English is a Germanic language, having a grammar and core vocabulary inherited from Proto-Germanic. However, a significant portion of the English wordhoard comes from Romance and Latinate sources. Estimates of native words (derived from Old English) range from 20%–33%, with the rest made up of foreign borrowings. (These estimates, however, are based on the total raw counts of dictionary entries, where the frequency of use for most non-native words is low to nil.
The true percent of native words used in everyday spoken and written English actually ranges from 75%–90%. A large number of these borrowings come directly from Latin, or through one of the Romance languages, particularly Anglo-Norman and French, but some also from Italian, Portuguese, and Spanish; or from other languages (such as Gothic, Frankish or Greek) into Latin and then into English. The influence of Latin in English, therefore, is primarily lexical in nature, being confined mainly to words derived from Latin roots.
Word origins. A computerised survey of about 80,000 words in the old Shorter Oxford Dictionary (3rd ed.) was published in Ordered Profusion by Thomas Finkenstaedt and Dieter Wolff (1973) that estimated the origin of English words as follows:
Influences in English vocabulary Langue d’oïl, including French and Old Norman: 28.3%
Latin, including modern scientific and technical Latin: 28.24%
Germanic languages – inherited from Old English, from Proto-Germanic, or a more recent borrowing from a Germanic language such as Old Norse; does not include Germanic words borrowed from a Romance language, i.e., coming from the Germanic element in French, Latin or other Romance languages: 25%
No etymology given: 4.03%
Derived from proper names: 3.28%
All other languages: less than 1%
A survey by Joseph M. Williams in Origins of the English Language of 10,000 words taken from several thousand business letters gave this set of statistics:
French (langue d’oïl): 41%
“Native” English: 33%
Old Norse: 5%
Based on the above, the percentage of Latin words used in formal business context (15%) is substantially lower than that of the dictionary survey (28.24%) due primarily to the effects of linguistic register, where the vast majority of Latin words in English tend to be of a scientific or technical nature, or consist of words which are rarely to never used (i.e. are functionally obsolete).
Loanwords from Latin
The English language has borrowed extensively from the Latin language beginning during the Germanic period before English was English through the Old English period and up to the early Modern English period. The earliest Latin loanwords date from the period before the Germanic tribes invaded England under invite from the Britons. Latin borrowings continued throughout the Old English period. English again borrowed heavily from Latin during the Early Modern period during which many scholars imported many Latin loanwords. Although English is a Germanic language, many common and everyday words are of Latin origin.
List of Latin Loanwords
With all the loanwords borrowed from Latin into English, an exhaustive list would be too lengthy to be possible. The following are some of the commonly used Latin loanwords in English:
Agile, abdomen, album, alien, anatomy, animate, animosity, anchor, annual, apostle, area, audio, bacteria, bonus, bovine, butter, Caesar, cancer, canine, capsule, cervix, chalk, cheese, circle, circus, city, civil, chest, church, comet, compensate, color, colossus, complex, consider, contemplate, data, decide, dexterity, deity, discus, disc, disciple, dish, disk, domestic, ego, emperor, equilibrium, erupt, et cetera, excavate, expensive, fauna, feline, feminine, fictitious, flora, floral, formula, fungus, general, genius, genus, gradual, habitual, habitat, honor, id, ignite, immoral, immortality, inertia, infinite, ingenious, insane, interim, janitor, judge, kettle, kitchen, lachrymose, latex, legal, libido, lingua franca, literature, lunar, manual, master, martyr, media, meditate, memento, memorandum, memory, mile, minus, moment, momentum, moral, noble, nocturnal, notorious, opera, orbit, ovum, paper, patron, pauper, pavement, pendulum, peninsula, pepper, percent, persona, physician, plus, pound, propaganda, referendum, regal, revise, rural, sack, series, sex, sickle, similar, simile, status, stimulus, street, subpoena, superego, superintendent, tabula rasa, temple, title, ultimate, vehicle, verbatim, vertigo, vice versa, video, vindicate, wall, wine.
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