Information about English Words

(focus is on the various aspects of English vocabulary; including, historical significance (etymologies) and current usage as found in a variety of medical, etymological, scientific, abridged, and unabridged dictionaries)

Anglo-Saxon and Norman French blend into one language

During the hundreds of years when Anglo-Saxon and Norman French were blending into one language, the slow combining process caused the words of both languages to take on a uniquely English sound. That's why we detect no difference between words of Anglo-Saxon origin; such as, eat and sleep and those of Norman origin; such as, face and pen.

In the centuries following its resulting in a modern language, English adopted thousands of words from other languages; especially, since England became a nation of international merchants, traders, explorers and colonizers. Most of these words don't look or sound particularly foreign to us because their sounds and spellings were Anglicized. Yacht, booze, easel and pickle may hint slightly of their Dutch origin, but nap, leak, toy, snap and kit, which are also Dutch, don't seem at all foreign.

Each of the following lists presents just a small sample of where some Anglicized loan words came from

From Arabic (either borrowed directly or via Italian, French, or Spanish) came: cotton, orange, sugar, almanac, alcohol, algebra, giraffe, magazine, and zero. From German, we have: noodle, seminar, bum, nix, halt, poker, swindler, stroll, and sleazy. From Italian, we have inherited: balcony, bandit, miniature, umbrella, cartoon, bank, cash, concert, and attack. From Spanish came: cask, cargo, chocolate, guitar, plaza, tomato, patio, and ranch.

Smaller contributions have come from Hebrew: amen, jubilee, cherub, and sabbath; from Hindi: bungalow, pajamas, cot, loot, thug, jungle, and shampoo; Persian contributed: bazaar, caravan, magic, rice, rose, tape, and tiger; Portuguese: albino, molasses, and pagoda; Pacific island languages provided us with: bamboo, taboo, tattoo, and gingham; West African languages contributed: banana, jazz, banjo, tote, gorilla, and yam; and last, but not the least, from American Indians: moose, raccoon, skunk, mocassin, and mackinaw.

The English Language Was Significantly Influenced by the French Language

The English institutions that have French-derived words for the church include: saint, clergy, miracle, mercy, and bail; for government: crown, state, country, tax, nation, and parliament; and for the military: war, peace, battle, arms, soldier, navy, enemy, spy, and assault.

It is popularly thought that the one-syllable words of modern English derive mostly from Anglo-Saxon, the language of a relatively simple-living people. That is only partially true. While many basic concepts like man, wife, child, house, bench, meat, grass, leaf, good, high, strong, eat, drink, sleep, live, fight, and love are, indeed, Anglo-Saxon in origin, many others are not. Some of the words the Normans from France contributed to everyday life are air, sound, large, poor, real, cry, please, pay, quit, wait, age, face, use, joy, and pen.

It took centuries for the Anglo-Saxon and Norman-French languages to blend into a common tongue. Part of the reason was the normal length of time it takes for languages to combine into one. Another reason was the resistance of the general Anglo-Saxon population to learning the language of their conquerors. As new generations were born, old memories faded away. By the middle of the fifteenth century, they were no longer Anglo-Saxons and Normans. They were the English, a distinctive people with a distinctive language.