A Diverse Germanic Stream: Germanic Loanwords into English from German, Dutch/Low German, and even the Romance Languages


By J. Wes Ulm, MD, PhD

Medical researcher, physician, linguist, and author

Echoes of the Mystic Chords: A Novel, Book One of The Leibniz Demon Trilogy



Although Greco-Latin and the Latin-based Romance languages by far predominate as the principal sources of loanwords into the English language, English has also absorbed thousands of words from its Germanic cousins as well. Of these, the most important source is the Old Norse spoken by the Danish Vikings who settled alongside the Anglo-Saxons. Yet a surprisingly large number of significant English words hail from lesser-known Germanic sources: from German (High Herman), Dutch and Low German, and even from the Germanic (primarily Frankish) substratum of Romance languages like Old French. Some defining examples are provided here.




English loanwords from High German:


achtung, alkyl, angst, aspirin, autobahn, Baedeker, bagel, Bakelite, Bauhaus, benzene, bildungsroman, Birkenstock, blitz, bratwurst, bum, burgher, cadmium,  carouse, chic, coach, cobalt, cologne, delicatessen, diesel, diktat, doberman, dollar, doppelgänger, dreck, EKG, enzyme, ersatz, ester, etch, extrovert, Fahrenheit, fake, Faustian, feldspar, fest, flak, Föhn, frank, frankfurter, fresh (frech), (on the) fritz, gangue, gedankenexperiment, gemisch, gestalt, glitch, glitz, glockenspiel, groschen, halt, hamburger, hamster, hausfrau, hemoglobin, hertz (unit of frequency), hex, hinterland, holster, Holstein, hoodlum, howitzer, hut, introvert, kaffeeklatsch, kaput, katzenjammer, kegler, kibitz, kindergarten, kitsch, klatsch, Klein bottle, klutz, kohlrabi, kriegspiel, Kriss Kringle, kulturkampf, kvetch, lager, leitmotif, lied, lithograph, liverwurst, lox, lumpen, lumpenproletariat, lutz, mach, Marxist, meerschaum, meisterwerk, mensch, Mercedes, mesmerize, mittelschmerz, Möbius strip, mole (chem), neuron, nickel, noodle, nosh, ohm, Oktoberfest, panzer, paraffin, pilsner, pistol, plunder, poker, poltergeist, poodle, pretzel, protein, pumpernickel, putsch, quartz, quetsch, realpolitik, riesling, ritz, ritzy, Rorschach test, rottweiler, rucksack, saber, sadistic, sauerkraut, schadenfreude, schlep, schlock, schmaltz, schmutz, schnauzer, schnorrer, schreck, schtick, seltzer, shirk, shyster, sitz bath, snorkel, spiel, spitz, spritzer, spruce, statistics, stein, strafe, stroll, strudel, sturm und drang, swindle, taxicab, toluene, torte, tryptophan, über (uber- as prefix), umlaut, vampire, veneer (fascinating etymology), waltz, weltanschauung, weltschmerz, wiener, wunderkind, wurlitzer, wurst, yodel, yokel, zaftig, zeitgeist, zeppelin, zinc, zircon, zither, zugzwang


Examples of more heavily specialized scientific terms imported from German (often coined into German initially from Greek or Latin roots): Aufbau (principle), blende, bremsstrahlung, E and Z isomers (organic chemistry), eigenfunction, eigenvalue, Ganzfeld effect, gauss, grubelsucht, Kocher maneuver, Kussmaul respiration, meiosis, mitosis, Pfannenstiel (surgical incision), phagocyte, porphyrin, raubwirtschaft, sprachbund, sprachraum, stammtisch. Struvite, thalweg, thermite, Trendelenburg position, ursprache, weber, zwitterions,




