20th century loanwords

Loanwords are words brought into one country from another. Words are generally 'loaned' when two different cultures come into contact with each other. This might be because of immigration, trade, fashions or foods, travellers tales, the arts (paintings, books, poetry or film), technologies, wars or colonisation.


Most loan words tend to be nouns. New objects or attitudes coming from abroad need new words, and often the loaners adopt the original word as their own.


The following are all words that have entered the English language over the course of the twentieth century. Some are used more in America, others are more typically British. Many of these words have arisen through military contact - a number of them relate to war, conflict or the political climate of the period. The other words have entered through cultural contact, and relate to things like food, sport, music and popular culture. Look in an etymological dictionary, or in the Oxford English Dictionary (you'll find a copy in your local library) to find out more about the definitions and origins of these words.

Politics and Conflict

1939 blitz - German

1975 refusenik - Russian

1920 putsch - Swiss German

1986 glasnost - Russian

1941 apparatchik - Russian

1927 apartheid - Afrikaans

1933 czar - Russian (the word had been used in English for centuries to describe the occupant of the Russian throne, but this is the first citing of its modern usage as in "drugs czar" etc.)

1920 bolshy - Russian (we've broadened the meaning from the Russian word Bolshevik and it's now more commonly used as an adjective to describe a teenager than to describe a political revolutionary)

1905 pogrom - Russian

1908 detente - French

1931 kibbutz - modern Hebrew

1946 gulag - Russian (an acronym)

1970 Kalashnikov - Russian

1914 realpolitik- German

1931 taoiseach - Irish Gaelic

1964 ninja - Japanese


Culinary terms

1984 balti- Hindi (?)

1935  pizza- Italian

1975 nouvelle cuisine - French

1985 ciabatta- Italian

1958  baguette- French

1928 croissant- French

1905  aperitif - French

1926 haute cuisine - French

1932 bagel- Yiddish

1960  tsatsiki - Turkish

1922  bistro- French

1945  espresso- Italian

1927 pavlova- Russian

1954  deli- German (first cited usage of abbreviation from delicatessen)

1926  smorgasbord- Swedish

1952 wok- Cantonese

1958 doner kebab- Turkish

1903 chow mein- Cantonese

1934 satay- Malaysian

1910 taramasalata- Turkish

1949 nacho- Mexican Spanish

1949 taco- Mexican Spanish

1946 langoustine- French

1989 latte- Italian

1948cappuccino- Italian


Sporting terms

1927 langlauf- German

1938  lutz-  Swiss

1905 luge- French

1921  salchow- Swedish

1967 tae kwon do- Korean

1955 karate - Japanese

1966 kung fu- Cantonese

1929 piste- French

1954 après-sk - French

1921 slalom- Norwegian


Popular culture

1966 craic (crack) - Irish Gaelic

1998 ragga- Jamaican Patois

1981 paparazzi- Italian

1947bikini  - Marshall Islands

1979 karaoke- Japanese

1981walkman- 'Japanese English' (note the morphological structure - if this were a 'natural' compound word, then it would probably have been 'walking-man'. Note also the plural walkmans, not walkme n!)

1966 art deco- French (abbreviation of art décoratif)

1924 anorak- Greenland eskimo

1997 tamagotchi- Japanese

1980 Rubik's cube- Hungarian

1957 lego- Danish

1915 yo-yo - Philippines


1924 angst- German

1902 ubermensch- German

1922 shlep- Yiddish

1930 schnozzle- Yiddish

1945 chutzpah- Yiddish

1912 verboten- German

1924 kaputt- German


Recent entries

gravadlax- Swedish

chav- Romany

chuddies- Hindi

doosra - Hindi/Urdu

fatwah- Arabic


Loan your own words

Your task is to collect words from abroad that have not yet made their way into the English language. You might do this by speaking to people from abroad, or to those that speak different languages - either people in your class, or people in your community. You could also find words in non-English cookery books, or in foreign films. Try to find words that you think would make a good addition to the English language - the words might sound very good, or may perfectly represent something that is new to British culture (a new type of food, a political event, a new technology etc) - or they may represent something you'd like to be introduced to Britain in the future. Create a list of your new loanwords, and make an effort to start using them in your everyday conversations. After a week, check whether any of these words have stuck, and are now familiar to your classmates or your family. Do some words stick better than others? Why might this be?


The Olympic Menu

You have been asked by the mayor of London to organise a banquet for a group of Olympic athletes. Attending the banquet are athletes from each of the following countries:













Some of these athletes are very fussy and will only eat food that they know and love. You must put together a menu that includes at least one dish from each of the athletes' countries of origin. But the dishes you choose have to be available in this country. By the way, their coaches have said, just this once, they don't have to stick to special athletes' diets!