Latin or German? Which languages have influenced English more?

EnglishLover   Thursday, December 09, 2004, 00:57 GMT
My classmate and I got into an argument over which language influenced English more as it's evolved. My classmate said German on a basis, of well, English is categorized as a Germanic Language. However, I told him that Latin has had a huge influence on the English language; in fact, 40% of the language comes from French alone. But he refused to agree with me. So, my question is: Which language has influenced English more? Latin (and languages influenced by Latin) or German (and languages influenced by German)?

~Much thanks.~
Xatufan   Thursday, December 09, 2004, 02:43 GMT
Not German, but "Proto-Germanic" (I think)

Latin words entered the English language late. Compare "gypsum" with "yeso" (Spanish). "Yeso" has changed a lot, so I must guess it was taken from Latin much earlier.

Real German only gave the English language few stupid words like "pretzel".
Adam   Thursday, December 09, 2004, 03:08 GMT
I read somewhere that english word origins are divided about half and half between those of germanic and romantic(latin)origins. I don't know how accurate that is, so any body who knows better feel free to correct me.

I also read that of the most commonly used words in english, the vast majority are of germanic origin. Again, if any one knows this not to be true, please correct me.
Clark   Thursday, December 09, 2004, 03:41 GMT
Hello all, it has been a while...

Anyways, the general concensus on the origins of English words are thus:

Germanic: 35%
French: 30%
Greek: 2%

This is just a general way of saying that 60% of English vocabulary as we know it comes from a Romance/Italic language.
Clark   Thursday, December 09, 2004, 03:44 GMT
Ha! No, Greek should be 5%!
Jim   Thursday, December 09, 2004, 03:55 GMT
Hello again, Clark, where've you been? I don't suppose those statistics are weighted by usage, though; for I believe that what Adam writes he reads is correct, i.e. "that of the most commonly used words in english [sic], the vast majority are of germanic [sic] origin." Hay, 35%+30%+30%+5%=100%: there's no room left of Hindi, Japanese, Chinese, Arabic, Russian, etc. I wonder how "television" was counted (being half Greek and half Latin).
Brennus   Thursday, December 09, 2004, 06:30 GMT

Language Lover,

Hello. About 60% of the total words in the English lexicon are of Latin or French origin with the French words being mostly Norman French . For example, the Norman French "criquet" is the source of English "cricket" rather than Parisian French "grillon".

However, in every day spoken English words of Teutonic origin still predominate. The Largest number of Teutonic words are Anglo-Saxon in origin followed by Scandinavian then by Dutch and German. Low German has contributed more loanwords to English than High German.

A Celtic element also exists in English which is often overlooked. " Cloak and gown" are early loans from Gaulish clocca and gunna. "Bother" is an early loan from Old Irish. "Brat" and "Fiddle" aslo appear to have an Irish origin, compare Middle Irish brata "a child's blanket" and fid "wood". Welsh has given us "penguin and daffodil"; Cornish "pesky, pixie and wrass (a type of fish)". "Uncanny and raid" are Scottish Gaelic. "Whiskey and galore" could be either Scotch or Irish. Linguist Mario Pei once said that the Celtic languages have given English many of its most colorful words.

Finally, one mustn't forget the contributions of American Indian languages which came with the discovery of the New World including words like chocolate and tomato from the Aztecs and canoe, barbecue, rum and daquiri from the Caribs.
Easterner   Thursday, December 09, 2004, 07:56 GMT
>>However, in every day spoken English words of Teutonic origin still predominate.<<

Not just that, but I noticed something remarkable while reading Dylan Thomas' poems. He hardly ever used words of non Anglo-Saxon origin, at least in the poems I have read. For example, in "Do Not Go Gently Into That Good Night", there are maqybe two or three words of Romance origin, if I counted right (I am not an ethymologist). Maybe this is why his poems are so forceful.

On the other hand, whenever you want to be "elegant" in English, you tend to use words of Latin origin. Isn't that a bit weird and to some extent, snobbish? Just asking...
Easterner   Thursday, December 09, 2004, 08:03 GMT
"Maybe", sorry...

By the way, a good illustration of Dylan Thomas' poetry is this line: "If the red tickle as the cattle calve / still set to scratch a laughter from my lung". The only word I'm not completely sure about here is "cattle", all the others seem to be of Germanic origin. But of course there are other poems of his that can be quoted in full. :-)
Jordi   Thursday, December 09, 2004, 08:57 GMT
Regarding the title of the poem "gently" is certainly Romance in origin and I don't know about "night", which does exist in German but quite close to it's Latin origin, as well. Perhaps it's Indo-European since I don't have time to check.
Easterner   Thursday, December 09, 2004, 09:07 GMT
Thank you Jordi, I actually meant the whole poem, not just the title, it can be found, among others, at:
I think the use of predominantly Germanic words (apart from perhaps tfour or five) gives extra force to this poem which is already beautiful and poignant due to its subject matter alone.
Easterner   Thursday, December 09, 2004, 09:29 GMT
Sorry, I meant "apart from perhaps four or five Latin/French ones".
Fab   Thursday, December 09, 2004, 10:24 GMT

Norman and french are different, if by norman you hear the language used by normans invaders to England, it does not have any common point with the french.

French comes from Anjou, the place where came from the biggest french dinasty of french kings. Those kings who unified many different countries on the actual area of France but where people didn't use and didn't know the french language.

Norman were in that type of people like provençaux, auvergnats (even they were french since a very long time, they have been heavily influenced by the contes de Toulouse, ennemies of the french crown who spoke a language similar to catalan), vendéens, bretons, berrichons, savoyards (divided : french, swiss, italians), corses and niçois (french since a few time), bourguignons, alsaciens (germans, french, germans, french, germans, french since a few time), lorrains (germans, french since a few time), flammands (divided : french or belgian) since a few time

French has not influenced anything! just killed the other cultures!
Easterner   Thursday, December 09, 2004, 10:53 GMT
I agree with the above post in that the language of the Normans should not be called Norman French, it differed from the language of Ile-de-France both phonetically and in its vocabulary. My suggestion is that it should be called Normand, in the same way as the dialect spoken in Picardie is called Picard.


It was interesting to read about Celtic loanwords in English. What I was taught at univeristy is that the language of the Celtic inhabitants of the British Isles has left hardly any traces in English apart from a few place-names like Avon, etc. But it turns out that "hardly any" encompasses at least a few dozen words, which does make a difference. :-)
Tiffany   Thursday, December 09, 2004, 17:45 GMT
I find this all very interesting. I know someone said: "However, in every day spoken English words of Teutonic origin still predominate."

But I guess I'm still stuck on the fact that 60% of our vocabulary are of latin or normand (!) origin. So why still classify the language as Germanic? It's obviously a hybrid.