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A loanword (also loan word or loan-word) is a word adopted from one language (the donor language) and incorporated into another language without translation. This is in contrast to cognates, which are words in two or more languages that are similar because they share an etymological origin, and calques, which involve translation.

In linguistics, a word is the smallest element that can be uttered in isolation with objective or practical meaning.

Language Capacity to communicate using signs, such as words or gestures

Language is a system that consists of the development, acquisition, maintenance and use of complex systems of communication, particularly the human ability to do so; a language is any specific example of such a system.

Translation is the communication of the meaning of a source-language text by means of an equivalent target-language text. The English language draws a terminological distinction between translating and interpreting ; under this distinction, translation can begin only after the appearance of writing within a language community.


A loanword is distinguished from a calque (or loan translation), which is a word or phrase whose meaning or idiom is adopted from another language by word-for-word translation into existing words or word-forming roots of the recipient language [1] .

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. Used as a verb, "to calque" means to borrow a word or phrase from another language while translating its components, so as to create a new lexeme in the target language.

In linguistics, meaning is the information or concepts that a sender intends to convey, or does convey, in communication with a receiver.

Idiom combination of words that has a figurative meaning

An idiom is a phrase or an expression that has a figurative, or sometimes literal, meaning. Categorized as formulaic language, an idiom's figurative meaning is different from the literal meaning. There are thousands of idioms, occurring frequently in all languages. It is estimated that there are at least twenty-five thousand idiomatic expressions in the English language.

Examples of loanwords in the English language include café (from French café, which literally means "coffee"), bazaar (from Persian bāzār, which means "market"), and kindergarten (from German Kindergarten, which literally means "children's garden").

English language West Germanic language

English is a West Germanic language that was first spoken in early medieval England and eventually became a global lingua franca. It is named after the Angles, one of the Germanic tribes that migrated to the area of Great Britain that later took their name, as England. Both names derive from Anglia, a peninsula in the Baltic Sea. The language is closely related to Frisian and Low Saxon, and its vocabulary has been significantly influenced by other Germanic languages, particularly Norse, and to a greater extent by Latin and French.

Coffeehouse Establishment serving coffee

A coffeehouse, coffee shop, or café is an establishment that primarily serves coffee, related coffee drinks, and – depending on country – other drinks including alcoholic. Some coffeehouses may serve cold drinks such as iced coffee and iced tea; in continental Europe, cafés serve alcoholic drinks. A coffeehouse may also serve some type of food, such as light snacks, sandwiches, muffins or other pastries. Coffeehouses range from owner-operated small businesses to large multinational corporations.

Bazaar type of public marketplace

A bazaar is a permanently enclosed marketplace or street where goods and services are exchanged or sold. The term originates from the Persian word bāzār. The term bazaar is sometimes also used to refer to the "network of merchants, bankers and craftsmen" who work in that area. Although the current meaning of the word is believed to have originated in Persia, its use has spread and now has been accepted into the vernacular in countries around the world. In Balinese, the word pasar means "market." The capital of Bali province, in Indonesia, is Denpasar, which means "north market." Souq is another word used in the Middle East for an open-air marketplace or commercial quarter.

In a bit of heterological irony, the word calque is an importation from the French noun, derived from the verb calquer (to trace, to copy); [2] the word loanword is a calque of the German word Lehnwort; [3] and the phrase "loan translation" is a calque of the German Lehnübersetzung. [4]

An autological word is a word that expresses a property that it also possesses. The opposite is a heterological word, one that does not apply to itself.

Noun part of speech in grammar denoting a figurative or real thing or person

A noun is a word that functions as the name of some specific thing or set of things, such as living creatures, objects, places, actions, qualities, states of existence, or ideas. However, noun is not a semantic category, so that it cannot be characterized in terms of its meaning. Thus, actions and states of existence can also be expressed by verbs, qualities by adjectives, and places by adverbs. Linguistically, a noun is a member of a large, open part of speech whose members can occur as the main word in the subject of a clause, the object of a verb, or the object of a preposition.

A verb, from the Latin verbum meaning word, is a word that in syntax conveys an action, an occurrence, or a state of being. In the usual description of English, the basic form, with or without the particle to, is the infinitive. In many languages, verbs are inflected to encode tense, aspect, mood, and voice. A verb may also agree with the person, gender or number of some of its arguments, such as its subject, or object. Verbs have tenses: present, to indicate that an action is being carried out; past, to indicate that an action has been done; future, to indicate that an action will be done.

