The etymology of english words ( )

no phonetic traces of their French origin. Some of the later (Parisian) borrowings, even the ones borrowed as early as the 15th century, still sound surprisingly French: regime, valise, matinee, cafe, ballet. In these cases phonetic adaptation is not completed.

Grammatical adaptation consists in a complete change of the former paradigm of the borrowed word. If it is a noun, it is certain to adopt, sooner or later, a new system of declension; if it is a verb, it will be conjugated according to the rules of the recipient language. Yet, this is also a lasting process. The Russian noun was borrowed from French early in the 19th century and has not yet acquired the Russian system of declension. The same can be said about such English Renaissance borrowings as datum (pl. data), phenomenon (pl. phenomena), criterion (pl. criteria) whereas earlier Latin borrowings such as cup, plum, street, wall were fully adapted to the grammatical system of the language long ago.

By semantic adaptation is meant adjustment to the system of meanings of the vocabulary. Sometimes a word may be borrowed "blindly" for no obvious reason: they are not wanted because there is no gap in the vocabulary nor in the group of synonyms which it could fill. Quite a number of such "accidental" borrowings are very soon rejected by the vocabulary and forgotten. But some blindly borrowed words managed to establish itself due to the process of semantic adaptation. The adjective large, for instance, was borrowed from French in the meaning of "wide". It was not actually wanted, because it fully coincided with the English adjective wide without adding any new shades or aspects to its meaning. This could have led to its rejection. Yet, large managed to establish itself very firmly in the English vocabulary by semantic adjustment. It entered another synonymic group with .the general meaning of big in size. Still bearing some features of its former meaning it is successfully competing with big having approached it very closely, both in frequency and meaning.

International Words

It is often the case that a word is borrowed by several languages, not just by one. Such words usually convey concepts which are significant in the field of communication. Many of them are of Latin and Greek origin.

Most names of sciences are international (e. g. philosophy, mathematics, physics, chemistry, biology, medicine, linguistics, lexicology). There are also numerous terms of art in this group: music, theatre, drama, tragedy, comedy, artist, primadonna, etc.; and the sports terms : football, volley-ball, baseball, hockey, cricket, rugby, tennis, golf, etc. It is quite natural that political terms frequently occur in the international group of borrowings: politics, policy, revolution, progress, democracy, communism, anti-militarism. 20th century scientific and technological advances brought a great number of new international words: atomic, antibiotic, radio, television, sputnik (a Russian borrowing). Fruits and foodstuffs imported from exotic countries often transport their names too and become international: coffee, cocoa, chocolate, banana, mango, avocado, grapefruit.

The similarity of such words as the English son, the German Sohn and the Russian should not lead one to the quite false conclusion that they are international words. They represent the Indo-European group of the native element in each respective language and are cognates, i. e. words of the same etymological root, and not borrowings.

Etymological Doublets

The words originating from the same etymological source, but differing in phonemic shape and in meaning are called etymological doublets .

They may enter the vocabulary by different routes. Some of these pairs consist of a native word and a borrowed word: shrew, n. (E.) screw, n. (Sc.). Others are represented by two borrowings from different languages : canal (Lat.) - channel (Fr.), captain (Lat.) chieftain (Fr.). Still others were borrowed from the same language twice , but in different periods : travel (Norm. Fr.) - travail" (Par. Fr.), cavalry (Norm. Fr.) - chivalry (Par. Fr.), gaol (Norm. Fr.) - jail (Par. Fr.).

A doublet may also consist of a shortened word and the one from which it was derived: history - story, fantasy - fancy, defence - fence, shadow - shade.

Etymological triplets ( i. e. groups of three words of common root) occur rarer, but here are at least two examples: hospital (Lat.) hostel (Norm. Fr.) hotel (Par. Fr.), to capture (Lat.) to catch (Norm. Fr.) to chase (Par. Fr.).

Translation-Loans[10]

By translation-loans we indicate borrowings of a special kind. They are not taken into the vocabulary of another language more or less in the same phonemic shape in which they have been functioning in their own language, but undergo the process of translation. It is quite obvious that it is only compound words (i. e. words of two or more stems). Each stem was translated separately: masterpiece (from Germ. Meisterstuck), wonder child (from Germ. Wunderkind), first dancer (from Ital. prima-ballerina).

Are Etymological and Stylistic Characteristics

of Words Interrelated?

The answer must be affirmative. Among learned words and terminology the foreign element dominates the native.

It also seems that the whole opposition of "formal versus informal" is based on the deeper underlying opposition of "borrowed versus native", as the informal style, especially slang and dialect, abounds in native words even though it is possible to quote numerous exceptions.

In point of comparing the expressive and stylistic value of the French and the English words the French ones are usually more formal, more refined, and less emotional. to begin to commence, to wish to desire, happiness" felicity.

English words are much warmer than their Latin synonyms, they dont sound cold and dry: motherly maternal, fatherly paternal, childish infantile", daughterly filial, etc.


1. .., ... . - . . . 1999

2. F.R.Palmer. Semantics. A new outline. - M. V.Sh. 1982


[1] Roman invasion in Britain began in 43 A.D. Romans had held on the country for 400 years (till 407 A.D.).

[2] By a borrowing or loan-word we mean a word which came into the vocabulary of one language from another and was assimilated by the new language.

[3] Sc. hus+bondi means "inhabitant of the house".

[4] Sc. vindauga means "the eye of the wind".

[5] By the native element we mean words which were not borrowed from other languages but represent the original stock of this particular language.

[6] By etymology of words is understood their origin.

[7] Autumn is a French borrowing.

[8] Cognates - words of the same etymological root, of common origin.

[9] By remnant suffixes are meant the ones that are only partially preserved in the structure of the word: Lat. (-ctus) >Lat. (-ct).

[10] The term loan-word is equivalent to borrowing.




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