Arabic influence on Russian, French and Spanish and how a London station influenced Russian

One of the things I love about language learning is discovering the ways that languages and cultures influenced each other.

The Russian word for station, for example, вокзал (transliteration: vokzal) comes from the English place name Vauxhall, which was the site not only of a station but of a famous pleasure garden.

The Russians got their word for shop, магазин, from the French word magasin (Russian has a lot of French words of course). Spanish apparently has a similar word, almacén. English uses “magazine” to mean the part of a gun that stores the bullets. The source of the word is Arabic - al-makhsin, which means “the storehouse”, which is the same in modern Hebrew, מחסן - Makhsan.

I wonder if anyone else finds etymologies interesting or if I’m a lone word nerd :))

Something I found out about was in French, a word with ô in it used to also have an “s” near that o in medieval times, which is also how we can find some extra cognates.

For example, côte used to be coste, which is where the word cost comes from.
L’hôpital used to be l’hospital, which is where we got hospital.

There are a few others , but I can’t remember them off the top off my head.

The word “robot” comes from Czech republic. The word was invented by czech writer Josef Čapek. Outdated czech word “robota” means hard manual work.

An interesting one is the French word “fauteuil”, being borrowed into English and Swedish (as “fåtölj”) at least, pretty straightforward so far. Apparently however the French word was originally borrowed form the Germanic “faldastol”. So we have a Germanic word being borrowed into a Romance language, and from there back into other Germanic languages.

I find it funny that “tungsten” comes from Swedish (lit. heavy stone), however that’s not what the metal is called here. We call it volfram… which is obviously German.

When I learnt the Swedish word ‘köpa’, the thought struck me that German ‘kaufen’ and English ‘shop’ might be of the same origin. I don’t know whether they really are, but it seems quite likely to me nowadays. I never would have thought so without knowing the Swedish word though.

Okay, obviously, it’s not relatet. English ‘cheap’ is of the same origin as ‘köpa’ and ‘kaufen’.


mmm…well, yes, sort of Fingerhut. Not bad!

A more straight forward example would be if you think of the word “window” in English you will see that it comes from “vindu” in Norwegian, which is “vindue” in Danish. In fact when pronounced in these two languages it sounds almost like window :wink:

In German it is “Fenster”, in Swedish it is “fönster” in French it is “fenêtre” and in Italian “finestra” all of which come from the Latin “fenestra”

These are all really interesting! I like robot especially.

What I like about English is how there are synonyms that have different origins. Like the words for meat and animals, for example. The words for the meat are French in origin, like mutton, beef and pork but the corresponding words for the animals are Anglo-Saxon - sheep, cow and pig.

The nobility, who would have eaten the meat, spoke French (or were Norman, i.e. after the Norman Conquest) and the peasant farmers were Anglo-Saxon :slight_smile:

The French decry the invasion of English words, but it’s not a recent thing.
bateau, nord, sud, est, ouest all entered the language from Old English.
Although there were rather more borrowings going the other way at the time…

The word tête comes from Latin slang, from the word testa, a pot.
Note the same thing going on with the circumflex as mentioned by James123.

Has that got any connection with the phrase “use your head”? (tête does mean head, right?).

Oh, and another thing. “Ch” (as in chicken), used to be pronounced as “k”. Chicken, chin and champion would’ve been pronounced kicken, kin and kampion.

There was also the letter zog, which was pronounced like a “g”. I think it looked like the Russian з.