AD's English Literature : Latin Loan Words in English language.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Latin Loan Words in English language.


  The language formation is a continued process of growth and decay. The phenomenon of borrowing words and word-formation is the way of enriching one language. In the history of 1500 years English language has various foreign borrowing that is instrumental in the development of the English vocabulary. Contact with other cultures through conquest, and collaborations the sociopolitical circumstances, the need to explain new ideas have been the main reasons for borrowing words from various resources. Alike Celtic, Greek, French and Scandinavian borrowing, Latin loans are very important in the enrichment of English language.

          English is profusely influenced over a considerable period of time. This Latin influence on English language is heralded by England’s contact with the Latin civilization. In the old English we find much of the Latin words associated with agriculture and war. Words like camp (battle), segn (banner), pil (pointed stick), mil (mile) etc are early borrowing. Besides, words associated with trade enter into the domain. Because of the enormity of wine trade we find words like win (wine), must (new vine), flase (bottle), eced (vinegar) etc. in the domestic field hardly we have any cycene (kitchen) to cook food or cuppe (cup) to drink coffe or disc (disk) to have any dinner.

          With the Christianize of Britain in 597 A.D begins another phase of Latin borrowing to define the new conceptions, new religion, new ideas, and new faith. In the massive inflow of Latin words are both learned and popular during this time. We have had ‘Church’, ‘bishop’, ‘alms’, ‘alter’, ‘angel’, ‘anthem’, ‘canon’, ‘hymn’, ‘pope’, ‘psalm’, relic etc. during this period. Later, by the tremendous influence of Church in domestic life we find Latin ‘silk’, ‘radish’, ‘pine’, ‘plant’, ‘school’, ‘master’. The Latin gradually reaches the literary, medical, botanical and intellectual fields. We have no ‘history’ without Latin. The disease of ‘cancer’, ‘paralyses might get their names otherwise. Whom do we call a ‘ceader’ tree? How can be a jungle without ‘tiger’ and a desert without “camel’?

          In the Middle English period, i.e. 1150 A.D. – 1500 A.D, comes via French and through translation works. The translation of the Vulgate Bible gives the English people words like generation, ‘persecution’, and ‘transmigration’. The other borrowed words during this time include words from law, medicine, allegory, theology, science, literature etc such as ‘conspiracy’, ‘custody’, ‘frustrate’, ‘genius’, ‘infinite’, ‘intellect’, ‘limbo’, ‘pulpit’, ‘secular’, ‘scripture’, ‘testify’ and many more.

          In the Renaissance the Latin words flood into English texts in overwhelming proportion. Firstly, they are twain influenced by French and Latin. Secondly, native words and French words are remodeled into closer resemblance with their Latin origins. The old English ‘descrive’, ‘perfect’ gets the new form ‘describe’, ‘perfect’ by Latin influence. Yet there are the great mass of borrowing in the early modern English comes directly from Latin. Numerous examples can be cited: ‘affidavit’, ‘agenda’, ‘alibi’, ‘animal’, ‘bonus’, deficit ‘exit’, ‘extra’, ‘fact’. ‘Maximum’, ‘memorandum’, omnibus, ‘propaganda’, ‘veto’ etc.

          In the present-day scenario of the technical and scientific English, Latin shares with Greek the honour of being the source of rich host of new coinages. Words like ‘coaxial’, ‘fission’, ‘interstellar’, ‘neutron’, ‘mutant’, ‘penicillin’, ‘radium’, ‘spectrum’, ‘sulfa’ etc have become an integral part of the English technical vocabulary. Hybrid forms i.e. partly Latin and partly Greek, such as ‘egomaniac’, ‘speleologist’, ‘terramycin’ etc. have also entered the English lexicon in a major way. What is conspicuous about the introduction of Latin words during the modern period is that they have entered the language mainly through the medium of writing. The Latin elements in English, except the earliest ones, have been the work of Churchmen, and scholars.

          The Latin loan words add enormous addition to the English vocabulary. It fills up the gaps in the native stock of words. The Latin epithets and synonyms give the masculinity in English. The Latin dignifies and intellectualizes the English. Yet one can not deny that excessive Latinization of English has stunned the growth of native vocabulary. Sometimes, theirs superfluous and purposeless coinage has encouraged an inflated style full of learned and bombastic words and phrases. In spite of these, the very Englishness of English is still there and it is the power of English language that it assimilates Latinization into its natural growth.              



  1. Sir, thanks; but I've a question: Is the Latin influence & Greek influence, same? I've Philology book of P.K Bose & there the Latin & French influence is combined, named: CLASSICAL ELEMENTS(LATIN AND GREEK). So I can't understand if that is fully correct, or I'll have to separate them. If that is not fully right, please send a Greek influence on English language. I'm of 1st year(CU)
    Please reply on, as soon as you can.

  2. Thanks Rahul for your interest on the topic. in fact,LATIN AND GREEK are two separate entity that considerably influenced English Language.

    However , it is to remember that the number of Latin words, many of them derived from the Greek, that were introduced during the Old English period has been recorded very few.

  3. Sir, please answer me that, is this answer applicable for 1st year Eng(HRS), of CALCUTTA UNIVERSITY? If I am asked for Latin Influence on English language, for 12 marks, can I write this? Our professor told us that, we will be asked about Latin & Greek Influence on English language, compactly. So can I answer this?

    1. Rahul,Yes you can.
      Because,d influence of Latin and Greek ws a lng drawn process.It is perhaps d mst importnt of all freign cntributns.Its scarely possible to separate Greek frm Latin influence,because almst always it was through latin or latinizd frms dt greek wrds cme into englsh.

  4. The language formation is a continued process of growth and decay. The phenomenon of borrowing words and word-formation is the way of enriching one language.

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  6. Sir I cnt find out the french influence in ur blogsopt...


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