Loans of multi-word phrases, such as the English use of the French term déjà vu , are known as adoptions, adaptations, or lexical borrowings. [5] [6]

Déjà vu ( is the feeling that one has lived through the present situation before. The phrase translates literally as "already seen". Although some interpret déjà vu in a paranormal context, mainstream scientific approaches reject the explanation of déjà vu as "precognition" or "prophecy". Rather, they explain it as an anomaly of memory, since despite the strong sense of recollection, the time, place, and practical context of the "previous" experience are uncertain or believed to be impossible. Two types of déjà vu are recognized: the pathological déjà vu usually associated with epilepsy or that which, when unusually prolonged or frequent, or associated with other symptoms such as hallucinations, may be an indicator of neurological or psychiatric illness, and the non-pathological type characteristic of healthy people, about two-thirds of whom have had déjà vu experiences.People who travel more or watch more movies are more likely to experience déjà vu than others. Furthermore, people also tend to experience déjà vu more in fragile conditions or under high pressure, and research shows that the experience of déjà vu also decreases with age.

Strictly speaking, the term loanword conflicts with the ordinary meaning of loan in that something is taken from the donor language without it being something that is possible to return. [7]

The terms substrate and superstrate are often used when two languages interact. (However, the meaning of these terms is reasonably well-defined only in second language acquisition or language replacement events, when the native speakers of a certain source language (the substrate) are somehow compelled to abandon it for another target language (the superstrate). [8] [ page needed ]

From the arts

Most of the technical vocabulary of classical music (such as concerto, allegro, tempo, aria, opera, and soprano) is borrowed from Italian, [9] and that of ballet from French. [10]

Linguistic classification

The studies by Werner Betz (1949, 1939), Einar Haugen (1950, also 1956), and Uriel Weinreich (1953) are regarded as the classical theoretical works on loan influence. [11] 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 illustration of these classifications is given below. [12]

The expression "foreign word" used in the illustration below is, however, an incorrect translation of the German term Fremdwort, which refers to loanwords whose pronunciation, spelling, and possible inflection or gender have not yet been so much adapted to the new language that they cease to feel foreign. Such a separation of loanwords into two distinct categories is not used by linguists in English in talking about any language. In addition, basing such a separation mainly on spelling as described in the illustration is (or, in fact, was) not usually done except by German linguists and only when talking about German and sometimes other languages that tend to adapt foreign spellings, which is rare in English unless the word has been in wide use for a very long time.

According to the linguist Suzanne Kemmer, the expression "foreign word" can be defined as follows in English: "[W]hen most speakers do not know the word and if they hear it think it is from another language, the word can be called a foreign word. There are many foreign words and phrases used in English such as bon vivant (French), mutatis mutandis (Latin), and Schadenfreude (German)." [13] This is however not how the term is (incorrectly) used in this illustration:

Loanword classification tree 3.gif

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 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.


Popular loanwords are transmitted orally. Learned loanwords are first used in written language, often for scholarly, scientific, or literary purposes. [14]

In English

The English language has borrowed many words from other cultures or languages. For examples, see Lists of English words by country or language of origin and Anglicization.

Some English loanwords remain relatively faithful to the donor language's phonology even though a particular phoneme might not exist or have contrastive status in English. For example, the Hawaiian word ʻaʻā is used by geologists to specify lava that is relatively thick, chunky, and rough. The Hawaiian spelling indicates the two glottal stops in the word, but the English pronunciation, /ˈɑː(ʔ)ɑː/ , contains at most one. In addition, the English spelling usually removes the ʻokina and macron diacritics. [15]

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 English verbal suffix -ize (American English) or ise (British English) comes from Greek -ιζειν (-izein) via Latin -izare.

Languages apart from English

Transmission in the Ottoman Empire

During more than 600 years of the Ottoman Empire, the literary and administrative language of the empire was Turkish, with many Persian, and Arabic loanwords, called Ottoman Turkish, considerably differing from the everyday spoken Turkish of the time. Many such words were exported to other languages of the empire, such as Albanian, Bosnian, Bulgarian, Croatian, Greek, Hungarian, Ladino, Macedonian, Montenegrin and Serbian. After the empire fell after World War I and the Republic of Turkey was founded, the Turkish language underwent an extensive language reform led by the newly founded Turkish Language Association, during which many adopted words were replaced with new formations derived from Turkic roots. That was part of the ongoing cultural reform of the time, in turn a part in the broader framework of Atatürk's Reforms, which also included the introduction of the new Turkish alphabet.

