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Generated : 31st October 2006


Chris Dancer

Hi Kryss,

I enjoyed reading your list of English words borrowed from other languages. Can I suggest a few more that you have missed:

Bint (a foolish girl) [Arabic bint = girl]
Fell / Dale [Norse or Norwegian Fjell / Dale = mountain / valley]
Dun (brown) [Gaelic doinne (spelling suspect!) = brown]
Avon [Welsh afon = river]
People [Welsh pobol = people] (???)
Aa / Pahoehoe (geological terms for crusty / flat solidified lava) [Hawaiian]
Apparatchik [Russian]
Borough / Brother / Sword [Anglo-Saxon Burgh = a stronghold / Brothor / Sweord)
Kiosk [Turkish kushk = sentry box]
Shekel [Hebrew? Arabic?]
Karaoke [Japanese]
Lobscouse (Lancastrian meat & potato stew) [Norwegian Lapskaus = ditto, introduced to Liverpool by Norwegian sailors. Hence Scouse, Scouser]

These are just the ones I can think of offhand. Hope you like them.

KryssTal Reply: Thanks, I'll check them out.



I saw your website (borrow.html) for some reference work I was doing. Since I am from India, and know a lot of the words listed, I was pretty surprised that the meanings explained in red and green are far from being accurate.

Hope you will take more pains to give correct information, rather than just some nonsense.

Thank you.

KryssTal Reply: Can you advise and correct me please.

Please ask any Indian person near where you live. It is a lot of work. Or buy a dictionary with Indian words. May be you can look them up online too.

Best wishes. I appreciate your willingness to correct.


Roland Bleher

Hi there,

its the first time that I have visited your page. As a german, I was very curious to see which words of the english language are borrowed from german. To my surprise I found a large number of words that definitely are NOT german and no native speaker of german has ever used them! These words are:

brake (german: Bremse), clock (german: Uhr), Dutch (german: Holland), hex (what does this mean? -german Hexe means "witch" in english), larch (german: Laerche), luck (german: Glueck), muffin (no german equivalent, only in recent years the english word has become more and more common), rocket (german: Rakete), rub (german: reiben), scoop (german: schoepfen), shirk (scoundrel) (german: Schurke), sling (german: Schlinge or Schleuder), snorkel (german: Schnorchel), stroll (wander) (german: schlendern or bummeln), tackle (apparatus) (german: Geraet), veneer (german: Furnier), waylay (german: auflauern), wrangle (german: zanken, streiten),

some of the word have a slight resemblance to the german equivalent (e.g. larch - Laerche) but in my opinion this does not justify them to be considered as "borrowed" from German. Where did you collect these words? I hope I could help you.



Teuvo Telaranta

Thank you for an interesting collection in borrow.html.

Unfortunately a big work has always some opportunities of errors to sneak in. The "Finnish (Finland, Russia)" heading is misleading:

Finnish language is mainly spoken in Finland, located in between Sweden and Russia. There is a big Finnish language minority in Sweden as well. It is *not* spoken in Russia in any remarkable extent, an exception being a tiny group of Finnish people "stuck" in Inkeri (now part of Russia) nearly hundred years ago.

I would appreciate a correction.Best regards.


Milton Feldman

You satisfied nicely my inquiry regarding Russian loan words. There is a marvelous word in English from the Sanskrit word Maya, the word Magic, something that does not actually exist, a figment of the imagination. I have enjoyed sailing but have never purchased a sail boat. I named my imaginary boat Magic. The word Ketchup I believe comes from Malay. It was a fish sauce that clipper ship sailors purchased on their return trip from China.

KryssTal Reply: Thanks for the note. Your origin of magic is very interesting. I used to have ketchup under Malay until I traced it back further to one of the Chinese languages.



Greetings from Connecticut, USA.

Thank you for putting together such an interesting website. As a lover of all trivia knowledge, I'm getting a lot of useful info. I just wanted to inform you of an inaccuracy I found in your database of word origins. Under Cree, you list Winnipeg as a Canadian province. Winnipeg is the capital city of the province named Manitoba. So the question then is, does Manitoba = swamps or does Winnipeg = swamps?

Thanks again for all the great info.

KryssTal Reply: Sorry for my geographical error. Winnipeg is of course a Canadian city. It will be corrected.

