The Foreign Languages You Speak Everyday – Daily Quote


When I started studying Spanish, I noticed a vast number of crossover words. I had already studied my dictionary and discovered words of Latin and Greek derivations along with German and French-based words. English is fantastic at borrowing words. Forever. Linguists call the appropriation of a foreign language word, a loanword. Some loanwords undergo a phonetic makeover, which makes the word sound more English and less like its home origin.

Linguists say loanwords account for 80% of English words and borrows from 350 other languages. Yep, that number amazed me, but it turns out there may be 7,000 unique languages in the world. More than half of the world’s population speak just 23 of those. The statistic also shows almost 3,000 languages are in danger of extinction and are spoken by fewer than 1,000 people.

I wonder if some foreign words will one day only live in their English form. The Samoan word “tatau” and the Marquesan, “tatu” were used by British explorer James Cook, to describe the inked individuals he met in Polynesia, coining our word, Tattoo. Hoi Polloi, which sounds Hawaiian, is from the Greek word meaning “the many.” Avatar is Sanskrit and passed through Hindi or Urdu. The original meaning was “manifestation of a god in bodily form.”

A writer’s favorite genre is from the French word for “kind” or “style.” Coffee traveled to us on a long road from Arabic, to Ottoman Turkish, to the Dutch “koffie” before entering the English language in 1582. The other writing staple, chocolate, was “xocolatl” in the Nahuatl language of modern-day Mexico, with a detour through Spain. I don’t want to return a single borrowed word.

What is your favorite word?


Keep on writing.

Jo Hawk The Writer

13 thoughts on “The Foreign Languages You Speak Everyday – Daily Quote

  1. And as a Brit that has lived 53 years of her 73 year old life in Switzerland with Swiss husband that she picked up on the way, Swiss German is very good at borrowing words from all the three languages we speak in Switzerland (French, German and Italian). In our area we speak basically our Swiss german dialect (Solothurn german), although there are many many dialects in Switzerland. I speak mine all day as my adopted basic language, but even then the words can fail us and so let’s use something British in between. It is very handy for bridging the gaps.

    Liked by 2 people

    • How one small country can have three different languages is fascinating. Growing up, my next door neighbor was German, and my best friend was from Brazil. I picked up a lot of non-English words without realizing it. You are right. Even with all the words at our disposal, sometimes they are not enough. Have a great day, my friend.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. If we lost our borrowed words, I’m not sure what we’d have left. I like the word sheriff or like that it came from Arabic (sharif). Also wizard also coming from Arabic (there is modern word vizier as well derived from the same Arabic root).

    I hope you are doing very well and you and yours are healthy.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I suddenly have an intense desire to watch Aladdin. 😄 I can’t imagine how we would communicate with only 20% of our vocabulary remaining.

      I am well and looking forward to a writing session. Stay well, Christopher.


Comments are closed.