The English language has been influenced by many languages over time from German  and Celtic to Spanish and Dutch, languages have “lent” their words to English throughout history due to war, trade and politics. It could be said that English has been influenced most by the French language with estimates putting the amount of French words used in the English language at around 30% of a standard English dictionary. These include standalone French words that have been incorporated into the English language as well as French words combined with English influence and English words with French influence. Much of the French language that now appears in the English language has been imported over the centuries following the Norman invasion in 1066, where William the Conqueror took to the Throne of England and the Norman language began to be used for administration purposes and by the ruling elite. Over time Norman French was incorporated into Old English and formed the building blocks of the modern English spoken today. Some of these French loanwords are still noticeable in the English language today so we thought we’d take a look at 10 French loanwords that are used in English on a daily basis.
Ambulances have been a well know concept in military terms since the 15th century, but it wasn’t until the 19th century that ambulances were used to treat civilian populations; the word is of French origins and means “walking hospitals”.
Chauffers may be drivers to the Rich and Famous but the word can find it’s origins in 19th century France when cars were steam powered, much like the rail roads, meaning the driver would literally have to stoke the fire of the car as he drove; giving the French meaning of “stoker”.
Dossiers have become somewhat derogatory terms for reports with bad news contained with in them or a file from a whistle blower the government might not have wanted seen, but this French word means nothing more than a “bundle of documents”.
An Entrepreneur is a French loanword for an individual who obtains money through risk and initiative, launching new businesses and accepting full responsibility for the outcome.
Faux Pas are violations of socially acceptable and cultural norms; the term finds it’s origins in French translations of “misstep” or “false step”.
Some words join the English language simply by being named after a place or location. Mayonnaise for example can trace its origins to Mahon in Majorca, Spain, becoming known as “maonesa” in Catalan and then Mayonnaise after it was popularized by the French.
To obtain a mortgage is one of many legal terms lent to English from French and is used by many people to by their own property. The term literally means “death contract” meaning the contract ends when the person dies or when the contract is fulfilled.
The Renaissance was a cultural movement between the 14th and 17th century that has given us some of the finest artwork and architecture in history. The word which literally means “to be reborn” wasn’t coined until the 16th century, halfway through the Renaissance period.
You may have picked up or brought a souvenir whilst on holiday or visit to another country which could have included items such as a t-shirt’s, spoons and magnates; but the literal meaning to a souvenir is “memory” and that usually lasts longer than any object you buy.
Something that is unique is something that is one of a kind and that’s exactly how it translates from French origins, translating literally as “single”.
The rich French language has lent many words to English over time enhancing the language’s diverse origins immeasurably.