10 Unexpected Languages That Enrich The English Vocabulary

French, Latin, and Germanic languages—vast swaths of a dictionary owe their existence to these 3 culprits, with another large cube entrance from Greek. But English is enriched by a exceptions, a particular loanwords from Quechua, Japanese, Swahili, Sanskrit, and more. These non-European languages and denunciation groups have done poignant contributions to English, giving us some truly singular and surprising words.

10 Bantu Languages


We’ll start with Bantu, a organisation of languages oral in a segment of sub-Saharan Africa that stretches from Cameroon to Kenya. Their contributions to English are singular to a few quirky items, many particularly “jumbo” and “zombie.”

“Jumbo” comes possibly from a Swahili word jumbe, definition “chief,” or nzamba, a Kongo word for “elephant.” It entered English in a 1880s as a name of an African elephant in P.T. Barnum’s “Greatest Show on Earth.” In 1882, Barnum purchased Jumbo from London’s Regent’s Park Zoo and brought him to a United States. The animal achieved in Barnum’s playground for 3 years before he was strike and killed by a burden train.

As for “zombie,” some trust this word comes by approach of Louisiana Creole from a Spanish sombra, a word that means “shade” or “ghost.” But other linguists contend it comes from Bantu languages. It could have roots in a Kikongo word zumbi, definition “fetish,” or a Kimbundu word for “god,” nzambi. In Haitian Creole, that is shabby by West African languages, a word “zombi” means “spirit of a dead.”

9 Tagalog, Malay Austronesian Languages


You competence have illusory that “boondocks” was a bizarre devalue noun innate in a backwoods segment it’s used to describe. But it was indeed brought behind from a Philippines by American soldiers in a early partial of a 20th century. US infantry assigned a island republic from a Spanish-American War to World War II, and during that period, they adopted a Tagalog word bundok, that means “mountain.”

“Cooties,” meanwhile, comes from a Malay word kutu, definition “dog tick.” “Yo-yo” has been a US and Canadian heading given a 1930s, though a word—and substantially a suspicion for a toy—came from a Philippines. And while we’re deliberating Malay words, “sarong” comes from a tenure that means “to sheath.”

A handful of flora and fauna loanwords also accost from a extended organisation of languages backing a Pacific Rim. Most notably, “orangutan” comes directly from pidgin Malay and literally means “forest man.”

8 Chinese

Organic Red Tomato Ketchup

Chinese difference have left utterly an impact on a universe of food and martial arts. You have “kung fu” and “tai chi,” “wanton” and “lo mein.” But Chinese has also given us several difference that are a bit reduction conspicuous.

For example, “ketchup” is suspicion to have come to English by Malay from a Chinese for “brine of fish.” In English, a word creatively described a operation of salsas and gravies before holding adult a complicated definition in a early 20th century. The Chinese word dafeng, definition “great wind,” was loaned to a Greek language, before mutating into a English word “typhoon.”

“Kowtow” comes from a Chinese word definition to “knock a head,” that describes a tradition of display honour by touching a front to a ground. “Koan” comes by Japanese from a Chinese gongan, a word that means “public proposal.” “Brainwash” is a interpretation of a Chinese xi nao and entered English during a Korean War.

7 Japanese

real karate

Similar to Chinese, a Japanese denunciation has no finish of English loanwords that hang out. There’s bonsai, hibachi, and gingko. People use difference like emoji, soy, and sushi on a daily basis. And don’t forget origami, futon, bento, and sumo. Interestingly, many of these difference meant a same thing in both languages. However, some have distinguished etymologies.

“Karaoke” creatively meant “empty orchestra.” “Karate,” that has a same initial syllable as “karaoke,” means “empty hand.” After all, this martial art was designed to be used though weapons. “Judo” and “jujitsu” share a same initial syllable and meant “soft way” and “soft technique,” respectively. And as for “tsunami,” that translates into “harbor wave.”

A reduction apparent present from Japanese is a word “tycoon” (originally taikun), that means “great prince” or “high commander.” Foreigners visiting Japan in a 1850s used this word to impute to a shogun, a country’s ruler. After World War I, a universe developed into a stream outline of a absolute businessman.

Another warn is a word “emoji.” At initial glance, you’d consider it was a play on a English word “emotion.” But actually, it means “picture letter” in Japanese.

6 Russian

Large Organic White Cheese Wheel

Those who reason that Asia starts during a Ural Mountains will contend that Russian doesn’t go on a list of “non-European” languages. But a Slavic denunciation organisation is many serve from English than a Germanic and Romance languages. It has also given us several engaging loanwords. If we omit apparent contributions like “babushka” and “gulag,” that leaves us with utterly a colorful shortlist.

“Mammoth” was initial used to report a quadruped whose stays were detected in Siberia nearby a finish of a 17th century. The word itself might be subsequent from a Russian word for “earth.” It became an English noun in a early 1800s in anxiety to a enormous cheese circle means to Thomas Jefferson by a women of a Baptist church in Cheshire, Massachusetts. Seriously, this thing weighed 560 kilograms (1,234 lb).

“Vigorish,” or what we compensate a bookie when we make a bet, comes by Yiddish around a Russian-Ukrainian word for “winnings” or “profit.” And we can’t discuss Russian etymology though remembering that vodka is a derivative of voda, or “water.”

