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Jenny's Corner: Loanwords

There are thousands of languages spoken all over the world, and each of these languages is evolving. Language is constantly adapting, taking on new words and retiring old ones, in order to more accurately reflect the needs of the times. And one of the ways in which languages evolve is in trading words with one another.

Loanwords are words that are taken from other languages and are used largely or entirely unmodified. Every language has loanwords, though some languages use them more than others. English is itself a very versatile language, both giving loanwords to and receiving them from other languages.

Here are a few loanwords that English has adopted from other languages:

“Kindergarten” is a word that we got from German in the mid-19th century. The word literally translates to mean “children’s garden,” but of course, it is the name we give to those early years of school.

“Wanderlust” is another word that we got from German as well, meaning a strong desire to travel.

“Deja vu,” that odd sensation that you have experienced a situation before, was adopted from early 20th century French. The word has remained unchanged from the French, which translates literally to mean “already seen.”

“Guerrilla” is a word that we got from Spanish in the 19th century, introduced during the Peninsular War. It comes from the Spanish diminutive of “guerra,” which means “war.”

Need a translation?

Here are some loanwords that English has given to other languages:

Spanish has adopted a number of English words directly into their language. For example, words like “drag queen,” “hacker,” “piercing,” and “hippy” were all adopted directly into Spanish. And a lot of technology-based words and phrases have been adopted as well, like “email,” “PC,” “GPS,” “DVD,” and “webcam.”

French is another language that has adopted a number of English words. Words like “okay” and “happy hour” are commonly used by the French. And when someone in French needs to come up with a new idea, they engage in un brainstorming. They also now go to un brunch on the weekend.

When examining loanwords like these, it is clear that there is more that unites us than there is that divides us. We may have language barriers and cultural divides, but words are traded back and forth, connecting us all across the world.

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About Jennifer Bustance

Jennifer Bustance is a California-based freelance writer, playwright, and novelist. Her plays have been performed all over the country, and her prose has appeared in various online and print publications. Jennifer is a teaching artist with the Playwrights Project, San Diego Writers, Ink, and UCSD Extension. She is the Playwright in Residence at the Scripps Ranch Theatre and a founding member of their New Works Studio. She has an MFA from Columbia University and a BA from Sarah Lawrence College.

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Meet the Authors

Brian Gruters

In addition to writing blogs for us, Brian Gruters manages translation projects for corporate clients. He started with Language Translation in 2015.

Brian brings several years of experience as a Spanish to English translator to his work. He has a bachelor’s degree in Spanish from the University of Arizona and a master’s in Environment and Resource Studies from the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada.

As a writer, Brian is mostly interested in language, science, and environmental conservation issues. He writes for various publications, as well as his blog, briangruters.com.

Jennifer Bustance

Jennifer Bustance is a California-based freelance writer, playwright, and novelist originally from Troy, Michigan. Her plays have been performed all over the country, and her prose has appeared in various online and print publications.

Jennifer is a teaching artist with the Playwrights Project, San Diego Writers, Ink, and UCSD Extension. She is the Playwright in Residence at the Scripps Ranch Theatre and a founding member of their New Works Studio. She has a Master of Fine Arts degree from Columbia University and a BA from Sarah Lawrence College.

Chris Maroulakos

Chris Maroulakos has worked at Language Translation since 2007, and he is currently the director of operations. He has been a blogger and managing editor for the San Diego music blog Owl and Bear since 2008, and he also worked as a blogger and associate editor for NBC San Diego's SoundDiego music blog.

Chris holds certifications in SDL Trados Studio for Translators (Advanced Level), SDL Trados Studio for Project Managers, and SDL MultiTerm for Translators and Project Managers. He is Inbound Certified by HubSpot and also has certifications in Localization and Localization Project Management from California State University Chico, the Globalization and Localization Association (GALA), and the Localization Institute.

He graduated from The Pennsylvania State University with a BA in Communications and with minors in Italian and International Studies.