Social Class and its Relation to Using Germanic or Latinate Words in English

civfanatic

Ad Honorem
Oct 2012
3,318
Des Moines, Iowa
In Anglophone countries such as Britain, UK, Australia, and New Zealand, are lower-classes more likely to use words of Germanic or Anglo-Saxon derivation, while upper-class individuals are more likely to use words of Latin derivation? I ask because over 90% of English vocabulary with more than two syllables is of Latin origin (either borrowed directly from Latin, or borrowed indirectly through French), while the bulk of "simple" vocabulary that uneducated people use seems to be of Germanic origin.

Examples of Germanic and Latinate equivalents in modern English:

  • "Leave" (Ger.) versus "Renounce" (Lat.)
  • "Aware" (Ger.) versus "Cognizant" (Lat.)
  • "Ask" (Ger.) versus "Inquire" (Lat.)
  • "Start" (Ger.) versus "Commence" (Lat.)
  • "Belly" (Ger.) versus "Abdomen" (Lat.)
  • "Business" (Ger.) versus "Enterprise" (Lat.)
  • "Work" (Ger.) versus "Occupation" (Lat.)
  • "Sweat" (Ger.) versus "Perspire" (Lat.)
  • "Do" (Ger.) versus "Execute" (Lat.)
  • "Dog" (Ger.) versus "Canine" (Lat.)
  • "God" (Ger.) versus "Deity" (Lat.)
  • "Fill up" (Ger.) versus "Replenish" (Lat.)
  • "Ban" (Ger.) versus "Prohibit" (Lat.)
  • "Good" (Ger.) versus "Benevolent" (Lat.)
  • "Go on" (Ger.) versus "Proceed" (Lat.)
 

notgivenaway

Ad Honorem
Jun 2015
5,787
UK
maybe in High Medieval England, but then such terms are interchangeable amongst classes. I'm sure nobles centuries ago were happy to use God over deity, or good over benevolent. Once English became standard after the Hundred Years War, then the King/upper classes used them often.
 

Pendennis

Ad Honorem
Mar 2013
3,386
Kirkcaldy, Scotland
ABSOLUTLEY NOT.! yOUR QUESTION IS BASED ON a false premise.
Many working class Brits use words of Latin origin because they have no choice as so many English words and phrases are derived from Latin although the less well educated working class folk are unaware that they using Latin origined words because it never crosses their minds -I.E. the Latin origins of the words they use.
That said many English words they use are derived from French ie. ''murder'' is derived from the Norman French ''mordrum''.
Many English words used by both working and upper class Brits are Indian in origin , a legacy from the days when India was part of the British Empire i.e. the popular drink ''Punch '' is derived from the Hindi word for five =''Panch.'' because the drink contains five ingredients in its original Indian form.
Bungalow , dungarees; juggrnaut; thugs' are othe examples of the many words derived from India but many upper class folk use them without knowing such esoteric origins.
A biscuit-which Br'its love to eat is derived form the French (and Latin) ''Bis=twice plus cuit is French for cooked '' so ''biscuit is French for'' twice cooked''
The word hysteia and hysterectomy (removing the female womb )is derived from the ancient Greek ''hysterium'' meaning ' the womb'' so the orgins of English words are many ad not restricted to a few narrow origins like Latin.
Equally, many words in French which are derived from Latin are spelled identically in English but have very different meanings in English from French
I.E. Legs is plural of leg in English but in French legs means a legacy;an aaccolade in English means being honoured but in French une accolade is an embrace
An apologist in English does not mean someone who is sorry for doing something but somebody who argues a political or philosophical case very strongly because it is derived from he Latin 'Apologia'' =to argue a case strongly''
Posh newspapers aimed at an educated readership which used to be the preserve of the upper class -The Daily Telegraph' Sunday Times' Observer''etc use lots of Latin ;German and French words and Phrases in their book reviews and political columns -i.e sine qua non; shcwerpunkt;
roman a clef ; tour de force'' but well educated working class origined chaps like myself read use and write these words used in the posh papers because of our education. Which in my case has aided me to transcend my imppecable Scottish proletarian & lower working class origins so class divisions in the English language?-are increasingly passe in the 21st century.
I exempt the many local dilects still spoken throughout the U.K. from my last statement .But even here Scottish Lowland dialect has many words of German French and Latin origin of which the working class folks who speak these dialects in preference to Standard RP English do not know or worry too much about such linguistic origins.
I.E. The vast majority of working class people in eatern Scotland from whence Ioriginate will from birth to death, use the Germanic word 'ken'' n preference to ''know'' but few of them probably know that the Germsn verb for ''to know'' is also ''ken''-unless they study German in school.
Just as many folk throughout the UK use the phrase ''To get off Scot free'' thinkng it must hsve something to do with Scotland but it has absolutely nothing to do with Scotland whatsoever.
''A Scot'' was, in fact, an English Middle Ages property tax.
 

