Aug 30, 2013

Influence of French on the English Language

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Today, the English language is the third most widely spoken language in the world after Mandarin and Spanish, which take the number 1 and the number 2 positions respectively. It is the official language of most of the Commonwealth countries, and is widely learned as a second language in most of the countries of the world.

Historically, English originated from the fusion of closely related dialects, now termed as Old English, which were brought to the Eastern coast of Great Britain by Germanic settlers (Anglo-Saxons) by the 5th Century. Owing to the assimilation of words from many other languages, modern English contains very large vocabulary. The Language has borrowed heavily not only from other European languages but also from many other languages of the world. The British Empire, which at one time controlled one-third of the globe, was instrumental in spreading the language across the world. The language influenced the lingua-franca of its subjects, particularly in Asia, and in turn borrowed heavily from the languages of the people governed by the Empire.  The Oxford English Dictionary lists over 2,50,000 distinct words, not including many technical, scientific and slang terms.

Latin and French by far have had the greatest influence on the English language so much so that 28% of the words in English are of Latin origin and 35% are of French Origin. 25% of the words are from Old English, 5 % from Greek and the rest 7% from others.


Here are some of the French words that are a part and parcel of the English language:


Café Commandant Renaissance Naïve Gourmet
Cliché Diplomat Sabotage Malaise Macabre
Boulevard Debris Restaurant Liaison Repertoire
Abandon Élan Regime Dossier Venue
Bonhomie Elite Premiere Debut Savant
Bizarre Penchant Prestige Cuisine Salon
Champagne Madame Rapport Melange Terrain
Brochure Lingerie Plateau Menu Sobriquet


Some French Phrases, along with their meanings, often used in the English language:


Phrases Meaning Phrases Meaning Phrases Meaning
Coup de grace The final blow that results in victory Crème de le crème Best of the best En route On the way
Esprit de corps Morale. Spirit of the body Faux pas False step, a blunder Haute couture Trend setting fashion
Haute cuisine High cuisine Idée fixe obsession Laissez faire Leaving alone
Nouveau riche Newly Rich Par excellence By excellence Prix fixe Fixed price
tête-à-tête Private conversation Tour-de-force Feat of strength vis-a-vis In comparison with
coup d’état A sudden change in government by force aide-de-camp A military assistant to a senior military office carte blanche Unlimited authority
Avant-garde applied to cutting-edge or radically innovative movements in art, music and literature Au revoir! See you later Déjà vu Already seen






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