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Common English Words That Are Not 'English'

You would be surprised to know that some of the common English words that you use are not originally English. English is one language that has borrowed most heavily from other languages. Many of the English words are of French origin; its always fair to borrow from neighbours. Being a colonial power, English language traveled across the globe. English vocabulary is filled with words from a dozen different pidgins.

Here are some of the very common English word that are of foreign origin.

Ambiance: A very commonly used English word that defines 'the look and feel' of a place. It is actually a word of French origin. It is still pronounced with a lilting French note!

Fiancee: We use this casually to describe a man or woman who is engaged to be married. This word is spelled with an extra 'e' in French. As they say, the French are experts in wasting letters; to write extra letters ('e' and 't') that they do not pronounce.

Lingerie: This word standing for fashionable 'undergarments' had to be of French origin. You can know it simply from the pronunciation is bizarrely not phonetic.

Berserk: When somebody has really lost it and gone marbles or a situation that has gone haywire is described with this word. Although it is one of the most frequently used words in English vocabulary, it is not English in origin. It is an old Norse word that was used for the wild Vikings.

Khakhi: Believe it or not, Hindustani or a smattering of languages spoken in India had huge impact on the English language. 'Khaki' is the colour of most military uniforms. It means 'earthy' or 'muddy' in Hindi.

Loot: Another fairly common word that was borrowed during the British Raj in India. It stands for 'steal or robbery'. The word is usually used in different connotations now. For example, it could also mean a very heavy discount.

Robot: Surprising as it may sound, this common English word is of Czech origin. It is used to describe an automated machine that is almost human-like.

Nemesis: This word stands for an arch-rival. It is derived from an old dialect of Greek.

Status Quo: A Latin word that is used verbatim in English. It means maintaining the same state of affairs.

These are some of the most common words in English that actually have a foreign decent. How many more such words do you know?

Read more about: language bizarre
Story first published: Thursday, September 27, 2012, 16:49 [IST]