What are anglicisms? Hearing English abroad

What are anglicisms? Hearing English abroad

by Alison Maciejewski Cortez

Updated November 10, 2022

An anglicism is an English word that is used in a language other than English. You are probably very familiar with anglicisms even if you are not familiar with the anglicism definition. Many English words related to technology are often used in Spanish-, French- and German-speaking countries. 

Let’s take a look at why other languages use anglicisms with some examples. 

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Why do other languages use anglicisms? 

Other languages use anglicisms or loanwords for a few reasons. In many cases, it’s because a word from English helps to explain a concept in a more succinct way. 

Anglicisms come from English origin. The English language has an outsized influence on the world. The British Empire and era of colonization spread English across the globe. English became the international language of business. 

The United States (a former British colony) continues to influence the world in global politics, economy and culture. California’s Silicon Valley is the birthplace of many start-ups and social media platforms that have given us new shorthand for speaking (IYKYK). 

Meanwhile, Hollywood is a wellspring of historic and modern media that continually shapes the ways we communicate. Given that, it’s not surprising that American English words have become popular in technology and pop culture outside  the country. 

Spanish speakers might say CD instead of disco compacto. An example from the movie Pulp Fiction describes the name of a Big Mac in France as Le Big Mac. And the former Austrian chancellor, Wolfgang Schüssel said Was wir brauchen, ist mehr Leadership (What we need is more leadership). Instead of using the German word Führung he used the English word.

English uses loanwords for the same reasons. Examples of loanwords in English include faux pas, from French, meaning to break a commonly accepted social rule. Or kitschy, from German, meaning the quality of being lowbrow, tacky, or in bad taste. 

Examples of anglicisms

Sometimes an English word is used and spelled exactly the same in the other language. Other times, the spelling is changed to reflect the spelling and pronunciation of the language that is being used. Also, the form or definition may change. For example, a word that’s used as a verb in English word changes to a noun when used in another language.

Anglicisms in Spanish

Many anglicisms are used in Spanish-speaking countries. Let’s take a look at a few common anglicisms in Spanish. Most are found in Latin American countries near the USA and used less in Spain. The spelling is adapted in Spanish to produce a pronunciation closer to the original English word.

AnglicismEnglish wordSpanish word
Cóctel CocktailLa bebida, la copa, el trago
No hay más espacio en el parking.
*This is an example of a verb in English being used as a noun in Spanish. 
There is no more space in the parking lot. 
No hay más espacio en el estacionamiento. 
Básquetbol or basquet BasketballEl baloncesto
SandwichSandwichLa torta, el bocadillo

Anglicisms in French

The Académie française, the council for all things related to the French language, has historically been against anglicisms. They feel that using English words risks diluting their language and heritage. Here are some examples of anglicisms that are used in French-speaking countries, despite official protest.

AnglicismEnglish wordFrench word
ChallengeChallengeun défi, une compétition
CheapCheapbon marché, abordable, à prix réduit
ShowShow, performance, eventspectacle
BookerTo bookréserver, retenir

Anglicisms in German

The German Language Association is also worried about English words creeping in. Here are some examples of anglicisms that are used in German-speaking countries. 

AnglicismEnglish wordGerman word
HandyCell phoneMobiltelefon
Special effectsSpecial effectsSpezialeffekte
Social networkSocial networkSoziales Netzwerk

English is everywhere. 

If you speak or are learning Spanish, French or German you certainly have noticed that English words keep popping up. These anglicisms are probably not going away anytime soon. Languages change over time. Words come in and out of popular use and anglicisms are part of the change. 

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Alison Maciejewski Cortez is Chilean-American, born and raised in California. She studied abroad in Spain, has lived in multiple countries, and now calls Mexico home. She believes that learning how to order a beer in a new language reveals a lot about local culture. Alison speaks English, Spanish, and Thai fluently and studies Czech and Turkish. Her consulting business takes her around the world and she is excited to share language tips as part of the Lingoda team. Follow her culinary and cultural experiences on Twitter.

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