formed in the interior of some planets, including Earth, and some of their satellites. When first erupted from a volcanic vent, lava is a liquid at...

 is used by geologists to specify lava that is relatively thick, chunky, and rough. The Hawaiian spelling indicates the two glottal stop
Glottal stop
The glottal stop, or more fully, the voiceless glottal plosive, is a type of consonantal sound used in many spoken languages. In English, the feature is represented, for example, by the hyphen in uh-oh! and by the apostrophe or [[ʻokina]] in Hawaii among those using a preservative pronunciation of...

s in the word, but the English pronunciation, ˈɑː.ɑː or ˈɑːʔɑː, contains at most one. In addition, the English spelling usually removes the okina
The okina, also called by several other names , is a unicameral consonant letter used within the Latin script to mark the phonetic glottal stop, as it is used in many Polynesian languages.- Geographic names in the United States :...

 and macron
A macron, from the Greek , meaning "long", is a diacritic placed above a vowel . It was originally used to mark a long or heavy syllable in Greco-Roman metrics, but now marks a long vowel...


The majority of English affixes, such as un-, -ing, and -ly, were present in older forms in Old English. However, a few English affixes are borrowed. For example, the agentive suffix -er, which is very prolific, is borrowed ultimately from Latin -arius (with similar forms found in other Germanic languages). The English verbal suffix -ize comes from Greek -ιζειν (-izein) via Latin -izare.

English loanword exports to other languages

Direct borrowings, calque
In linguistics, a calque or loan translation is a word or phrase borrowed from another language by literal, word-for-word or root-for-root translation.-Calque:...

s (expressions translated word-by-word), or even grammatical constructions and orthographical conventions from English are called anglicism
An Anglicism, as most often defined, is a word borrowed from English into another language. "Anglicism" also describes English syntax, grammar, meaning, and structure used in another language with varying degrees of corruption.-Anglicisms in Chinese:...

s. Similarly, a straight clone
-Biological:* Clone—In biology and agriculture, any organism whose genetic information is identical to that of a parent organism from which it was created; natural reproductive processes producing clones include parthenogenesis and apomixis...

 from Swedish
Swedish language
Swedish is a North Germanic language, spoken by approximately 10 million people, predominantly in Sweden and parts of Finland, especially along its coast and on the Åland islands. It is largely mutually intelligible with Norwegian and Danish...

 – like the word smörgåsbord
Smörgåsbord is a type of Scandinavian meal served buffet-style with multiple dishes of various foods on a table, originating in Sweden. In Norway it is called koldtbord, in Denmark it is called det kolde bord, in Finland seisova pöytä and in Estonia rootsi laud...

 – is called a sveticism
A sveticism is a loanword or calque originating from the Swedish language.Sveticisms are particularly found in the Finnish language, because the governing bureaucracy was mostly Swedish-speaking until the 20th century. The use of Swedish grammar constructions in official speech is a particularly...

 (in Swedish svecism). In French, the result of perceived over-use of English words and expressions is called franglais
Franglais , a portmanteau combining the French words "français" and "anglais" , is a slang term for an interlanguage, although the word has different overtones in French and English....

. Such English terms in French include le week-end, le job (in France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

) or la job (in Canada
Canada is a North American country consisting of ten provinces and three territories. Located in the northern part of the continent, it extends from the Atlantic Ocean in the east to the Pacific Ocean in the west, and northward into the Arctic Ocean...

), and le bifteck (beefsteak). Denglisch
Denglisch or Denglish is a portmanteau of the German words Deutsch and Englisch. Used in all German-speaking and Dutch-speaking countries, it describes an influx of English, or pseudo-English, vocabulary into the German or Dutch language through travel and the widespread usage of English in...

 is English influence on German. Another popular term is Spanglish
.Spanglish refers to the blend of Spanish and English, in the speech of people who speak parts of two languages, or whose normal language is different from that of the country where they live. The Hispanic population of the United States and the British population in Argentina use varieties of...

