Words with interesting origins – from other languages

English has taken over words from most of the other languages with which it has had contact. It has taken many expressions from the ancient languages, Latin and Greek, and these borrowings usually have academic or literary associations. From French, English has taken lots of words to do with cooking, the arts, and a more sophisticated lifestyle in general. From Italian come words connected with music and the plastic arts. German expressions in English have been coined either by tourists bringing back words for new things they saw or by philosophers or historians describing German concepts or experiences. The borrowings from other languages usually relate to things which English speakers experienced for the first time abroad.

There are borrowings from a wide range of languages. For example, from Japanese, tycoon, karate, origami, judo, futon and bonsai. From Arabic, mattress, cipher, alcove, carafe, algebra, harem, mufti and yashmak. From Turkish, yoghurt, jackal, kiosk, bosh [nonsense (colloquial)], tulip and caftan; from Farsi, caravan, shawl, taffeta, bazaar and sherbet, and from Eskimo, kayak, igloo and anorak.

The map of Europe below shows the places of origin of some English words and expressions borrowed from some other European languages. Use a dictionary to check the meanings of any words you are not sure about.