The English language and its 12 “borrowed words”

Just like some of our previous articles where we talked about the idiomatic differences that turn professional translations into conceptual approximations, the different languages of the world have many similarities.  So much so, that some of them even take words from other languages and make them part of their day-to-day language. So, not everything is made out of differences in the universe of languages.

As there are English words that are used in modern Spanish – such as “selfie”, “hater” and “spoiler” – there are words that the English language has adopted from other languages (mainly from French and German) that are used by its native speakers regularly. So even words that we all know and are very common like “fiancé”, “café”, “delicatessen” and “lingerie” are actually “borrowed words” that came to stay.

However, this phenomenon has a very clear explanation: English, French and German are sibling languages that had mutual influence throughout history. So much so, that between the IX and XIV centuries the official language of the British court was actually a French dialect. Whilst the lower classes of British society at the time used Old English to communicate, royalty used their own version of the French language.

In this article, we invite you to learn 12 “borrowed words” that are used by English native speakers regularly:


The word “fiancé” comes from French. Even though this word is pronounced very similarly in both languages and maintain the same meaning, many native English speakers do not write it using the proper French accentuation.


The dance known as “ballet” was originally born in France. That is why the words ballet, “ballerina” and “tutu” were preserved in their original language and are still being used in English.


This word is also from French origin, however even though it was happily adopted by English speakers and it is still being used today, they created their own new words based on it as well, for example the words: “entrepreneurial” and “entrepreneurship”.


The French word “lingerie” is very commonly used by native English speakers and keeps the same meaning in both languages.


 This word symbolizes a truly Parisian icon. Just as its aroma and unique taste, the word “croissant” is used to describe this delicious pastry both in English and French.


English speaking countries use the word “delicatessen” or simple “deli” for small gastronomical shops that sell gourmet products and dishes. This word originally comes from the German word “delikatessen” (fine foods), as you may see their only difference is how it is spelled.


The German word “kindergarten” was also borrowed by the English language in order to describe the educational institution for early childhood. Even more, the classic “biergarten” from German culture are called “beer garden” in English speaking countries, a translation that shows the great connection between these two languages.


Originally from Austria and the south of Germany, this slow and elegant dance that is famously danced at weddings keeps its original name in the English language as well.


Going a bit further from the European languages, like French and German, English has borrowed words from other languages as well. For example, from Spanish. Among many others, the word that designates the rebel armed groups known as a “guerrilla”.


This is another Spanish word commonly used by English speakers. It is used to describe an area outside a house with a solid floor but no roof.


When finding idiomatic influences, Asian roots can also be found in the English language. The Japanese word “karaoke” remains the same not only in English, but in Spanish too.


This traditional Japanese martial art does not have a translation into other languages either. Even though it is a highly important discipline globally, great part of its international popularity came from the series of American movies “Karate Kid”.

We hope you enjoyed reading this article about “borrowed words” that the English language has adopted from other languages and learning their origins. Until next time!