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What languages have influenced English and why? Part 2 – Germanic influences

Revised: September 2021

From the pie chart below, you can see that French and Latin have influenced UK English the most (29%) followed by Germanic languages such as Norse and Dutch (26%). In this blog we will look at the Germanic languages and how they have influenced modern day English.

Norman words such as castle, cauldron, kennel, catch, cater are among Norman words which were introduced into English during the Norman invasion. The Norman language also introduced (or reinforced) words of Norse origin such as mug which we still use in everyday life here in the UK.

The modern German influence in English is down to the two World Wars. Some words you would expect relating to World War I and the World War II, blitz, for example is now widely used in war terminology.

Other words, such as food terms, were introduced through English natives spending time in Germany during the wars. For example, words such as wurst, hamburger, and frankfurter are frequently used in many restaurants, and, of course, there are also other words which are generally used the world over, such as kindergarten, autobahn, and rucksack.

Although it would appear that only languages whereby the natives of that language resided in Great Britain, native English speakers have also been influenced by languages where the UK has ruled, for example commonwealth countries.

For example Indian/Hindi words relating to culture, e.g. pyjamas, bungalow, verandah, jungle, curry, shampoo, khaki are widely used in modern day English but actually originate from the Colonial Era. Many of these words are in fact of Persian origin rather than Hindi because Persian was the official language of the Mughal courts at that time.

Besides influences from German, Indian, and Hindi, the English language has also adopted words from languages like Greek, Japanese, and French. A lot of these are terms we use of a daily basis, perhaps forgetting, or not even realising, where they first came from. 

We have Japanese to thank for words like karaoke and sushi, whereas Greek gave us anonymous and metropolis, and genre and justice both came from the language of France. 

While researching for this month’s blogs, it is evident that all languages influence each other in some way or another. Whether it is a historical influence from an invasion centuries ago or a more recent event in history, UK English continues to grow and evolve thanks to the influence of other languages, allowing us to become more culturally rich.

For part 1 click here.