English Words Borrowed from Chinese - English Vocabulary Lesson
Words taken completely or in part from another language are known as loanwords. In the English language, there are many loanwords that have been borrowed from Chinese language.
A loanword is not the same as calque, which is an expression from one language that has been introduced into another language as a direct translation. Many English-language calques also have origins in Chinese.
Loanwords and calques are useful to linguists in examining when and how one culture processed its interaction with another.
Here are some common English words that are borrowed from Chinese.
Coolie: While some claim that this term has its origins in Hindi, it’s been argued that it could also have origins in the Chinese term for hard work or(kǔ lì) which is literally translated as “bitter labor.”
Typhoon: This is probably the most direct loanword. In Chinese, a hurricane or typhoon is called 台风 (tái fēng).
Tea: Legend has it that the Chinese Emperor Shen Nong discovered tea in 2737 BC while boiling water in the shade of a tree. A light breeze caused some leaves to fall into the water, which the emperor tasted and found to be delicious.
Tofu: (Chinese:dòufu), also called bean curd, is a food made by coagulating soy milk and then pressing the resulting curds into soft white blocks. It is a component in many East Asian and Southeast Asian cuisines.
Ketchup: The origins of this word are debated. But many believe that its origins are from either the Fujianese dialect for the fish sauce (guī zhī ) or the Chinese word for eggplant sauce (qié zhī).
Feng shui : In Chinese thought- a system of laws considered to govern spatial arrangement and orientation in relation to the flow of energy (chi), and whose favourable or unfavourable effects are taken into account when siting and designing buildings.
Silk : According to Chinese tradition, the history of silk began in the 27th century BCE.China maintained its virtual monopoly over silk for another thousand years. Not confined to clothing, silk was also used for a number of other applications, including writing, and the colour of silk worn was an important indicator of social class during the Tang Dynasty.
Gung Ho: The term has its origins in the Chinese word (gōng hé) that can either mean to work together, or as an adjective to describe someone that is overly excited or too enthusiastic. The term gong he is a shortened word for industrial cooperatives which were created in China in the 1930s. During that time U.S. Marines adopted the term to mean someone with a can-do attitude.
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