It’s no secret that English has borrowed a lot of words from other languages, as any list online will tell you. But, just as often, other languages take on words from English as well.
These are technically known as loanwords and are quite often altered in spelling to be pronounceable to speakers of the borrowing language.
It only makes sense that English would take on so many loanwords from other languages as well as leave so many loanwords behind in its wake as it spreads across the globe via popular culture. But what, exactly, are these loan words?
Well, here’s a brief survey of some of the most common ones, by language.
Keep in mind that it’s far more common for these words to be borrowed into Spanish in Spain via Britain rather than into Latin American Spanish via America, but that’s most likely because there are so many different Spanish speaking countries in the Americas that they all kind of do their own thing, whereas Spain and its resorts are infected by British tourists on holiday every spring like crabs in a courtesan’s panties.
Here are just a few:
Bistec: This is just a phonetic rendering of the words “beef steak.”
Panfleto: Pamphlet, which cleans up the weird spelling that would not even be pronounceable in Spanish.
Mitin: Meeting, although in the sense of a public hearing or a political conference, and reunión is still far more common in the Americas.
Drenaje: This is a great example of a double borrow. Spanish adapted the word “drainage” from English, but English took it from French without changing a letter.
Esmoquin: If you had to guess what this word meant, you probably never would in a million years, but it’s kind of borrowed from English and means “tuxedo.” How this happened is that Spanish actually picked up the word for “smoking jacket,” which was a heavily quilted garment meant to be worn over the good clothes while the men stepped into the smoking room to fire up their pipes, cigars, and cigarettes. The heavy material was meant to protect the good clothes from ash, cinders, and pinhole burns. How Spanish made the leap of logic from one to the other is a little unclear, but smoking jackets would have definitely been de rigueur at any formal, black tie event that ended with brandy and cigars.
Esnob: This simply means “snob” in Spanish, and comes from the difficulty that Spanish speakers have in saying words that start with an “s” followed by a pronounced consonant. You can see it even in their native words, for example “español.” Note that another loan word, from the English for sandwich, does not do this, so it’s just “sándwich.” That’s because it starts with “s” followed by a vowel, and that’s totally normal in the Spanish words for saint or holy, San and Santa.
Fútbol: Which means football in most of the world, but is soccer in America. Again, only the spelling was changed.
Cóctel: Probably very popular at every tapas bar happy hour, this word is clearly “cocktail,” although it’s pronounced with a long O in the first syllable and a short e in the second. Close enough, I guess, if you’re on your third.
Japanese is infamous for taking English words, spelling them phonetically in katakana, and then sending those new terms right back to English. One of the more famous ones is cosplay, which was created in Japanese from a shortening of the English words “costume” and “role play,” but then shot right back into our vernacular, except once more in English.
Japanese for “cosplay” is pronounced “kosupure.”
Afu-reko: Derived from the words “after” and “recording,” this refers to the process of dubbing new sound or dialogue tracks in post-production. Obviously, this would be very important when making English language dubs of Japanese anime.
Aidoru: Referring to teen idol or pop star, and it’s pronounced pretty close to the word it came from, idol.
Aisu kurīmu: Again, remembering that the “ai” is pronounced as a long I, it should be pretty clear that these words mean “ice cream.”
Amefuto: American football, pure and simple, and meant to distinguish it from real fútbol.
Amerikan doggu: Pretty clearly “American dog,” but not the animal. Nope. This is a corn dog.
Bebī kā: Literally from “baby car,” a stroller or pram.
Datchi-waifu: From “Dutch wife.” This is a blow-up doll. Why the Japanese blame this on the Dutch but borrow the term from English is a mystery.
Furaido poteto: Quite clearly “fried potato,” as in French fry.
Hotto kēki: Another probably obvious food item: hot cake.
Janpā: Jumper, as in sweater or jacket. Not to be confused with Juanpa.
Nōto-pasokon: A super mash-up of note, personal, and computer that means laptop. Without nōto in front, it just means personal computer.
