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Not to be confused with Literal translation.

In linguistics, a calque (/ˈkælk/) or loan translation is a word or phrase borrowed from another language by literal, word-for-word (Latin: verbum pro verbo) or root-for-root translation.

Used as a verb, to calque means to borrow a word or phrase from another language while translating its components so as to create a new lexeme in the target language.

Calque is a loanword from a French noun, and derives from the verb calquer (to trace, to copy).[1] "Loanword" is a calque of the German Lehnwort, just as "loan translation" is of Lehnübersetzung.[2]

Proving that a word is a calque sometimes requires more documentation than does an untranslated loanword because, in some cases, a similar phrase might have arisen in both languages independently. This is less likely to be the case when the grammar of the proposed calque is quite different from that of the borrowing language or when the calque contains less obvious imagery.

Calquing is distinct from phono-semantic matching.[3] While calquing includes semantic translation, it does not consist of phonetic matching (i.e. retaining the approximate sound of the borrowed word through matching it with a similar-sounding pre-existing word or morpheme in the target language).


Main article: List of calques

Flea market[edit]

The common English phrase flea market is a phrase calque that literally translates the French marché aux puces ("market with fleas").[4] The German word Flohmarkt, the Dutch word vlooienmarkt, Serbian word "buvlja pijaca" and the Finnish word kirpputori also correspond.


An example in the opposite direction, from English to French, shows how a compound word may be calqued by first breaking it down into its component roots. The French gratte-ciel is a word-coinage inspired by the English "skyscraper" — gratter means "to scrape", and ciel means "sky". Many languages have constructed their own calques:


The word translation, etymologically, means a "carrying across" or "bringing across": the Latin translatio derives from transferre (trans, "across" + ferre, "to bear").[5] (Ferre is highly irregular; latus is its participle. Go figure.)

Some European languages have calqued their words for the concept of "translation" on the kindred Latin traducere ("to lead across" or "to bring across", from trans, "across" + ducere, "to lead" or "to bring").[5]

European languages of the Romance, Germanic and Slavic branches have calqued their terms for the concept of translation on these Latin models.[5]

See also[edit]



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