Origins: English Words with Foreign Roots

These words are spoken every day, but where do they actually come from? The answer lies in a rich tapestry of cultures and languages from every corner of the globe. Find out where words such as whiskey, chocolate and government originated and explore the cultural context behind their introduction into the English language.

Featuring subject matter expert

Oliver Kamm
Oliver Kamm

Leader Writer and Columnist at The Times

Oliver Kamm is a leader writer and columnist for The Times. He joined the newspaper in 2008 and now writes popular weekly columns on language and the economy.

Why do we adopt foreign words into the English language?

Because they're useful. If there is a need for it then people will either coin a word or import it from another language. Our French cousins are always doing this. The Académie française is supposed to safeguard the purity of French, but of course they can't do it. Young French people will import useful terms from English, and we do the same.

Course Overview

  • Explore why English, which stems from a language spoken by Germanic tribes, has so many French and Latin words.
  • Discover how the exploration of new places across the globe led to the assimilation of new vocabulary to describe unfamiliar objects, plants and animals.
  • Observe the long and meaningful relationship between Old English and Norman French and how it contributed to the eventual development of Old English into Middle English.
  • Trace how the English language is continually changing with each generation, adding new words to account for new cultural experiences and innovations.
Course content
  • 9 Full HD Video Lectures
  • Downloadable Course Handouts
  • Knowledge Assessment Quiz
  • Interactive Group Discussion Task
  • Q&A Session with a Subject Matter Expert
  • Certificate of Achievement





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