, the English influence on the Spanish language
Spanish language
Spanish , also known as Castilian , is a Romance language in the Ibero-Romance group that evolved from several languages and dialects in central-northern Iberia around the 9th century and gradually spread with the expansion of the Kingdom of Castile into central and southern Iberia during the...

, and Dunglish
Dunglish or Dutch English are the mistakes native Dutch speakers make when speaking English....

, the English influence on the Dutch language
Dutch language
Dutch is a West Germanic language and the native language of the majority of the population of the Netherlands, Belgium, and Suriname, the three member states of the Dutch Language Union. Most speakers live in the European Union, where it is a first language for about 23 million and a second...

. The mix of Spanish and Catalan words or grammar structures in a sentence is called Catanyol (Catalan-Espanyol).

Loanword transmission in the Ottoman Empire

During more than 600 years of the Ottoman Empire
Ottoman Empire
The Ottoman EmpireIt was usually referred to as the "Ottoman Empire", the "Turkish Empire", the "Ottoman Caliphate" or more commonly "Turkey" by its contemporaries...

, the literary and administrative language of the empire was a mixture of Turkish, Persian, and Arabic called Ottoman Turkish
Ottoman Turkish language
The Ottoman Turkish language or Ottoman language is the variety of the Turkish language that was used for administrative and literary purposes in the Ottoman Empire. It borrows extensively from Arabic and Persian, and was written in a variant of the Perso-Arabic script...

, considerably differing from the everyday spoken Turkish of the time. Many such words were exported to other languages of the empire, such as Albanian
Albanian language
Albanian is an Indo-European language spoken by approximately 7.6 million people, primarily in Albania and Kosovo but also in other areas of the Balkans in which there is an Albanian population, including western Macedonia, southern Montenegro, southern Serbia and northwestern Greece...

, Bulgarian
Bulgarian language
Bulgarian is an Indo-European language, a member of the Slavic linguistic group.Bulgarian, along with the closely related Macedonian language, demonstrates several linguistic characteristics that set it apart from all other Slavic languages such as the elimination of case declension, the...

, Serbian
Serbian language
Serbian is a form of Serbo-Croatian, a South Slavic language, spoken by Serbs in Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Croatia and neighbouring countries....

, Greek
Greek language
Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages. Native to the southern Balkans, it has the longest documented history of any Indo-European language, spanning 34 centuries of written records. Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet for the majority of its history;...

 and Ladino. After the empire fell in World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

 and the Republic of Turkey was founded, the Turkish language underwent an extensive language reform
Language reform
Language reform is a type of language planning by massive change to a language. The usual tools of language reform are simplification and purification. Simplification makes the language easier to use by regularizing vocabulary and grammar...

 led by the newly founded Turkish Language Association
Turkish Language Association
The Turkish Language Association is the official regulatory body of the Turkish language, founded on July 12, 1932 and headquartered in Ankara, Turkey...

, during which many adopted words were replaced with new formations derived from Turkic
Turkic languages
The Turkic languages constitute a language family of at least thirty five languages, spoken by Turkic peoples across a vast area from Eastern Europe and the Mediterranean to Siberia and Western China, and are considered to be part of the proposed Altaic language family.Turkic languages are spoken...

 roots. This was part of the ongoing cultural reform of the time, in turn a part in the broader framework of Atatürk's Reforms
Atatürk's Reforms
Atatürk's Reforms were a series of political, legal, cultural, social and economic reforms that were designed to modernize the new Republic of Turkey into a democratic and secular nation-state...

, which also included the introduction of the new Turkish alphabet
Turkish alphabet
The Turkish alphabet is a Latin alphabet used for writing the Turkish language, consisting of 29 letters, seven of which have been modified from their Latin originals for the phonetic requirements of the language. This alphabet represents modern Turkish pronunciation with a high degree of accuracy...

. Turkish also has taken many words from French, such as pantolon for trousers (from French pantalon) and komik for funny (from French comique), mostly pronounced very similarly. Word usage in modern Turkey has acquired a political tinge: right-wing publications tend to use more Islamic-derived words, left-wing ones use more adopted from Europe, while centrist ones use more native Turkish root words.