Turkish also has taken many words from French, such as pantolon for trousers (from French pantalon) and komik for funny (from French comique), most of them pronounced very similarly. Word usage in modern Turkey has acquired a political tinge: right-wing publications tend to use more Arabic or Persian originated words, left-wing ones use more adopted from European languages, while centrist ones use more native Turkish root words. [16]

Dutch words in Indonesian

Almost 350 years of Dutch presence in what is now Indonesia have left significant linguistic traces. Though very few Indonesians have a fluent knowledge of Dutch, the Indonesian language inherited many words from Dutch, both in words for everyday life (e.g., buncis from Dutch boontjes for (green) beans) and as well in administrative, scientific or technological terminology (e.g., kantor from Dutch kantoor for office). [17] One scholar argues that roughly 20% of Indonesian words can be traced back to Dutch words. [18]

Dutch words in Russian

In the late 17th century, the Dutch Republic had a leading position in shipbuilding. Czar Peter the Great, eager to improve his navy, studied shipbuilding in Zaandam and Amsterdam. Many Dutch naval terms have been incorporated in the Russian vocabulary, such as бра́мсель (brámselʹ) from Dutch bramzeil for the topgallant sail, домкра́т (domkrát) from Dutch dommekracht for jack, and матро́с (matrós) from Dutch matroos for sailor.

Loan words in Japanese

Romance languages

A large percentage of the lexicon of Romance languages, themselves descended from Vulgar Latin, consists of loanwords (later learned or scholarly borrowings) from Latin. These words can be distinguished by lack of typical sound changes and other transformations found in descended words, or by meanings taken directly from Classical or Ecclesiastical Latin that did not evolve or change over time as expected; in addition, there are also semi-learned terms which were adapted partially to the Romance language's character. Latin borrowings can be known by several names in Romance languages: in Spanish, for example, they are usually referred to as "cultismos", [19] [20] and in Italian as "latinismi".

Latin is usually the most common source of loanwords in these languages, such as in Italian, Spanish, French, etc., [21] [22] [23] and in some cases the total number of loans may even outnumber inherited terms [24] [25] (although the learned borrowings are less often used in common speech, with the most common vocabulary being of inherited, orally transmitted origin from Vulgar Latin). This has led to many cases of etymological doublets in these languages.

For most Romance languages, these loans were initiated by scholars, clergy, or other learned people and occurred in Medieval times, peaking in the late Middle Ages and early Renaissance era [23] - in Italian, the 14th century had the highest number of loans. [21] In the case of Romanian, the language underwent a "re-Latinization" process later than the others (see Romanian lexis, Romanian language § French, Italian, and English loanwords), in the 18th and 19th centuries, partially using French and Italian words (many of these themselves being earlier borrowings from Latin) as intermediaries, [26] in an effort to modernize the language, often adding concepts that did not exist until then, or replacing words of other origins. These common borrowings and features also essentially serve to raise mutual intelligibility of the Romance languages, particularly in academic/scholarly, literary, technical, and scientific domains. Many of these same words are also found in English (through its numerous borrowings from Latin and French) and other European languages.

In addition to Latin loanwords, many words of Ancient Greek origin were also borrowed into Romance languages, often in part through scholarly Latin intermediates, and these also often pertained to academic, scientific, literary, and technical topics. Furthermore, to a lesser extent, Romance languages borrowed from a variety of other languages; in particular English has become an important source in more recent times. Study of the origin of these words and their function and context within the language can illuminate some important aspects and characteristics of the language, and can reveal insights on the general phenomenon of lexical borrowing in linguistics as a method of enriching a language. [27]

Cultural aspects

According to Hans Henrich Hock and Brian Joseph, "languages and dialects ... do not exist in a vacuum": there is always linguistic contact between groups. [28] The contact influences what loanwords are integrated into the lexicon and which certain words are chosen over others.

Leaps in meaning

In some cases, the original meaning shifts considerably through unexpected logical leaps. The English word Viking became Japanese バイキング (baikingu), meaning "buffet", because the first restaurant in Japan to offer buffet-style meals, inspired by the Nordic smörgåsbord, was opened in 1958 by the Imperial Hotel under the name "Viking". [29] The German word Kachel , meaning "tile", became the Dutch word kachel meaning "stove", as a shortening of kacheloven , from German Kachelofen , a cocklestove.