Belgarion

Ad Honorem
Jul 2011
6,771
Australia
Not in Australia. There is little of the traditional class consciousness anyway and no terms are predominate among differing social groups.
 
Jan 2014
1,989
Regnum Francorum (orientalium) / Germany
When I was in school I learnt that a lot of words in English are derived from medieval Norman French and due to the higher level of the French culture* and the social prestige of French-speaking ruling class of Norman descent many words entered the medieval English language which led to several words in modern English which have more or less the same meaning.

*it was in my French course where I learnt about the higher level of French culture:lol:

This wiki-article contains a List of English words with dual French and Anglo-Saxon variations: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_English_words_with_dual_French_and_Anglo-Saxon_variations

Many of these words are still similar to their cognates in modern German and Dutch (for the Anglo-Saxon words) or in modern French (for the Norman-French words).

As to the words mentioned by Pendennis, I hope you allow me to add some further information:

That said many English words they use are derived from French ie. ''murder'' is derived from the Norman French ''mordrum''.
From Middle English murder, murdre, mourdre "murder", alteration of earlier murthre ‎(“murder”) (see murther) from Old English morþor ‎(“secret slaying, unlawful killing”) and Old English myrþra ‎(“murder, homicide”), both from Proto-Germanic *murþrą ‎(“death, killing, murder”), from Proto-Indo-European *mrtro- ‎(“killing”), from Proto-Indo-European *mer-, *mor-, *mr- ‎(“to die”). Akin to Gothic ?????? ‎(maurþr, “murder”), Old High German mord ‎(“murder”), Old Norse morð ‎(“murder”), Old English myrþrian ‎(“to murder”) and morþ.

The -d- in the Middle English form may have been influenced in part by Anglo-Norman murdre, from Medieval Latin murdrum from Old French murdre, from Frankish *murþra ‎(“murder”), from the same Germanic root, though this may also have wholly been the result of internal development (compare burden, from burthen).

https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/murder#Etymology

The modern word la mort in French is derived from the Latin word mors (both in the meaning death). Surely the Latin and the Proto-Germanic word have the same Indo-European origin.

The case of "ken" in Scots and "kennen" in modern German is a case of cognates (both words are derived from a common ancestor in the Proto-Germanic language spoken at least 1500 years ago).

There are also a lot of German loanwords in English as Kindergarten, Frankfurter, Blitzkrieg, Leitmotiv etc. But these words are only recent "immigrants" to the English language.

There are also many English loanwords in modern German: Body-Building and Drink have entered the German language only some decades ago. Interestingly they are a kind of linguistical re-import.

Bildung in German means education/formation. Bilden (the verb) means to form/create.

Bildung : Englisch » Deutsch | PONS

Drink means in German Getränk (derived from trinken - to drink).
 

Edric Streona

Ad Honorem
Feb 2016
4,531
Japan
A lot of the French/Latin/Greek words were 16th/17th/18th century imports people, writers mainly, used to sound clever/sophisticated.

Their was a middle class revolt against these "ink horn" terms.
 

