As a follow up to our earlier post on five English words that evolved from other language, here are another five.
Language of Origin: Hebrew
The Hebrew word kerubh meant “winged angel” and may have related to the Akkadian “karabu” or to bless. During the Jewish and Grecian cultural exchange that surrounded early Christianity, the word became the Greek word cheroub and then the Latin cherub. When Latin became the language of the medieval church, words like cherub moved into the English language.
The original cherubim in the Psalms are not fat naked babies with weapons. They emanated intense power and stood between sinners and God as a reminder of his holiness: a cherub guarded the Garden of Eden after Adam and Eve left, and two cherubim sheltered the untouchable Ark of the Covenant. Over time, the Catholic Church has used the word to instead symbolize the spread of cultural European Christianity.
Language of Origin: German
Popular media has the special power to sometimes popularize words. In 1939, during the Second World War, a reporter used the word “blitz” to describe rapid action. The original German word means “lightning” – which is about how fast the word caught on to symbolize Germany consistent attacks on Britain. A few years late, linguist Karl F. Koenig documented the words incorporation into the English language in the 1943 Modern Language Journal.
Language of Origin: Japan
You probably already knew that karaoke and ramen came to English from the Japanese language, but soy may seem more inherently European. Technically, it is – the English received the word from the Dutch word “saio” in the 1670s, when means a soy-based sauce for fish. The Dutch had a presence in Japan due to long-standing trade agreements. The Dutch took their word saio from the Japanese word “shoyu,” which meant only soy, and came from the Chinese word “shi-yu”: fermented bean oil.
Language of Origin: Arabic
Al-kuhul means a kind of make-up, a powder for darkening eyelids. Arab scientists have added many mathematical and technological terms to the English language via contact with the Romans and the Greeks during the intense communication networks of the early world, and finally via conflict with the English during the Crusades.
In the 1540s, alcohol meant a sublimated powder in Latin, and English speakers used the word as “powdered cosmetic.” In the 1670s it began to mean the sublimated, pure essence of anything, even liquids. The alcohol of wine, in 1753, became shortened simply to alcohol. When the chemical formula of that “pure essence” was understood, organic chemists in the 1850s began to name all its chemical relatives alcohols as well.
Language of Origin: Hindi
During British imperialism of India, both cultures began to speak an ‘Anglo-Indian’. The Anglo-Indian word shampoo, “to massage,” originally came from the Hindi champna, “to press, knead,” but became stuck in the imperative “you! knead!” form, champo. Champna may have come from the Sanskrit capayati, “pounds, kneads.”
In 1860 an English-speaker recorded a creative “wash the hair” meaning for shampoo, as English speakers would press or knead soap into their scalps. The noun form of “hair-soap” appeared shortly after