English is a mutt. Native English speakers borrow words from other languages without thinking twice about where the words originally came from. Occasionally, we don't even realize that we're not using an English word to describe something!
While prescriptivist linguists will defend the purity of the English langue and disapprove of our rampant usage of foreign words, the reality is that English speakers enjoy the variety. As James Nicoll explained on Usenet in the early 1990s, "We don't just borrow words; on occasion, English has pursued other languages down alleyways to beat them unconscious and rifle through their pockets for new vocabulary."
Obviously, English does not literally chase down other languages for words. Its speakers naturally introduce new words to their vocabulary as necessary. How else would we describe sushi, espresso, or tacos without borrowing the words from their languages of origin? For the record, the languages in question are Japanese, Italian, and Spanish.
Food isn't the only subject we adopt foreign words for. Sometimes we describe someone as having "savoir-faire" or "chutzpah," which are taken from French and Yiddish respectively. Other times, we have fun with friends and say "adios" or "bon voyage" to wish them well until next time.
Since you use foreign words all the time, test your knowledge of loanwords! Can you identify the words that correctly complete the following sentences?
English borrowed "déjà vu" from French. The phrase means "already seen."
"Chutzpah" comes from Yiddish. Typically, it is used to describe someone with sheer audacity.
"Schadenfreude" is German. It is a compound word created from "schaden," which means damage, and "freude," which translates as joy.
The first known English usage of "carte blanche" was in 1751. The phrase literally means blank document.
"Bon voyage" is a French phrase. According to Merriam-Webster, the phrase entered English sometime in the 15th century.
"A cappella" is derived from "cappella," which is the Italian word for chapel. The phrase originally meant that music was performed "in chapel or choir style."
In Italian, the word "fresco" means fresh. "Fresco" alone can be used to describe a type of plaster painting.
The German writer Johan Paul Richter created the word "doppelgänger" in 1796. The word combines "doppel," which means double, and "gänger," which means "goer."
While "double entendre" is regularly used in English, it is considered obsolete in French. In French, the phrase literally means double meaning.
"Je ne sais quoi" comes from French. It is used when an object or person has a quality that is hard to describe.
Merriam-Webster found the first usage of "persona non grata" occurred in 1888. The phrase comes from Latin.
The German language gave English "verboten." The word is derived from "farboten," which means "to forbid."
"Zeitgeist" is a German word, meaning "spirit of the times." It combines "zeit" and "geist." The former means "time," while the latter means "spirit."
"Aficionado" was taken from Spanish. The word comes from the Spanish verb "aficionar," which translates as "to inspire affections."
English borrows "nouveau riche" from French. It entered English toward the end of the 18th century.
English takes "rendezvous" form French. The word derives from the Middle French "rendez vous," which means present yourselves.
"Gesundheit" is borrowed from German. In German, the word means health.
English borrows "schmooze" from Yiddish. Other Yiddish words used in English include schlep and schlock.
"Mensch" worked its way into the English language from German by way of Yiddish. In Middle High German, "mensch" means "man" in the sense of "human being."
Chic entered English in the mid-1800s. The word is originally French.
Blitzkrieg entered English in 1937. It is formed from the words "blitz" and "krieg." The former means lightning and the latter means war.
Smorgasbord is a Swedish word. It combines the Swedish words for open sandwich and table.
While English spears use sushi to refer to dishes made with raw fish, "sushi" specifically refers to the rice soaked in vinegar used in such dishes.
English borrowed "cul-de-sac" from French. In French, it literally means bottom of the bag.
As a noun, English borrows "loco," meaning crazy, from Spanish. The Italian definition of loco is "at place" and is often used in music.
"Adios" means goodbye in Spanish. However, its Spanish form derives form "a Dios seas." That means "may you be commended to God."
"Au contraire" is French. The phrase means "on the contrary."
"Baguette" is French. It is derived from the French word for rod.
English adopted "bric-a-brac" from French. Merriam-Webster dates the first usage in English to 1840.
English borrows "chauffeur" from French. In French, chauffeur literally means "one that heats" because the first chauffeurs kept the fire in a steam engine going.
French is the source of the word "clique." English adopted the word in the early-1700s.
Facade is from French. French borrowed the word from the Italian "facciata," which means face.
English borrows "femme fatale" from French. The phrase literally means "disastrous woman."
In places where having a quinceañera is common, it is a religious and social event that stresses the importance of family. Fifteen-year-old girls in Mexico and Latin America usually have one.
Originally from American Spanish, "poncho" entered English in the early-1700s. Since ponchos have no sleeves, they are worn through a hole that goes over a wearer's head.