FRENCH BORROWINGS in English

A study of the history and process of borrowings is essentially the study of the development of language. It reveals the point of contact between two people, two civilizations, two ways of living and speaking. The English language owes its profundity and richness to a number of two races – French and English came into contacts with each other on various fronts. Many French words found their way in English vocabulary. The Norman Conquest opened the door for a great influence of foreign words. The knowledge of French enabled the native people to reach the rich literature of the continent but also to high administrative positions. The French formed the upper class of the English society with the result that so many of the French words are aristocratic. It gave to English nearly all words relating to government and to the administration. These words are crown, state, government, minister, chancellor, power, country, parliament, council, people, nation, etc. Military affairs came into the hands of the result that a large number of words came from the French stock. Some of the military words are war, peace, battle arms, armor, lance, banner, navy, admiral, troops, etc. The Norman also greatly influenced the English law and religion words like justice, judge, court and religion words such as clearly sent Miracle, preach, pray, etc come from the French stock. 

There are a good number of words which relate to pleasure and enjoyment, such words are joy, pleasure, delight. The French words connected with fashion are dress, costume, tailor, mason, table, chair and carpenters. Many words relating to art and architecture were from French as art, beauty, color, design chapel, place mason. Again English owes to the French all the current terms of family relationship outside the immediate circle of the household like an uncle, aunt, and nephew, niece and cousin. French loan words continued to be adopted even after the Middle English period. With the close, the middle ages there come a marked change in the nature and character of the French influence upon English while the French word adopted by the Middle English period became an integral part of the language. The French words borrowers after the beginning of the 16th century came to be restricted to the well educated. But one thing is obvious that in every century English imported a large number of words from French vocabulary. 

  • 16th century: pilot, sally, rendezvous, volley, vase
  • 17th century: guillotine, regime, corps, bureau, nuance, picnic, police, loup

The 19th century period was the richest of all the periods in French loans since middle English times especially in terms of art and textiles and furniture with the usual borrowing of military words. The 19th-century borrowings from French may be grouped as follows :

  • Literature and Art: resume, renaissance, food, restaurant, menu chef fondant.
  • Diplomatic: attache, prestige, impasse, depacle.
  • Dress: beauty, color, design, tailor
  • Military: arm, troops, admiral, battle, war, etc.

The process of borrowings French words continued even in the 20th century. Among 20th century borrowings are garage, verse, libre, camouflage, etc. may be mentioned.

No doubt French words influenced every branch of life and letters of the land. These words entered the mainstream of the English language extending to several parts of the country. Many French words became English through assimilation and hybridism and thus its contributed much to the enrichment of the English language.

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