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Generated : 15th June 2024



Tobie Helene Shapiro, Berkeley, California, USA

Dear Krysstal,

While doing some basic research on languages, language families, distribution and derivation, I wound up looking at the, "borrowed words," in the English section.

I looked up Yiddish, because I thought there must be dozens and dozens of borrowed words. Perhaps I overestimated because, being Jewish, these words are all around me all the time. But I found one absolutely hilarious mistake and between laughs, I really have to tell you about it.

Schmaltz. You have the actual meaning as, "dripping lard". Ahem. Lard is fat from a pig (also known in Yiddish as, "chazer", which is where the Yinglish word, "Chazerei," comes from, meaning, "pig stuff, a mess, clutter, valueless junk", etc.). Pigs, as you probably know, are not kosher. This means that Jews who keep kosher are forbidden to eat pigs or any pork product. This is such loud and common knowledge that it shook me. The juxtaposition of Lard and Yiddish was just too much to ignore. The actual literal translation of, "schmaltz," is: rendered chicken fat. This is used in lieu of butter which is a dairy product, and kashruth (Jewish dietary laws) forbid the mixing of milk and meat in the same meal. So, if you have a meat (fleishig) meal, you would never spread your bread with butter. You would use schmaltz. I've heard from some people that chicken fat sounds awful to them as a spread on anything. But, maybe it's my ethnic imperative, I love it.

Oh. I don't keep kosher. I just know this stuff.


Hermann Schachner

Dear KryssTal,

I'd like to give some comments that ran through my head reading your quite nice page on words borrowed from German. (The following doesn't claim neither to completeness nor to correctness).

I am no linguist, but a German native speaker, and some of the words listed as "borrowed from German" can't be German, as far as I know. For instance, I've never heard the German words "Dutch", "brake","scoop","rub". Where did you get these words from?

There are some interesting words that sound like German words but do have different meanings, as you mentioned above. Guess which?

"luck" sounds like "Lack", which means laqeur,varnish,paint. "clock" sounds like "Glocke", which means (church-)bell and may indicate the origin of nowadays clocks. "lager" sounds like "Lager", which means depot or stock, camp or rest, but also support in the sense of a bearing.

Nice word: "shirk" (nearly) sounds like "Schurke", which actually means rascal.

If "hex" is meant to be "hexadecimal", it is of Ancient Greek origin. ("decimal" ist Latin, of course). It may also be interpreted (in a far-fetched way) as a dialect version of "Hexe" which is no kind of representation of numbers but a witch.

The "vitamin" is an artificial word, from "Vita" ("life" in Latin) and "Amino" which designates a group of organic compounds with a characteristic NH2 - group.

"feldspar" must by "feldspat".

"schadenfreude" is my favourite - is the Anglo-Saxon part of the world that philantropic and comiserating, that there is no English term for that kind of emotion ;-) ?

Btw: What is meant to be the the place of origin of the name "dollar"?

KryssTal Reply: Danke for your kind comments.

The word lists have been collected over several years from many sources. I think your origins of shirk and clock are close to the correct. The hex I mean is a type of spell that a witch would use so that seems OK. I'll check the others. I think dollar is named after a place called Thaller.

Maybe dollar is named after "Taler", which has been a currency unit in several central-european (especially German-speaking) countries through the last few centuries. In German translations of Donald Duck Comics, Uncle Scrooge (is that name correct?), here known as "Onkel Dagobert", always takes a bath in his "Talers".

KryssTal Reply: Donald Duck Comics? I have never seen them.

How is Austria these days? I was there a couple of years back - nice coffee houses in Vienna.


Guy Barker

Dear friends,

I'm writing you in order to let you know how much I appreciate your very interesting website, and in particular the section on words borrowed from other languages into English. I hope that this section will grow over time; it appears that improvements are now underway...looks good!