Pendennis

Ad Honorem
Mar 2013
3,386
Kirkcaldy, Scotland
Carolus-yes- But the German word ''gymnasium' similar to the English word ''gymnasium '' has a very differnmt meaning .As you know, a ''Gymnasium '' in German refers to a higher education school while in English a gymnasium is where people practise physical education and culture.
Although I suspect both terms have a common linguistic ancestry.
The German verb that causes much amusement -particularly to British scholars encountering German language for the fidt time is Fahrten''.=to travel.
''Ich Fahrte'' has a very different meaning from the English ''fart'' and a'' Fahrtbureau''-travel ticket office seems amusing to me.as forme, it hass connotations of people buying tickets to travel while letting off raspers.
Eric -yes indeed. In his groundbreaking 1956 play-''LOOK BACK IN ANGER'' AUTHOR JOHN OSBORNE has his hero, ''Angry Young Man '' Jimmy Porter, says ''And bloody posh newspapers half -written in French...'' This line drew huge roars of audience approval from the radical audience when the play first opened in London in 1956.
 

Pacific_Victory

Ad Honorem
Oct 2011
7,654
MARE PACIFICVM
There absolutely is a connection, but I would say it isn't a class connection so much as a connection to formality. Latin and French words sound more official, more legal, more bureaucratic, and generally more formal.

Consider these sentences:

"I'm glad you could get your work done."

"I am pleased you were able to complete your assignment."

The meaning is exactly the same, but the first reads like a text message from a friend while the second looks like an email from your boss.
 
Last edited:
Jan 2014
1,989
Regnum Francorum (orientalium) / Germany
Carolus-yes- But the German word ''gymnasium' similar to the English word ''gymnasium '' has a very differnmt meaning .As you know, a ''Gymnasium '' in German refers to a higher education school while in English a gymnasium is where people practise physical education and culture.
Although I suspect both terms have a common linguistic ancestry.
I know (in fact I enjoyed - more or less - the education at my Gymnasium). The common origin of these words is old Greece where the Gymnasion was a kind of school where also Sport is practised.

The wiki-article explains the historical background: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gymnasium_(school)#History


The German verb that causes much amusement -particularly to British scholars encountering German language for the fidt time is Fahrten''.=to travel.
''Ich Fahrte'' has a very different meaning from the English ''fart'' and a'' Fahrtbureau''-travel ticket office seems amusing to me.as forme, it hass connotations of people buying tickets to travel while letting off raspers.
:lol:

Fahrten is not a noun, it is the plural of the noun die Fahrt (trip, travel etc.): https://www.dict.cc/?s=Fahrt

Fahren is the verb, but the past tense is not "ich fahrte", but "ich fuhr" (irregular verb). Irregular verbs in German often change their vowel as in English: compare: Ich singe, Ich sang, Ich habe gesungen to I sing, I sang and I have sung


Fahren is probably related to fare as in Farewell. Ah, there is a verb (I've never heard before): to fare which is a cognate to German fahren): https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/fare#English

to fart means furzen in German.

From Middle English ferten, farten, from Old English *feortan (in feorting (verbal noun)), from Proto-Germanic *fertaną (compare German farzen, furzen, Norwegian fjert), from Proto-Indo-European *perd-, *pérde. Cognate to Welsh rhech, Albanian pjerdh, Russian перде́ть ‎(perdétʹ), French péter, Ancient Greek πέρδομαι ‎(pérdomai), Sanskrit पर्दते ‎(párdate).
https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/fart#Etymology

I've never heard "Fahrtbureau". Bureau is an old orthography of the orginal French word le bureau used in the 19th century. Since that it has been adapted to German orthography "das Büro", but this imitates the orginal French pronounciation. If you refer to the ticket office in a station, I would use something like Fahrkartenschalter (ticket counter), but nowadays you will a find at German railways stations expressions like "Service Point" or even "Ticket Counter".

Eric -yes indeed. In his groundbreaking 1956 play-''LOOK BACK IN ANGER'' AUTHOR JOHN OSBORNE has his hero, ''Angry Young Man '' Jimmy Porter, says ''And bloody posh newspapers half -written in French...'' This line drew huge roars of audience approval from the radical audience when the play first opened in London in 1956.
:lol:

Most Europeans countries face nowadays a linguistical invasion by English expressions (think of Spanglish, Franglais and Denglish).
 

LatinoEuropa

Ad Honorem
Oct 2015
5,222
Matosinhos Portugal
a question English language only has Latin words derived from French?
Has Italian Spanish words Portuguese Romanian mitted in the English language or just have French words?