Where Do Our Words Come From?

Rucksack was borrowed into English from German in the late 19th century. It refers to a type of backpack or knapsack used for carrying supplies on hikes or expeditions. The word has gained widespread usage in English-speaking countries, particularly among outdoor enthusiasts. Other loanwords in English from German include kindergarten, doppelgänger, and angst.

12. The term tomato has been included in the English language since the 17th century. From which language was this assimilation made?

The word tomato’s origin lies in the Nahuatl tomatl (tomato). However, its inclusion in the English language occurred through the Spanish ‘tomate.’ Other languages have followed a similar path such as French, Portuguese, and German. Initially, the word in English was ‘tomate’; it was only in later years that it became ‘tomato’. This change in spelling may have been influenced by another plant’s name, the potato, ultimately from the Americas.

13. Although widely appreciated as a traditional part of the British breakfast, the word ‘marmalade’ had different origins. From which language did it borrow to enter English vocabulary?

Although most of the early Portuguese words assimilated into the English language came through French, ‘marmalade’ appears to have taken a route directly from Portuguese. Its introduction may have occurred due to the diplomatic and trading relations between Portugal and England in medieval times.

14. Loanwords may enter the English language, even in everyday vocabulary. Out of the following options, which one does not qualify as a loanword?

Although ‘peace’, ‘war’, and ‘battle,’ are among the French loanwords included in the modern-day English language, ‘fight’ does not fit the criterion as it has its etymology in English since the earliest times.

15. From time to time, even grammatically advanced terms in the English language can be loanwords from other languages. Out of the following options, which one is a loanword?

The third-person pronoun ‘they,’ along with ‘their’ and ‘them,’ are loanwords from the Scandinavian language. Although they were first recorded around 1200, they were probably assimilated earlier. This directly links back to the era when the Scandinavian settlers started to switch from their language to English in Anglo-Saxon England. Pronouns are rarely loanwords; therefore, the case of the third-person pronoun shows how English interacted intimately with Scandinavian languages in medieval Britain.

Philip Durkin, the Deputy Chief Editor of the Oxford English Dictionary, has recently published his book Borrowed Words: A History of Loanwords in English.


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    Bailey Williams is an educational blogger and school teacher who uses her blog as a way to share her insights and knowledge with her readers. She has been teaching for over 10 years and has a deep understanding of the school system and how to help students reach their goals. Her blog is packed full of helpful information and resources, so be sure to check it out if you're looking for help with your schoolwork!