See also


  2. Company, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing. "The American Heritage Dictionary entry: Calque".
  3. Carr, Charles T. (1934). The German Influence on the English Language. Society for Pure English Tract No. 42. Oxford: Clarendon Press. p. 75. Retrieved 25 February 2016.
  4. Knapp, Robbin D. "Robb: German English Words".
  5. Chesley, Paula; Baayen, R. Harald (2010). "Predicting New Words from Newer Words: Lexical Borrowings in French". Linguistics. 48 (4): 1343–74.
  6. Thomason, Sarah G. (2001). Language Contact: An Introduction. Washington: Georgetown University Press.
  7. Jespersen, Otto (1964). Language. New York: Norton Library. p. 208. ISBN   978-0-393-00229-4. Linguistic 'borrowing' is really nothing but imitation.
  8. Weinreich, Uriel (1979) [1953], Languages in Contact: Findings and Problems, New York: Mouton Publishers, ISBN   978-90-279-2689-0
  9. Shanet 1956: 155.
  10. Kersley & Sinclair 1979: 3.
  11. Compare the two survey articles by Oksaar (1996: 4f.), Stanforth (2002) and Grzega (2003, 2004).
  12. The following comments and examples are taken from Grzega, Joachim (2004), Bezeichnungswandel: Wie, Warum, Wozu?, Heidelberg: Winter, p. 139, and Grzega, Joachim (2003), “Borrowing as a Word-Finding Process in Cognitive Historical Onomasiology”, Onomasiology Online 4: 2242.
  13. Loanwords by Prof. S. Kemmer, Rice University
  14. Algeo, John (2009-02-02). The Origins and Development of the English Language. Cengage Learning. ISBN   978-1428231450.
  15. Elbert, Samuel H.; Pukui, Mary Kawena (1986). Hawaiian Dictionary (Revised and enlarged ed.). Honolulu: University of Hawaiʻi Press. p. 389. ISBN   978-0-8248-0703-0.
  16. Lewis, Geoffrey (2002). The Turkish Language Reform: A Catastrophic Success. London: Oxford University Press. ISBN   978-0-19-925669-3.
  17. Sneddon (2003), p.162.
  18. "A Hidden Language – Dutch in Indonesia [eScholarship]". Retrieved 2015-03-29.
  20. Posner, Rebecca (5 September 1996). The Romance Languages. Cambridge University Press. ISBN   9780521281393 via Google Books.
  21. 1 2
  22. Patterson, William T. (1 January 1968). "On the Genealogical Structure of the Spanish Vocabulary". word. 24 (1–3): 309–339. doi:10.1080/00437956.1968.11435535.
  23. 1 2 "Chjapitre 10: Histoire du français - Les emprunts et la langue française".
  24. "Centre National de Ressources Textuelles et Lexicales".
  26. " - Dicţionarul explicativ al limbii române".
  28. Hock, Hans Henrich; Joseph., Brian D. (2009). "Lexical Borrowing". Language History, Language Change, and Language Relationship: An Introduction to Historical and Comparative Linguistics (2nd ed.). Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter. pp. 241–78..
  29. "The Imperial Viking Sal". Imperial Hotel Tokyo. Retrieved March 30, 2019.

Related Research Articles

In linguistics, false friends are words in different languages that look or sound similar, but differ significantly in meaning. An example is the English embarrassed and the Spanish embarazada, or the word sensible, which means reasonable in English, but sensitive in French and Spanish.

A lexicon, word-hoard, wordbook, or word-stock is the vocabulary of a person, language, or branch of knowledge. In linguistics, a lexicon is a language's inventory of lexemes. The word "lexicon" derives from the Greek λεξικόν (lexicon), neuter of λεξικός (lexikos) meaning "of or for words."

Lexicology is the part of linguistics that studies words. This may include their nature and function as symbols, their meaning, the relationship of their meaning to epistemology in general, and the rules of their composition from smaller elements . Lexicology also involves relations between words, which may involve semantics, derivation, use and sociolinguistic distinctions, and any other issues involved in analyzing the whole lexicon of a language.

An Anglicism is a word or construction borrowed from English into another language.

The Greek language has contributed to the English vocabulary in five main ways:

Phono-semantic matching (PSM) is the incorporation of a word into one language from another, often creating a neologism, where the word's non-native quality is hidden by replacing it with phonetically and semantically similar words or roots from the adopting language. Thus, the approximate sound and meaning of the original expression in the source language are preserved, though the new expression in the target language may sound native.