Linguistic protectionism

The Italian government has recently expressed its displeasure over the use of English words and syntax in Italian. English words are often used in everyday language where they have fewer syllables than a longer Italian expression, as in computer for elaboratore elettronico or week-end for finesettimana; but also where equally short Italian words already exist, as in fashion for moda and meeting for conferenza.

Cultural aspects

In order to provide a more well-rounded understanding of the complexities of loanwords, certain historical and cultural factors must be taken into account. According to Hans Henrich Hock and Brian Joseph, “languages and dialects… do not exist in a vacuum” -- there is always linguistic contact between groups. This contact influences what loanwords are integrated into the lexicon and why certain words are chosen over others. Using the example of Plautdietsch/Mennonite Low German, the influence of many historical and cultural factors can be seen in the loanwords adopted by this unique language. For example, as Mennonites were pushed from the lowlands of Germany into Poland and then on to Russia due to religious persecution, Plautdietsch took vocabulary from Dutch, Frisian, Russian, and Ukrainian and integrated it into their own language. Mennonites also emigrated worldwide, where they took their language with them to four continents and over a dozen countries.

Some examples of Plautdietsch loanwords are given below:
Plautdietsch Word
(Recipient Language)
Donor Language Word English Gloss
drock Dutch drok busy
ladig Dutch ledig empty
kjast Frisian kest wedding
kjwiel Frisian kwyl spit
schessnikj Russian чеснок garlic
lauftje Russian лавка general store
Borscht Ukrainian борщ beet soup
Warenikje Ukrainian варе́ники dumplings

Changes in meaning when loaned

Words are occasionally imported with a different meaning than that in the donor language. Among the best known examples of this is the German word Handy, which is a borrowing of the English adjective handy, but means mobile phone
Mobile phone
A mobile phone is a device which can make and receive telephone calls over a radio link whilst moving around a wide geographic area. It does so by connecting to a cellular network provided by a mobile network operator...

 and is thus a noun. (See also: Pseudo-anglicism
Pseudo-anglicisms are words in languages other than English which were borrowed from English but are used in a way native English speakers would not readily recognize or understand. Pseudo-anglicisms often take the form of portmanteau words, combining elements of multiple English words to create a...

.) Conversely, in English the prefix über
Über comes from the German language. It has one umlaut. It is a cognate of both Latin super and Greek ὑπέρ...

-, taken from German, is used in a way that it is rarely used in German. An abundance of borrowed words taking on new meaning can be found in Rioplatense Spanish
Rioplatense Spanish
Rioplatense Spanish or River Plate Spanish is a dialectal variant of the Spanish language spoken mainly in the areas in and around the Río de la Plata basin of Argentina and Uruguay, and also in Rio Grande do Sul, although features of the dialect are shared with the varieties of Spanish spoken...

. For example, the English gerund camping is used in Argentina to refer to a campsite, and the word wok, borrowed from the Cantonese word meaning pan, is used to mean stir-fry.

Idiomatic expressions and phrases, sometimes translated word-for-word, can be borrowed, usually from a language that has "prestige" at the time. Often, a borrowed idiom is used as a euphemism
A euphemism is the substitution of a mild, inoffensive, relatively uncontroversial phrase for another more frank expression that might offend or otherwise suggest something unpleasant to the audience...

 for a less polite term in the original language. In English, this has usually been Latinisms from the Latin language and Gallicism
A Gallicism can be:* a mode of speech peculiar to the French;* a French idiom;* in general, a French mode or custom.* loanwords, words or phrases borrowed from French....

s from French
French language
French is a Romance language spoken as a first language in France, the Romandy region in Switzerland, Wallonia and Brussels in Belgium, Monaco, the regions of Quebec and Acadia in Canada, and by various communities elsewhere. Second-language speakers of French are distributed throughout many parts...

