20 Words the English Language Borrowed from Others

Many of the words we use today in English (and most all other languages) are loanwords, words that we have borrowed from other languages and incorporated into our own. An inevitable result of contact with foreign cultures, we have been borrowing and using foreign words for centuries and today words continue to enter the English language. We

don’t have to speak the source language to use them; in fact, many times we don’t even know the word we are using has been borrowed from another language.

Why do we borrow words from other languages? Although the history behind loan words is very complex and we don’t entirely know why certain words and phrases are adopted into a language while others are not, loan words are generally used when we encounter a new concept and don’t have a name for it or it cannot be clearly expressed. Other words have been assimilated into our language merely for the purpose of convenience and style.

While some loan words have maintained the same spelling and pronunciation from the source language, others have undergone an adaptation in spelling or pronunciation, or both.

The following are 20 loanwords and phrases used in the English language that have undergone little or no modifications from the donor language:


  • Faux pas: a false or wrong step, usually in a social context.
  • Déjà vu: a feeling of having already experienced the present situation.


  • Vigilante: a member of a self-appointed group who undertake law enforcement in their community.
  • Bonanza: a source of good fortune and wealth.
  • Macho: being overly masculine in a forceful way.


  • Gesundheit: wishing good health to someone who has just sneezed.
  • Kaput: something broken and without use.
  • Wanderlust: a yearning to travel.


  • Ombudsman: a legal representative; an official assigned to investigate a person’s complaint against an organization.


  • Mammoth: large, hairy extinct elephant. As an adjective we use it to describe something of great size.


  • Dinghy: a small rowing boat. We also refer to small inflatable rubber boats as dinghies.


  • Gung-ho: to be overly enthusiastic and eager, particularly about taking part in fighting or war.


  • Tycoon: “great lord”; today we associate it with a wealthy, powerful person within a business or industry.


  • Alchemy: the precursor of chemistry in which alchemists tried to transform base metals into gold.
  • Algebra: “mending of the broken parts”; a branch of mathematics in which letters and symbols are used to represent numbers in formulae and equations.
  • Ghoul: an evil spirit who purportedly robs graves and devours



  • Shawl: fabric worn around shoulders, head or to wrap round a baby.


  • Amok: rushing about in a frenzy; behaving uncontrollably.


  • Bandanna: large colored scarf.
  • Cot: small bed for babies or small children; small, portable bed.

The Benefits of Localizing your Website

With English being the top language used on the Internet, why worry about translating and localizing your website? While it is true that the majority of web pages are in English, these facts cannot be ignored: 72.1 percent of consumers spend most of their time on sites in their native language; 56.2 percent of consumers say that the ability to obtain information in their native language is more important than price. (Common Sense Advisory)

Our high-tech environment may have solved many of the problems of our world, but perhaps the biggest obstacle to global understanding lies in language. Localization helps break language barriers and can be an invaluable investment for companies expanding into international markets. Here’s how:

Goodbye language barriers: English may be at the top of the languages used on the web today, but following closely are Chinese, Spanish, Japanese, Portuguese and German. These languages represent almost one billion Internet users and who wouldn’t want to tap into that potential and grow their target market?

Increased profits: All businesses aim to grow and increase their profits and localization can help achieve that. Successfully penetrating and selling in an international market depends a lot on interacting with your

customers in their native language. After all, 85 percent of people require information in their own language before making an online transaction.

Credibility and loyalty: A company that offers its website in multiple languages comes across as a professional, global business, which builds credibility. Customers respect businesses that speak their language and offer services and products tailored to their culture, and are thus far more likely to be loyal and spread the word around.

Search engine visibility: Localizing your website ensures your company’s presence in a particular country. The translated parts of your website are indexed by search engines and found by Internet users searching in their native language when translating using dakwak’s technology.

Scalable and affordable: You don’t need to be an industry giant to reap

the benefits of localizing your website. Localization can be flexible and inexpensive. For instance, you don’t have to translate pages that are not relevant to a particular market or country.

Discover how dakwak can help you with website localization

dakwak Among the Top 15 MENA Tech Start-ups

dakwak has been ranked among

the top 15 MENA (Middle East and North Africa) region’s most innovative tech start-ups expanding globally, by Wamda. Wamda, a platform propelling entrepreneurs in the MENA region also voted dakwak as one of the best users of technology in 2011.

dakwak is a web-based technology offering translation and localization in over 60 languages via three systems: machine translation, crowdsourcing, and professional translation.

Stemming from the fact that 85% percent of all consumers require information in their own native language before making an online purchase (Common Sense Advisory), dakwak strives to tackle the language barriers businesses face when expanding into international markets.

dakwak features at a glance
With dakwak, your days of shuttling resource files and source codes back and forth for translation are over. We offer hassle-free set-up and zero integration with our cloud-based technology, which is compatible with any framework, programming language, and secure socket layer (SSL).

Performance and simplicity
dakwak allows you to always be in complete control over the translated version of your website and offers real-time tracking of your translation process. The dakwak technology places various functions at your fingertips:

  • Our translation memory function stores words and phrases to ensure they are used in the desired context across the translated versions of your website.
  • An edit in place widget helps eliminate any learning curve by translating the content directly from within your website.
  • Do you already have

    translated content? Don’t lose the time and money already invested because with dakwak you can simply migrate your old translations to our platform and build on top of that.

Search engine visibility
Unlike “on the fly” translation functions, dakwak ensures the translated parts of your website are indexed by search engines and found by internet users searching in their native language.

The dakwak technology is flexible; you get to choose how and when your website content is published according to your unique needs. You can translate your content via machine translation, crowd-driven translation, or professional translation. You decide which method(s) you want to use on which pages.

Read more about how dakwak can help you

Lost in Translation: 10 Words that are Untranslatable to English

If someone said to you “bury me”, how would you react? Shocked and puzzled most likely. But in the Middle East, “tu’burnee”, literally translated from Arabic to “bury me” is a term of endearment wishing you a longer life than the person who says it.

With over 250,000 words in the English

language, you would think there would be an equivalent word to convey this meaning. Indeed there are many words that are unique to a particular language and culture; while we may understand the general concept, no single English word exists for them – they are untranslatable.

Hygge: It’s amazing how one word can convey so much. This Danish word means relaxing with friends and family in an atmosphere of tranquility and coziness over food and drinks. Hygge is particularly associated with Christmas and summer evenings.

Uitwaaien: Need to escape the stress of your daily life and take a walk in the outdoors to unwind and clear your mind? The Dutch have a word for it: “Uitwaaien.”

Tartle: In Scottish it’s that awkward moment when you want to introduce someone and forget their name.

Jayus: In Indonesia, this word means hearing such a bad joke that you can’t help but laugh.

Ilunga: This word from the Tshiluba language spoken in south-eastern Democratic Republic of Congo is one of the most difficult words to translate. It means “a person who is ready to forgive any abuse the first time, to tolerate it a second time, but never a third time.”

Layogenic: In the Tagalog language of the Philippines, this word describes someone “who is only attractive from a distance.”

Tingo: If you travel to Easter Island, hopefully this is a word you will not hear! It means “borrowing things from a friend until nothing is left.”

Iktsuarpok: The Inuit use this word to describe the action of going outside to check if anyone is coming.

Sobremesa: In Spanish it refers to the time spent lingering at the table after a meal, chatting, drinking coffee and liqueurs or watching TV.

Schadenfreude: In German this word refers to a person who takes pleasure in others’ misfortunes.