English loanwords from Dutch or Low German:


bluff, bluster, boss, boulevard (from bulwark), bounce, brake, brandy, brawl, brink, bubble, buckwheat, bully (interesting like boss and related to brother Gmn similar word roots not same meaning), bulwark, bundle, clump, cookie, crimp, cruller, deck, dote, drug, duffle, filibuster, fob, foist, freight, girl, glare, glib, grab, gruesome, gruff, gulp, hoist, huckster, huddle, iceberg, jab, jump, kit, lack, litmus, loiter, lump, mope, mud, muddle, muff and muffle (tho orig fr. French and Latin), mumps, nap (as noun), nibble, ogle, pack, pad, pamper, peg, pink, plug, poll, prank, quack, rant, rip, roster, rumble, scamper (orig Latin), scrabble, scramble, shudder, sip, skate, sled, slim, slovenly, smug, smuggle (Gmn also imported from Dutch), snack, snip, sputter, stoke, stubble (Gmn Stoppel also fr LG and this orig Latin), stump, stutter, suds, swab, switch, tackle, tip (noun), toy, trade, tram, tramp, trample, trawl, trek, trigger, trim, tub, tuck, waffle, wagon, wainscoting, welter, wiggle, wrack, wriggle, yacht, yankee,



English loanwords from Romance languages, predominantly the Germanic substratum of French (Frankish, Burgundian, Old Norse):


afraid, allegiance, allure, ambush, arrange, attack, award, bacon, baggage, balcony, bale, balloon, banal, band, bandit, banish, bank, banner, banquet, bargain, baron, baste, blank, blasé, blister, block, blond, blue, bouquet, bordello, border, bourgeois, braise, brawn, brick, brioche, broil, browse, brunette, bucket, buoy, butcher, butt, button, carouse, chagrin, chic, chicanery, coach, coat, contraband, creche, crochet, croquet, crotch, crotchet, crouch, croupier, crush, dance (interesting etym hx, repl OE sealtian which was a lnw fr Latin but dance is Gmc), disguise, drug, enamel, engrave, equip, escrow, etiquette, fauvism, fee, feud (German orig), fiasco, filter, flank, flask, flinch, flounce, franchise, frank, fray, fresh, frisky, fur, furnish, gable, gain, gallop, garage, garden, garment, garnish, garrison, gauche, gauge, gauntlet, gibbet, goal, grape, grate, grimace, group, growl, gruel, guarantee, guard, guide, guise, haggard, hamper, hangar, harass, harbinger, hardy, harness, harpoon, hash, haste, hatchet, haunt, herald, hobby, install, label, lampoon, lattice, lecherous, list, lobby, lure, mail, march, marquee, marquise, marshal, massacre, morass, park, pawn, peon (related to pawn), perform, pioneer, pledge, pocket, pouch, rabbit, race, ramp, rampage, rampant, ranch, random, range, rank, refurbish, regard, regret, remark, reward, rifle, rink, roast, robe, rocket, rummage, saber (possibly Hungarian), salon, saloon, scale (on fish), scarf, scavenger, screen, scrimmage, scroll, seize, shock, shop, skiff,skirmish, slate, slice, soup, spy, stampede, standard, stout, sturgeon (resembles Ger orig), strife, strive, tampon, ticket, toupee, towel, track, trampoline (in Sp and Ital), trip, troop, trot, vagrant, wage, wait, waive, wallop, war, warble, wardrobe, warrant, warranty,



Words for which English (a Germanic language) uses a Latin root while French (a Romance language) uses a Germanic root:


curb (French bord de trottoir), custody (garde), curtain (rideau), display (étalage), the flu (grippe), unexpected defeat (contre-performance), frown (froncer les sourcils), gare (train station), bailiff (huissier), pantry (garde-manger), save (épargner), squat (s’ accroupir), to store (ranger), dress (robe



Other examples of Germanic-derived French vocabulary in common parlance:

s’accrocher, affrayer, s’avachir, bateau, beffroi, blesser, blinder, bois, bord, brèche, briser, canif, (compass points), se cramponner, la crique, houx, lambeau, lippe, rifle, taisson, laniere, la cruche, le dogue, l’ecale, emballer, épargner, -esque, la fange, flocon, flotter, gâteau, gratter, griffe, grimper, grippe, gripper, gris, guére, guérir, échasse, havre, l’éclat, l’échoppe, éclisse, l’haine, hisser, l’honte, l’étal, l’étalage, le fauve, l’havre, friper, marque, le matelot, navré, fiasco (from It.), rattacher, renard, ride, souhaiter, standard, tomber, tourbe, tracasser, guichet, la stalle


Please feel free to quote from, print, and cite this essay as, “D A Diverse Germanic Stream: Germanic Loanwords into English from German, Dutch/Low German, and even the Romance Languages,” by J. Wes Ulm, originally published on Harvard University personal website, URL: https://wesulm.angelfire.com/languages/germanic_loanwords  , © 2016.


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