English is a Germanic language, with a grammar and a core vocabulary inherited from Proto-Germanic. However, a significant portion of the English vocabulary comes from Romance and Latinate sources. A portion of these borrowings come directly from Latin, or through one of the Romance languages, particularly Anglo-Norman and French, but some also from Italian, Portuguese, and Spanish; or from other languages into Latin and then into English. The influence of Latin in English, therefore, is primarily lexical in nature, being confined mainly to words derived from Latin roots.

Language contact occurs when speakers of two or more languages or varieties interact and influence each other. The study of language contact is called contact linguistics.

The lexis of Bulgarian, a South Slavic language, consists of native words, as well as borrowings from Russian, French, and to a lesser extent English, Greek, Ottoman Turkish, Arabic and other languages.

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.

In linguistics, an internationalism or international word is a loanword that occurs in several languages with the same or at least similar meaning and etymology. These words exist in "several different languages as a result of simultaneous or successive borrowings from the ultimate source" (I.V.Arnold). Pronunciation and orthography are similar so that the word is understandable between the different languages.

Semantic change is a form of language change regarding the evolution of word usage—usually to the point that the modern meaning is radically different from the original usage. In diachronic linguistics, semantic change is a change in one of the meanings of a word. Every word has a variety of senses and connotations, which can be added, removed, or altered over time, often to the extent that cognates across space and time have very different meanings. The study of semantic change can be seen as part of etymology, onomasiology, semasiology, and semantics.

In linguistics, word formation is the creation of a new word. Word formation is sometimes contrasted with semantic change, which is a change in a single word's meaning. The boundary between word formation and semantic change can be difficult to define: a new use of an old word can be seen as a new word derived from an old one and identical to it in form. See 'conversion'.

Reborrowing is the process where a word travels from one language to another and then back to the originating language in a different form or with a different meaning. This path is indicated by A→B→A, where A is the originating language, and can take many forms. A reborrowed word is sometimes called a Rückwanderer.

Arabic has had a great influence on other languages, especially in vocabulary. The influence of Arabic has been most profound in those countries dominated by Islam or Islamic power. Arabic is a major source of vocabulary for languages as diverse as Amharic, Baluchi, Bengali, Berber, Bosnian, Chaldean, Chechen, Croatian, Dagestani, English, German, Gujarati, Hausa, Hebrew, Hindi, Kazakh, Kurdish, Kutchi, Kyrgyz, Malay, Pashto, Persian, Punjabi, Rohingya, Romance languages Saraiki, Sindhi, Somali, Sylheti, Swahili, Tagalog, Tigrinya, Turkish, Turkmen, Urdu, Uyghur, Uzbek, Visayan and Wolof as well as other languages in countries where these languages are spoken. For example, the Arabic word for book is used in most of the languages listed. Other languages such as Maltese and Nubi derive from Arabic, rather than merely borrowing vocabulary. Spanish has the largest Arabic influenced vocabulary outside the Islamic world due to Muslim rule in the Iberian Peninsula from 711 until 1492 known as Al-Andalus, although Spain's re-christianization and resulting loss of contact with Quranic Arabic has led to a significant shift in both meaning and pronunciation of Spanish words of Arabic etymology.

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 translation has in the lending language. Calques, loanwords and semantic loans are often grouped roughly under the phrase "borrowing". Semantic loans often occur when two languages are in close contact, and takes various forms. The source and target word may be cognates, which may or may not share any contemporary meaning in common; they may be an existing loan translation or parallel construction ; or they may be unrelated words that share an existing meaning.

Joachim Grzega linguist

Joachim Grzega is a German linguist. He studied English and French at the Catholic University of Eichstätt-Ingolstadt, University of Utah in Salt Lake City, Paris-Sorbonne University and the University of Graz. He has taught since 1998 at the Catholic University of Eichstätt-Ingolstadt. Grzega obtained his doctorate in 2000 in Romance, English and German linguistics. He obtained his habilitation in 2004. Professor Grzega has held interim or guest professorships in Münster, Bayreuth, Erfurt, Freiburg, and Budapest.

<i>Language Contact and Lexical Enrichment in Israeli Hebrew</i> Innnzzz6

Language Contact and Lexical Enrichment in Israeli Hebrew is a scholarly book written by linguist Ghil'ad Zuckermann, published in 2003 by Palgrave Macmillan. The book proposes a socio-philological framework for the analysis of "camouflaged borrowing" such as phono-semantic matching. It introduces for the first time a classification for "multisourced neologisms", new words that are based on two or more sources at the same time.