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What Are Loanwords?

Huolla! What are loanwords? English has been borrowing from other languages for years. Language contact happens when speakers of different languages interact and influence each other. Let’s take a look at some loanwords in English from languages like French, Italian, German, Spanish and Chinese.


  • A la carte (adj.) literally means “according to the menu card”. The word “carte” means menu card. It refers to individual food dish ordered, rather than part of a set meal. Say, you’d like to have only fries at McDonalds, you’d order it as an a la carte.
  • Entrepreneur (n.): A person that starts a business or a businessman. For example, “Jeff Bezos is one of the most famous entrepreneurs. He founded the company called Amazon and is one of the richest person in the world.” Something that sounds close to this is another English word, “enterprise”, to refer to the business or company.


  • There are so many words in English that originated from the Italian language! Food terms such as pasta, pizza, cappuccino, salami! Musical terms like piano, concert, opera!


  • Doppelgänger (n.): Doppelgänger means “double goer” in German. It refers to someone that looks exactly the same as you, but not related to you. In old folklores, one believed that seeing a doppelgänger was a bad omen or bad luck — It’s a sign of one’s imminent death.
  • Kindergarten literally means “children’s garden”. It refers to a school kids go to before primary school. “My little brother attends kindergarten


  • Macho refers to someone who is strong and masculine. That man in the gym is very macho! He has big muscles and is able to lift heavy objects.
  • Plaza literally means “a place”. In English, it refers to the public square or open space. For example, “The plaza in Madrid is lively in the evening when the cafes by the pavements are full with people.”


  • Chop chop! Let’s go! You’ve probably heard or used it before when you’re rushing to go somewhere and don’t wanna be late. It means hurry or quickly. It suggests that something needs to be done now and without any delay.
  • Ketchup sounds very American, right? It’s the classic sauce we put on our hamburgers, hot dogs and french fries. It is however not an English word! The word “ketchup” apparently comes from Chinese “ke chiap”, the brine of pickled fish. So, ketchup really originated from a thin soy sauce made from fermented fish. The British liked it so much when they came to Asia that they brought it back to England and experimented with other ingredients. Tomato-based ketchup is the most common one nowadays.

So, what are loanwords? I hope you have learnt more about the origins of some English words and I’ll see you next time!

What Are Loanwords?

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Ms. Azmeera

As a tutor, Ms Azmeera has acquired insight and experience in teaching primary level English. With her years of experience in the private education sector, she wishes to motivate and inspire her students to fall in love with the English language.

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