This week, we’re going explore another five 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, there are exceptions. In fact, the very first word in today’s lesson is a perfect example of a loanword whose meaning has changed drastically from its donor words.
Abandon: The late Middle English verb abandon (to give up or leave behind) comes from the Old French abandoner. Interestingly, the Old French word has its origins in the Late Latin equivalent of “to control” (ad [to, at] + bandon [control]). The contemporary meaning of abandon is essentially the opposite of that of the words on which it is based.
Anonymous: The adjective anonymous (of unknown name) is one of many English words with Greek origins. The Greek anōnumos (“nameless”) is a combination of the prefix –an (“without”) and root onoma (“name”). The word as it exists in modern English was borrowed from Latin in the late 16th century.
Lunar: The late Middle English lunar (referring to the moon) comes from lunaris, the word’s Latin equivalent. Both words are ultimately derived from the Latin luna, which simply means “moon.”
Nocturnal: This adjective, meaning “done, occurring, or active at night,” is another English word with Latin origins. The 15th century nocturnal comes from the Late Latin nocturnalis. The Late Latin word is derived from nocturnus (“of the night”), which, in turn, is derived from nox, noct- (“night”).
Tornado: The mid 16th century noun tornado (a funnel-shaped vortex of violently-rotating destructive winds) is most-likely based on the Spanish words tronada (“thunderstorm”) and tornar (“to turn”). Interesting, tornado originally described a violent thunderstorm of the tropical Atlantic Ocean, not a land-based storm as the word does in modern English.