Borrowings or Loan words

“Neither a borrow, nor a lender be” (Hamlet: I. iii. l. 561).

Similar to contemporaries of other epochs, people of the Early Modern English period did not obey Polonius’s maxim. Apart from Latin and Greek, new words were drawn from French, Italian, Spanish or Portuguese. Additionally, some English words have their origins in indigenous languages of North America, Africa and Asia.

The following compilation depicts the sources of new words listed in the Chronological English Dictionary of the year 1604.

Sources of new words recorded for 1604 in the CED:

Taken from: Nevalainen 2006, 51

From the data you can conclude that borrowing was an important method of enriching the vocabulary. The main sources are Latin and French covering 60% of the new words. Words with Germanic origin in contrast, make only 20% of the Early Modern English lexis. Latin contributes the majority of loan words throughout the Early Modern English period (cf. Nevalainen 2006, 52) and thus, it outdoes the French borrowings. There are words whose etymology is unknown, but since the meaning of onomatopoeic words like “hush” and “phew” can be guessed, you can take their pronunciation as the most probable origin.

It is surprising that merely 1% of the new words are drawn from Greek since antiquity played a dominant role in the cultural life of the Renaissance. The reason for this low percentage may be due to the fact that “many Greek loans were filtered through Latin or French, and Latin loans through French” (Nevalainen 2006, 50). The term Latinate describes all three examples.