One more...

Your entry referring to "Missouri" as meaning muddy waters in Algonquin. I thought it meant something to do with big canoes so I went to a webpage from the state of Missouri and found this: Origin of state's name: Named after Missouri Indian tribe whose name means "town of the large canoes"

Thought it might help...

KryssTal Reply: Done. Thank you for your time and effort.

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d jalonen

"Winnipeg" means muddy water.
Reference: Common knowledge (here in Winnipeg)

the likeliest source is the Cree maniot-wapow (SIC), "the strait of the spirit or manitobau." This name refers to the roaring sound produced by pebbles on a beach on Manitoba Island in Lake Manitoba. The Cree believed the noise sounded like a manito, a spirit, beating a drum. It has also been suggested that the name comes from the Assiniboine words mini and tobow, meaning "Lake of the Prairie."



Michael McCafferty
307 Memorial Hall
Indiana University
Bloomington, Indiana 47405

Various attributions that you offer for American Indian languages are either incorrect or too broad.

KryssTal Reply: Clarify, please

I will gladly. Give me some time. I'm very busy these days. One that I remember is "Illinois". It's way off. :-)

* * * * * * * *

Missouri: simply 'canoe'

Wisconsin has no known derivation. The original French form was "Misconsing", which doesn't make any sense in any Algonquian language, although the form certainly suggests an Algonquian origin. The initial M was changed to W because of amanuensis mistake.

"Michigan" did not come into English from Cree. It came into English from French, and the French got it from the Ottawa.

Neither did "chipmunk, opossum, pow-wow, skunk, squash, squaw. These all came into English from Eastern Algonquian languages. I would have to look at files at home to tell you exactly which ones. I believe 'squaw' came into the language in 1609 from Penobscot. "Opossum" came into the language from Powhatan. I'll let you know more when I have a chance to go into this deeper.

"Kentucky" is from Mohawk (an Iroquian language as you correctly state) but the term means 'at the prairie', in reference to the prairies in that state.

"Ohio" was incorrectly translated into French as "La Belle Riviere" (the Beautiful River), whence you got your translation. The term actually means 'big river'. It is a cognate of the Algonquian term "Mississippi". In Seneca the term is /ohiiyo?/, where ? = a glottal stop. /o-/ is a noun prefix with no meaning, /-h-/ is 'river', /(i)iyo/ 'be big', ? is a noun suffix with no meaning.

"Connecticut" does not look like "tidal river" in any Eastern Algonquian language. I'd have to look into this deeper.

"Ottawa" is simply 'trader'. The term exists in various forms throughout the Algonquian languages.

"Chicago" denote "skunk" but connotes 'wild leek'. The term did not come into English from Potawatomi, but from Miami-Illinois /$ikaakwa/, where /$/ = English "sh".

Because of the mistakes that your webpage has with regard to Algonquian languages, I would be "fine-tooth-comb" your translations of terms from other Native languages. Just some advice. Overall, however, I enjoyed your website very much. It's quite nice. (BTW, I'm an Algonquian linguist.)

KryssTal Reply: Thanks very much. I will of course check again and update any errors. I appreciate your time and effort.

* * * * * * * *

Just rereading this and will add a couple more comments before moving on.

On Thu, 8 Mar 2001, Michael Mccafferty wrote:

Missouri: simply 'canoe'.

BTW, this term comes from Miami-Illinois. /mihsoori/ "Michigan" did not come into English from Cree. It came into English from French, and the French got it from the Ottawa. The original Ottawa form is /mi$ikami/ 'great water'.

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I have taught a course in the history of the English language and was just browsing through the web the other day looking for etymology sites when I stumbled across yours. I really like it.

I got a couple minutes this morning, so here're a few more things below:

Missouri: simply 'canoe'.

Actually...I just wasn't thinking clearly when I sent you this. Your meaning for the term is sound. What I did was simply use the direct translation rather than look at the breakdown of the term itself, which is mihs- 'big' -oor- 'boat -i inanimate noun ending.

