Foreign language influences in English

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According to one study, the percentage of modern English words derived from each language group are as follows:
Latin (including words used only in scientific / medical / legal contexts): ~29%
French: ~29%
Germanic: ~26%
Others: ~16%

While many words enter English as slang, not all do. Some words are adopted from other languages; some are mixtures of existing words (portmanteau words), and some are new creations made of roots from dead languages: e.g. thanatopsis. No matter the origin, though, words rarely, if ever, are immediately accepted into the English language. Here is a list of the most common foreign language influences in English, where other languages have influenced or contributed words to English.


Cardinal numbering in English follows two models, Germanic and Italic. The basic numbers are zero through ten. The numbers eleven through nineteen follow native Germanic style, as do twenty, thirty, forty, fifty, sixty, seventy, eighty, and ninety.

Standard English, especially in very conservative formal contexts, continued to use native Germanic style as late as World War I for intermediate numbers greater than 20, viz. "one-and-twenty," "five-and-thirty," "seven-and-ninety," and so. But with the advent of the Industrial Revolution, the Latin tradition of counting as "twenty-one," "thirty-five," "ninety-seven," etc., which is easier to say and was already common in non-standard regional dialects, gradually replaced the traditional Germanic style to become the dominant style by the end of nineteenth century.

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Further reading[edit]

  • Pyles, T. & J. Algeo (1993). The Origins and Development of the English Language. Fort Worth: Harcourt College Publishers.


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