Even More English Words with Foreign Language Origins
This week, we’re going explore another six everyday words rooted in languages other than English. Modern English contains many such loanwords that have been “borrowed” from other languages. While English loanwords usually have meanings similar or even identical to the words from which they are derived, some of the words on today’s list have very different meanings from the words that inspired them. Make sure to approach such loanwords skeptically and verify that a word actually means what you think it does before you use that word in its original language.
Ballot comes from the Italian ballotta which means “little ball.” These little balls were placed in a container to register a vote. The English word eventually came to mean any device used to record a vote.
The Middle English companion comes from the Old Frenchcompaignon (“one who breaks bread with another”). The Old French word is based on the Latin com (“together with”) and panis (“bread”).
The mid 16th century frugal comes from the Latin frugalis, which is derived from frugi (“economical or thrifty”). Frugi itself is derived from frux/frug, which means “fruit.”
This mid 16th century word for “fragrance” originally denoted a pleasant-smelling smoke from a burning substance, especially one used in fumigation. Perfume comes from the French parfum (noun) and parfumer (verb). The French words come from the obsolete Italian word parfumare, which literally means “to smoke through.”
Plethora (“plenty of”) came to English via Late Latin from the Greek plēthōrē. The Greek word, in turn, is derived from plēthein (“be full”).
This modern English word for a catch phrase or saying is a straightforward derivation of the sluagh-ghairm, the Scottish Gaelic word for “war cry.” The Scottish Gaelic word is a combination of luagh (“army”) and gairm (“shout”).