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A loanword (or loan word) is a word borrowed from one language and incorporated into another.[1]



By contrast, a calque or loan translation is a related concept, whereby it is the meaning or idiom that is borrowed rather than the lexical item itself. The word loanword is itself a calque of the German Lehnwort,[2] while calque is a loanword from French.


Certain classes of words are more commonly borrowed than others, usually words for exotic concepts or ideas. What is "exotic" varies from language to language. Thus, English names for creatures not native to Great Britain are almost always loanwords, and most of the technical vocabulary referring to classical music is borrowed from Italian.

By contrast, function words such as pronouns, numbers, and words referring to universal concepts, are usually not borrowed, but have been in some cases (e.g., English they from Old Norse þeir).


The studies by Werner Betz (1949, 1959), Einar Haugen (1950, also 1956), and Uriel Weinreich (1953) are regarded as the classical theoretical works on loan influence[3]. The basic theoretical statements all depart from Betz’s nomenclature. Duckworth (1977) enlarges Betz’s scheme by the type “partial substitution” and supplements the system with English terms[4]:

On the basis of an importation-substitution distinction, Haugen (1950: 214f.) distinguishes three basic groups of borrowings: “(1) Loanwords show morphemic importation without substitution. [. . .]. (2) Loanblends show morphemic substitution as well as importation. [. . .]. (3) Loanshifts show morphemic substitution without importation”. Haugen has later refined (1956) his model in a review of Gneuss’s (1955) book on Old English loan coinages, whose classification, in turn, is the one by Betz (1949) again.

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