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English Detective # #108 English- the (word) borrower 6-19-18
June 19, 2018

English may be the world’s greatest word borrower, freely selecting and altering (or not) useful words from every language it encounters. I found a number of fascinating examinations of English borrowing.

To me the most interesting was from CambridgeCoaching (It’s quite short and well worth reading. Don’t miss the first sentence!)

Grammarphobia also has a great explanation for why English has so many synonyms.

If you have time for more, try 15 English words we stole from Arabic. I knew or could guess some of them, but I never would have thought of ‘mattress,’ ‘magazine,’ or ‘artichoke!’ We didn’t get them directly from Arabic, but via Spanish, Turkish, or Italian, often by way of France.

Practice Vocabulary

There’s practice, as well as more information on cognates (words in two languages that are quite similar, usually because of a common origin) on the EnglishHints’ page on cognates.

If you speak Spanish or teach Spanish-speaking students you might be interested in some cognate worksheets and other practice materials I just updated. (I started noticing the similarity of many Spanish verbs to the Latin roots of English words. It’s of course not surprising that they’re similar since those Spanish words came from the same roots.) The worksheets point out some of the common patterns that can make it easy to learn a lot of English vocabulary.

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