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Where does the word “English” come from?

May 22, 2018 , by Dr Julian Northbrook

Do you ever wonder about the origins of words?

That is, their etymology.

Recently I was in Manila. The major language of the Philippines is Tagalog, which apparently comes form the word “tagá-ilog” — or “people of the river”.

Which got me interested…

Where does “English” come from?

Logically you’d think it comes from the word “England” — the name of the country.

But actually, that isn’t necessarily the case.

It’s just as likely, for example, that “England” was called so because that’s where the “Speakers of English” were. Which actually seems to be the case.

Supposedly, the word “English” is a corruption of the word “Anglish” — or, the “Language of the Angles”, one of the Germanic tribes that, along with the Saxons and the Jutes (collectively the “Anglo-Saxons”), invaded and colonised Britain from the 5th century after the Romans left. The Anglo-Saxons came from what is now northwest Germany, west Denmark and the Netherlands… and supposedly the Angles were called that because the place they came from—the Jutland peninsula—was shaped like a fish hook. The noun “angle” was derived from the Indo-European word “ank” meaning “to bend”, and the word “angle” entered the language in the Old English period and was used to mean “hook for fishing” (which of course is why we also call finishing “Angling”).

So there we have it.


P.S. If you want to speak British English, check out the first lesson of my best selling British English course, British Stories — do it here free.


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