Reading, Writing, Literacy

“Where Do Words Come From?”

“Where Do Words Come From?”

Have you ever wondered where some English words originated? The English language has a large vocabulary that is cobbled together from many words borrowed from other countries. Approximately silentletters29% of foreign words come from French (ambulance, parachute, and sauce for example), another 29% have Latin origins (like agenda, circus, and data) and another 26% of the English language has Germanic origins (dollar, muffin, and Kindergarten). The Greek language makes up roughly 6% of our vocabulary, and we are continually adding to it from languages worldwide.
Learning certain spellings can be much easier and more interesting for students when it is combined with learning word origins. For example, words like opossum and skunk are in fact Cree in origin and ebony, ivory, and paper are derived from the Egyptian language. Students can engage in researching word origins through creating songs, chants, and games. For example, students can present the words they’ve researched in a song:
“Words from other countries
can be difficult to spell.
Italian gave us macaroni
and broccoli, as well.”
Fun songs like this one help make learning word origins and spelling fun and memorable.
Other word origins
Cree: opossum, skunk
Czech: polka, robot
Egyptian: ebony, ivory, paper
Hindi: jungle
Hungarian: coach, goulash, paprika, sabre
Inuit: husky, igloo, kayak
Italian: opera, umbrella, alarm, broccoli, macaroni
Japanese: judo, karate, tycoon
The preceding was adapted from When Spelling Matters by Doreen Scott-Dunne, published by Pembroke Publishers.

1 comment on "“Where Do Words Come From?”"

  1. Anonymous
    Reply

    My child’s teacher reads the definition, but not the word, during their weekly spelling test. This is in 6th grade, but this same teacher did it this way in 4th grade too. Is this a good way to teach spelling? My son is an excellent speller, but often fails his spelling test. The class has the week to review the words and definitions, but he sometimes writes another word wit a similar meaning (synonym) as his answer. Yes, he should remember the correct spelling word, but National Spelling Bees don’t even do it this way. Is my son’s teacher doing it all wrong?

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