views updated Jun 11 2018

LOANWORD, also loan-word, loan word. A WORD taken into one language from another: in English, garage from French, leitmotif from German. Such words are, on the ANALOGY of money, both ‘loans’ from Language A to B and ‘borrowings’ by B from A. Philologists use a three-word German system to discuss the process of lending and ASSIMILATION: Gastwort, Fremdwort, Lehnwort. A Gastwort (guest-word) is an unassimilated BORROWING that has kept its pronunciation, orthography, grammar, and meaning, but is not used widely: for example, Gastwort itself, with /v/ for the W of Wort, a capital letter because it is a noun, and the alien plural Gastwörter. Such words are usually limited to the terminology of specialists and italicized and glossed when used. A Fremdwort (foreign-word) has moved a stage further. It has been adapted into the native system, with a stable spelling and pronunciation (native or exotic), or a compromise has been made by translating all or part into a native equivalent: for example, garage and Lehnwort itself (which has for general purposes been converted to loanword). A Lehnwort proper is a word that has become indistinguishable from the rest of the lexicon and is open to normal rules of word use and word formation. It is seldom possible, however, to separate the stages of assimilation so neatly: Russian sputnik and glasnost entered English virtually overnight, with immediate derivatives like anti-sputnik and pre-glasnost. Assimilation into a language as widespread as English occurs on three levels: local, national, and international. For example, such a Mexican-Spanish word as taco may remain local in AmE, used only along the US-Mexican border, then become national, then international. Such a process often takes years, leaving many loans drifting uncertainly. See CALQUE, FOREIGNISM.


views updated May 29 2018

loan·word / ˈlōnˌwərd/ • n. a word adopted from a foreign language with little or no modification.