5 Tupi-Guarani Languages

jolly roger

Tupi-Guarani refers to a organisation of languages local to modern-day Brazil. In colonial times, one of these became a trade denunciation between Europeans and locals and has been called “Jesuit Tupi” by some linguists.

Many Tupian contributions to English are a names for plants and animals, and they come by approach of Spanish, French, and Portuguese. For example, “cougar” comes from a Tupian word that means “deer-like.” And “tapioca” also came around a intrigue languages from a Tupian word definition “juice squeezed out” or “pulp.”

But there are some vital exceptions to all this flora and fauna. One such word is “buccaneer.” The French version, boucanier, once stood for one who uses a boucan, a form of griddle for smoking beef that a locals impute to as a mukem. Originally, buccaneers were French hunters settling tools of a Spanish-colonized Caribbean. When Spain kicked them out in a 1690s, a organisation of Frenchmen took to piratical acts, so giving a word a present-day meaning.

4 Other Amerindian Languages

Outdoor Weekend BBQ Grill Party Or Picnic Concept

Like Tupi, a Indian languages of what is now a US and Canada gave us a prolonged list of difference dominated by New World plants and animals. These embody a far-reaching accumulation of organisms such as caribou, chipmunk, hickory, moose, coyote, persimmon, and skunk.

“Barbecue” is associated to “buccaneer.” However, a Arawak roots (from Haiti) impute to a boucan griddle itself. “Cannibal” comes from a Arawak word kalingo, that means “brave ones” and once referred to a people of a Caribbean. The word took on a stream definition since Europeans suspicion that a locals ate flesh. (Incidentally, a word for “cannibal” in Old English was selfaeta.) “Tobacco” is also Arawak in origin.

Nahuatl is a Mexican denunciation famous informally as Aztec, and it’s still oral currently by about 1.5 million people. It gave us difference like chocolate, tomato, and mescal—the final of that creatively meant “cooked maguey.” “Avocado” comes from a Nahuatl word ahuacatl, that also means “testicle.”

As for a South American denunciation Quechua, it gave English difference such as llama, jerky, quinoa, and quinine—the final of that comes from kina, or “bark.” And if we feel like carrying a smoke, we can appreciate a Maya since “cigar” expected comes from their sicar, a word that means “to smoke.”

3 Persian


Persian has a wily place on this list. Like English, it comes from Proto-Indo-European. This means that these languages have utterly a few similarities. The difference “mother,” “father,” “daughter,” “brother,” and “name” all have cognates in complicated Farsi. But some difference took a opposite track from Persian to English and are bona fide loanwords.

Limu is a ubiquitous word for “citrus fruits” in Persian, and it gave us “lemon.” “Mummy” came by Latin and Arabic from a Persian tenure for “wax.” “Candy” comes from a Persian qandi, or sugar, and might also have roots in Sanskrit. The base of “caravan” is karwan, that means a “group of dried travelers.” “Kiosk” is from a Persian kushk for “palace” or “pavilion.” The Persian word that gave us “julep” literally means “rose water,” and “pajamas” comes from a tenure definition “leg garments.”

2 Arabic


Arabic is one of a many inexhaustible non-European lenders to a English language. We’ve formerly looked during 10 engaging examples of Arabic loanwords, though that doesn’t even blemish a surface. The Oxford English Dictionary includes scarcely 1,000 difference that come from Arabic.

Take “cipher” or “zero,” for example. They came to English by Latin from a Arabic sifr. Europeans didn’t have a judgment of 0 before a eighth century. But after a Moors cowed Spain, a continent began to adopt a Arabic complement of numbers.

“To drub” (as in, “He took a drubbing in a debate”) comes from a Arabic daraba, or “to kick up.” “Monsoon” came to us by Dutch and Portuguese from a Arabic word for “season,” mawsim. Then there’s “Sahara.” In English, it’s a specific region, though sahra in Arabic is a ubiquitous word for “desert.”

1 Sanskrit, Hindi Urdu

Business lady personification chess

Arabic has a good series of difference loaned to English, though Sanskrit and a dual complicated offshoots—Hindi and Urdu—are some of a richest. Their gifts to English are different and tough to categorize.

The Hindi jangal gave us “jungle” and refers to a desert, forest, or wasteland. “Khaki” is an Urdu word that means “dusty.” “Juggernaut” comes from a Sanskrit “Jagannatha,” definition “lord of a world” and referring to a Hindu god.

“Chess” is subsequent directly from a French esches, though a strange Sanskrit word for a game, chaturanga, is similar. It means “four members of an army” and refers to elephants, horses, chariots, and feet soldiers—the pieces of a chessboard other than a aristocrat and queen.

“Karma” in Sanskrit means “action,” “effect,” “act,” or “deed.” “Loot” is a approach loan from a Hindi for “booty” or “stolen property,” and it derives from a Sanskrit word for “to steal.” “Mantra” means “instrument of thought” in Sanskrit and stems from a noun that translates “to think.” And hilariously, “pundit” comes from a Sanskrit pandita, a word definition “learned man.”

Reed Cooley is a author and editor vital in Tunis.



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