As you appear to be a pair of folks who are rather interested in the nuances of language (and many other subjects as well, apparently!) I wanted to make you privy to some language quizzes I have created at the website called:

In particular, I have created some trivia quizzes at this website that cover the topic of borrowed English words. Here is a link to those quizzes:

My quizzes are listed under the username 'thejazzkickazz'. In researching the information for my quizzes, I have used your borrowed English words link for guidance, it has been very helpful! I thank you very much for the inspiration, and welcome you to give my quizzes (and perhaps some of the others listed in that area) a try, you might enjoy them. I also wanted to let you know of my plan to create more; a quiz on borrowed German words is on the way.

Speaking of this topic, I noticed that in your section on borrowed German words there are quite a few fun terms that are missing...these include: autobahn, bratwurst, delicatessen, dummkopf, ersatz, fest, gestalt, gesundheit, gneiss, glockenspeil, hausfrau, kaffeeklatsch, kaputt (though this one may be French in origin -- caput), kitsch, kummerbund, liebenstraum, lederhosen, leitmotiv, milch, muesli, nix, panzer, poltergeist, putsch, realpolitik, and many others. I could list more, but I don't want to bore you!

Anyhow, thank you kindly for the website, it's appreciated. I hope you will try my quizzes at and even consider adding a link.

KryssTal Reply: Thanks for your kind comments and additions.

I will certainly look at them once the improvements are completed. I will also look at your quizzes.


Omar Morales

I found your site great, I was looking at language web sites and came across yours. I lived in the UK (Halifax) for a year, I thought it was great. I speak Spanish, so give me a nudge if you need help with Spanish. uhhhhh, I am in the USA now.. and that's it for now.

narwhal is a WHALE, not walrus.

Icelandic (Iceland):

eider (a type of duck - its feathers are used for eiderdown), geyser (fountain), narwhal (a type of walrus), saga, Viking (frequenter of sea inlets.

KryssTal Reply: Thank you for your kind comments. My fingers typed out walrus. I'll correct it.


Chris Childs

Just a note that the Ojibwa word in use today -- Ottawa -- does not refer to the Canadian province of Ottawa, in the same way that, Spokane, for instance, is in use today to refer to the state of Spokane. Spokane is a city, in Washington. Ottawa is a city, in Ontario. You can buy things like maps that make this clear.


KryssTal Reply: Thanks.


Maggie Ka Ka Lee

Hi! I love your site! It's so innovative and educational. I found a few mistakes:

Typhoon -- actually from mandarin, not japanese
Japan -- from a dialect in Canton or possibly Fujian, not from mandarin
kowtow -- from cantonese, not mandarin
Banana -- from a language in Guinea, not Wolof

Thanks for creating such a great site!


Bibiana De Carli (15 years old)
Joaçaba - Santa Catarina - Brasil

Hey I'm from Brazil...

I was looking in "Words Borrowed from Other Languages" and some words in portuguese are written wrong.

Like: palaver is palavra and cobra meaning snake, don't hood

I hope I could help :)

KryssTal Reply: Obrigado.

It's "palaver" in English from the Portuguese "palavra" word.


John Askeland

Dear Kryss:

Stumbled over this website on a search for etymology of English words, found it very interesting.

Some comments: I originate from South Africa, so I can comment on words deriving from Afrikaans. "Slim", in Afrikaans, generally means clever or guily, I have never heard it meaning "slim" as used in English. Maybe this is an obsolete usage. A word which could be added here is "veld" (sometimes spelled in the Dutch fashion, "veldt", meaning grassy plain or savannah.

Great site!!

KryssTal Reply: Thanks a lot for that.

Looks like I may be returning to your country eclipse chasing this December (2002).


Jane Elins

I am fascinated by your wonderful website!!!! I am searching for the origin of the word hillbilly, knowing that it refers to people from Southern Appalachia. But why hill-billy, instead of hill-john, etc? Since I was born in Asheville, NC this is of special interest to me.

Thank you for any help you can give me.

KryssTal Reply: Thank you for your kind comments.

My site is UK based and I am not too familiar with USA terms or their origins.

Again, thank you for your website (which I've marked under "Favorites") and for the kindness of your reply.

© 2024, KryssTal