Sekkusu: Sex. Boning. Doing it. Bumping uglies. Fucking. You get the picture.
Tenkī: Ten-key, as in that numerical keypad that may or may not be at the far right on your computer or laptop keyboard.
Since they’re both Germanic languages, you wouldn’t think that Dutch would borrow that many words from English, but it happens, largely due to people who speak “Dunglish.” This is what happens when native English speakers are learning Dutch, but apply English word order and grammar. The two are not the same, so it can get weird.
But there are English loanwords in Dutch that have nothing to do with Dunglish.
Whatsappen: The verb form of “to Whatsapp,” as in to send a message via that platform.
Downloaden: Again, pretty obvious. The infinitive verb form of “to download.”
Airconditioner: Three guesses.
Laptop: Just what it says on the tin.
Helpdesk: Although they probably actually won’t.
Junkfood: It’s food. It’s junk. It’s one word.
Okay, a longer list shortened, but it’s pretty obvious that the Dutch aren’t all that creative when they borrow words from English. If it’s two words, just stick them together, and don’t even change the spelling. And yet, they make fun of Dunglish.
Now you might think that it would be difficult for French to borrow anything from English, since we’ve already borrowed so damn much from them. Also, thanks to the French Revolution, they were the first country to come up with a Royal Language Academy whose sole purpose was to define each and every word specifically, and with only one definition.
Top that off with the disdain in France (multiplied by ten in Québec) for borrowing words from English, and it’s a miracle that any of these exist — but they do. All of the following nouns take the article “le” in the singular:
Pull: Pullover, sweater, or jersey.
Scoop: Breaking a big news story; same meaning as in English.
Sandwich: So Spanish wasn’t the only language to borrow this one!
Hashtag: Sorry, France!
Lifting: A facelift or plastic surgery.
Parking: A car park in general, and not the verb referring to what you do to your car.
Zapping: Channel surfing on a TV, although who does that anymore?
Baskets: Plural, so “les baskets,” any kind of sporting shoes, probably derived from basketball.
Smoking: See the Spanish word “esmoquin,” above; also a tuxedo or formal dinner attire, for all the same reasons.
Relooking: A makeover.
This is one of the languages of the Philippines, and since America has stomped all over that place since winning the Spanish-American war, it should be no surprise that English linguistic footprints are all over it. Here are a few.
Aborsyon: Abortion, which replaced the original word “pagpapalaglag.”
Adik: As in drug addict, with the traditional word having been more or less a Spanish loan word, durugista.
Badyet: Budget, originally Laang-gugulin.
Basketbol and Besbol: Basketball and baseball, because American sports manage to infect everything they touch.
Bistek: Beefsteak, just like in Spanish although, ironically, I don’t think anybody in America refers to any cut of meat as a beefsteak anymore. I mean, it’s a steak. Of course it’s made of beef — unless one of those beyond or impossible companies tells you that it’s not.
Drayber: Driver, although the earlier word was “tsuper,” itself borrowed from the Spanish chofer, from the word chauffeur, although via English instead of the French from which English stole it. Damn. Complicated enough yet? Yeah, that’s what happens when you colonize people.
Iskul: School. Another example of a language adding a vowel sound before an “s” and hard consonant. The native word was “paaralan.”
Madyik: Magic. Originally Salamangka,
Sandwits: Sandwich, yet another variation on that most British of creations, thanks to an Earl with a gambling habit who liked to eat at the table.
Tin-edyer: Teenager, originally lalabintaunin.
Traysikel: Tricycle, because who doesn’t enjoy a three-wheeled vehicle?
So there you go. Wherever English has gone, it’s left its words behind, whether they’ve been sucked in unchanged Dutch-style, altered slightly for other markets, or rendered phonetically as closely as possible, as in Japan.
Here’s my question for my readers who come from all over the planet: What is your native language, and what words has your language borrowed from English? Hey, don’t be afraid. Click and comment below!