So, your translation is etymologically speaking quite good. :)

Neither did "chipmunk, opossum, pow-wow, skunk, squash, squaw. These all came into English from Eastern Algonquian languages. I would have to look at files at home to tell you exactly which ones. I believe 'squaw' came into the language in 1609 from Penobscot. "Opossum" came into the language from Powhatan. I'll let you know more when I have a chance to go into this deeper. Yes, 'opossum' did come into English in Virginia (John Smith et al.) and is a loan from Powhatan. Smith writes "hath an head like a swine...tail like a rat...of the bigness of a cat". In Powhatan the term is aapassem (where e= the vowel sound in English 'say'. This is a really interesting term as far I'm concerned. It comes from Proto-Algonquian *wa:pa?0emwa (: = long vowel; ? = glottal stop; 0 = theta, the th sound in 'thanks'. The PA term means 'white dog', from wa:p 'white' + -a?0emw- 'dog' and -a the animate noun ending.

'squaw' comes from Proto-Algonquian *-e0kwe: meaning 'woman, female'. Someone recently told me it came into English in Massachusetts in 1609 from Penobscot. It's **everywhere** in the Algonquian languages, so the likelihood of its coming into English from Cree (a language spoken northwest of Lake Superior) is highly unlikely.

'pow-wow' either came into English in Massachusetts or Virginia. I'm not sure which. The original meaning is 'dream' (PA *pa:w-). It has an interesting etymology in English. I believe it came in first as 'shaman', i.e., a dreamer, and then became 'a group of shamans' and then just 'a group' or 'a meeting'.

I'll get to these other ones when I have more time. But before I go :-)

"Kentucky" is from Mohawk (an Iroquian language as you correctly state) but the term means 'at the prairie', in reference to the prairies in that state.

In Mohawk this is ke~hta`:ke and in Seneca ke~hta?keh (the ~ indicates that the preceding vowel is nasalized and the ` is a grave accent) 'at the prairie'

KryssTal Reply: Wow, I'm impressed. Again thank you for your time. I will be updating the site once my wife has selected the colour scheme for our new house (I have to pretend I'm paying attention!).

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I'm on my way to class, but I actually stopped by an e-mail contraption because it occurred to me that in my first message to you, I mentioned "Illinois" but forgot to mention it again. This is an interesting term. To understand it, one must first realize that in the 17th and 18th century, French speakers in the New World pronounced -ois not as [wa] as in modern French but as [we] (like "way" kinda).

'Illinois' is from Miami /ilenweewa/ 'he speaks in a normal way' (referring to the Illinois Indians who spoke the same language as the Miami.

Neat, huh? :-)

Hope that color scheme pleases.


Steve Watson

Hi, Maybe you can check on/add to the origins of these imported words

safari (=trip, in Swahili)

mesa (=table, in Swahili) (is this originally from Spanish?) (in English, it means flatlands, as in cowboy movies) : )

enjoy your site...

steve w. in korea

KryssTal Reply: Thanks for your email.

Safar is Arabic for journey while mesa is indeed Spanish. This is weird. When I was in Korea in 1988, I met a student on the metro who was studying Swahili.

Good luck


Joe from Hradec Kralove

Hi, I am Czech. So I have a few comments about the Czech section.

This famous explosive is produced 20 lms South of the place I live. The city where is the factory is called Pardubice. Semtex is the product name only. There is no location called Semtex.

This word was invented by Karel Capek (Czech writer) when he was writing about the dangers of artifical inteligence. "Robota" is forced labour. However, a "robot" is a machine that is a artificial forced worker.

I hope the above is understandabe. Anyway ur site is great.



The explosive is named after Semtin, a suburb of Pardubice in eastern Bohemia where the compound was first manufactured. It was invented in 1966 by Stanislav Brebera.


James Meyer-Bejdl


With respect to Romanian words borrowed by English, I'd like to point out that your meaning for Dracula is incorrect. Dracula means nothing in Romanian (in fact it's a grammatical impossibility). The word it's a corruption of is Dracul (or possibly Dracule, which is the vocative form of the same word). Dracul does not mean the snake and nor does it mean the dragon as is often said (the Romanian for dragon being balaur). It actually means "the devil", drac being devil/satan and -ul being the masculine definite article as seen in the common mildly offensive phrase, "Du-te dracului", or "Go to the devil", dracului being the masculine, definite, genitive/accusative form of the word. Another point I'd make is that the word rendered pastrami in English is actually pastrama in Romanian - probably got confused with salami.

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