. If the phrase is translated word-for-word, it is known as a calque
In linguistics, a calque or loan translation is a word or phrase borrowed from another language by literal, word-for-word or root-for-root translation.-Calque:...


Changes in spelling when loaned

Words taken into different recipient languages are sometimes spelled as in the donor language (such as many of the terms above). Sometimes borrowed words retain original (or near-original) pronunciation, but undergo a spelling change to represent the orthography of the recipient language. Welsh
Welsh language
Welsh is a member of the Brythonic branch of the Celtic languages spoken natively in Wales, by some along the Welsh border in England, and in Y Wladfa...

 is a language where this is done with some consistency, with words like gêm (game), cwl (cool), and ded-gifawe (dead giveaway). The French expression "cul de sac" (meaning "dead end" or "no through road") is used in English as is, with the same meaning but a spelling pronunciation
Spelling pronunciation
A spelling pronunciation is a pronunciation that, instead of reflecting the way the word was pronounced by previous generations of speakers, is a rendering in sound of the word's spelling.-Examples of English words with common spelling pronunciations:...

: the 'l' is mute in French but enunciated in English.

Changes in pronunciation when loaned

In cases where a new loanword has a very unusual sound, the pronunciation is frequently radically changed, a process sometimes referred to by the archetypal name of the law of Hobson-Jobson; this is particularly noted in words from South Asian and Southeast Asian languages, as in this example. Some languages, such as Jèrriais
Jèrriais is the form of the Norman language spoken in Jersey, in the Channel Islands, off the coast of France. It has been in decline over the past century as English has increasingly become the language of education, commerce and administration...

, have a tendency to apply historical sound-shift patterns to newly introduced words; while Jèrriais speakers would have little difficulty pronouncing "parki", partchi (to park) is the word used, displaying the typical Norman
Norman language
Norman is a Romance language and one of the Oïl languages. Norman can be classified as one of the northern Oïl languages along with Picard and Walloon...

 ki → tchi shift
In linguistics, palatalization , also palatization, may refer to two different processes by which a sound, usually a consonant, comes to be produced with the tongue in a position in the mouth near the palate....


Most languages modify foreign words to fit native pronunciation patterns (including morpheme structure constraints, morpheme combinations, and morphophonemic alterations). Whether or not a change in pronunciation occurs depends on multiple factors such as: if the sounds occur in both the original and target languages and the level of contact between cultures. An excellent example is Japanese, which has an enormous number of loanwords (gairaigo
Gairaigo is Japanese for "loan word" or "borrowed word", and indicates a transliteration into Japanese. In particular, the word usually refers to a Japanese word of foreign origin that was not borrowed from Chinese, primarily from English. Japanese also has a large number of loan words from...

). Japanese often denotes gairaigo in the writing system with the use of カタカナ(katakana
is a Japanese syllabary, one component of the Japanese writing system along with hiragana, kanji, and in some cases the Latin alphabet . The word katakana means "fragmentary kana", as the katakana scripts are derived from components of more complex kanji. Each kana represents one mora...

). There was a massive ancient influx from China, and then a flow of new words came from European languages, particularly from Portuguese
Portuguese language
Portuguese is a Romance language that arose in the medieval Kingdom of Galicia, nowadays Galicia and Northern Portugal. The southern part of the Kingdom of Galicia became independent as the County of Portugal in 1095...

, which was spoken by the first European people whom Japanese encountered in the transition from the Middle Ages
Middle Ages
The Middle Ages is a periodization of European history from the 5th century to the 15th century. The Middle Ages follows the fall of the Western Roman Empire in 476 and precedes the Early Modern Era. It is the middle period of a three-period division of Western history: Classic, Medieval and Modern...

 to Early modern period
Early modern period
In history, the early modern period of modern history follows the late Middle Ages. Although the chronological limits of the period are open to debate, the timeframe spans the period after the late portion of the Middle Ages through the beginning of the Age of Revolutions...

