10 English Words You Didn’t Realize Were Foreign Imports

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Kaleidoscope, orange, GreekThe English language, as we know it today, has evolved over time from a patchwork of multiple languages. For example, the English word bottle was derived from the French word bouteille, which came from butticula, a Medieval Latin word. However, while these words may look somewhat similar, we wouldn’t identify them as the same word without a previous explanation.

Loanwords, on the other hand, are words that are lifted from one language and incorporated into another with almost no modification. English borrows so frequently from other languages that many times, we aren’t aware of word origins. And it’s uncertain why they’re called loanwords because clearly we have no intention of giving them back!

Words We Stole

Here’s a list of words we adopted into English without really even changing the spelling, or in the case of languages with non-Roman alphabets, the pronunciation.

Doppelganger

We removed the umlaut from the a, but that’s it! We use this word to refer to a person who looks uncannily like another person. It comes from the German word doppelgänger, which means, literally, “double-walker.”

Loofah

This term for a bath sponge comes from the Arabic word اللوف, which phonetically sounds like “lufah.”

Graffiti

This is what we call unwanted drawings, words, and symbols on public buildings. And not surprisingly, graffiti means “scribblings” in Italian.

Karaoke

You can thank the Japanese for the word for this popular (and painful?) pastime. Kara in Japanese means “empty,” and oke means “orchestra.”

Camouflage

Those army fatigues may be American, but the name for the brown and green pattern on them is distinctly French.

Guru

Do you know a lot about a specific subject? Then you’re a guru, which means “teacher” or “master” in Hindi.

Kaleidoscope

When was the last time you looked through one of these? This word comes from Greek, and if you break up the word, it’s pretty self-explanatory. Kalos means “beautiful,” eidos means “shape,” and scope means “to look.”

Mammoth

We added an h which changed the pronunciation, but other than that, this huge Russian word remains unchanged.

Mogul

A mogul is someone who is powerful and important, as was the Mongol emperor who influenced this ancient Persian (now Farsi and Dari) word.

Rodeo

A cattle-roping, bucking-bronco-riding event is called a rodeo in both Spanish and English. The noun comes from the Spanish verb rodear, which means “to surround or encircle.”

 

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  • felicia whitfield

    i like this way of learning

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