. Recently, most gairaigo have come from English, though there have been numerous loanwords borrowed from Dutch, German, and other languages. There are almost always significant pronunciation shifts.
Japanese Katakana Romaji IPA Donor Language Word English Gloss
パン pan /paɴ/ Portugese pão bread
コップ koppu /koppu/ Portugese copo glass (cup)
フラスコ furasuko /fuɽasuko/ Portugese frasco (laboratory) flask
じょうろ jōro /jōɽo/ Portugese jarro watering can (jar)
バレーボール barēbōru /baɽēbōɽu/ English volleyball volleyball
ソープ Sōpu /sōpu/ English Thorpe name: Thorpe
ソープ sōpu /sōpu/ English soap soap
ホワイトハウス howaitohausu /howaitohausu/ English White House White House
rangēji-raboratorī /ɽaŋgēji-ɽaboɽatoɽī/ English language laboratory language laboratory
terefon-kādo /teɽefoɴ-kādo/ English telephone card telephone card
パトカー pato-kā /pato-kā/ English patrol car patrol car

Longer gairaigo are often shortened:
Japanese Katakana Romaji IPA Donor Language Word English Gloss
サントラ san-tora /saɴ-toɽa/ English soundtrack soundtrack
デパート depāto /depāto/ English department store department store
ハンカチ hankachi /haɴkatʃi/ English handkerchief handkerchief
カーナビ kānabi /kāɴabi/ English car navigation system car navigation system

In some cases, the original meaning shifts considerably through unexpected logical leaps:
buffet → バイキング baikingu (Viking): derived from the name of the restaurant "Imperial Viking", the first restaurant in Japan which offered buffet style meals.

dress shirt → ワイシャツ waishatsu: derived from the words white shirt and shortened.

There are other cases where words are borrowed, seemingly at random, and used in totally inexplicable contexts. This is often the case in the names of small businesses and in anime
is the Japanese abbreviated pronunciation of "animation". The definition sometimes changes depending on the context. In English-speaking countries, the term most commonly refers to Japanese animated cartoons....

 and manga
Manga is the Japanese word for "comics" and consists of comics and print cartoons . In the West, the term "manga" has been appropriated to refer specifically to comics created in Japan, or by Japanese authors, in the Japanese language and conforming to the style developed in Japan in the late 19th...

 series such as Bubblegum Crisis
Bubblegum Crisis
is a Japanese cyberpunk direct-to-video animated series. It displays strong influences from Blade Runner, also making occasional references to it.- Setting :...

. Gairaigo is so large a part of the modern Japanese vocabulary that there are specialized dictionaries for it.


It is possible for a word to travel from the recipient language to another and then back to the original donor language in a different form, a process called reborrowing. Some examples are:
Original Borrowed to: Reborrowed to Original as:
French boeuf “cow” English as beef, the root of the English word beefsteak biftek
Greek κίνημα (transliteration: kinima) English as cinema “motion picture” σινεμά (transliteration: sinema) “motion picture”
Hebrew keli-zemer “musical instrument” Yiddish as klezmer “(traditional Ashkenazic) musician” klezmer “(traditional Ashkenazic) musician”

See also

  • Cognate
    In linguistics, cognates are words that have a common etymological origin. This learned term derives from the Latin cognatus . Cognates within the same language are called doublets. Strictly speaking, loanwords from another language are usually not meant by the term, e.g...

  • Hybrid word
    Hybrid word
    A hybrid word is a word which etymologically has one part derived from one language and another part derived from a different language.-Common hybrids:The most common form of hybrid word in English is one which combines etymologically Latin and Greek parts...

  • Inkhorn debate
  • Language contact
    Language contact
    Language contact occurs when two or more languages or varieties interact. The study of language contact is called contact linguistics.Multilingualism has likely been common throughout much of human history, and today most people in the world are multilingual...

  • Semantic loan
    Semantic loan
    A semantic loan is a process of borrowing semantic meaning from another language, very similar to the formation of calques. In this case, however, the complete word in the borrowing language already exists; the change is that its meaning is extended to include another meaning its existing...

External links

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