Most people are aware that although English has plenty of loanwords of Latin origin, it is at base a Germanic language. The bulk of the English language comes from Anglo-Saxon Old English with a few Old Norse words chucked in later. What many do not realise is that the Romance languages were also influenced by the Germanic barbarians of the North. The movement of hairy faced pagan warriors during the Migration Era left a cultural and linguistic legacy across Europe.
Germanic Words in French
French takes its name from a Germanic tribe called The Franks who originally spoke Proto-Germanic. Germanic and Gallo-Roman languages coexisted in France for 500 years so when the language of Old French emerged it was heavily influenced by German syntax and patterns of speech and also contained plenty of Germanic loan words. Here are some of my favourites.
- Acre -as in English “acre”
- Aguerrir – “to accustom to war”
- Aguet (usu. pl. aguets) – “ambush, wait”
- Biche – “small dog” like English “bitch”
- Bière – “beer”
- Blond – “blonde” related to Old English blondenfeax “fair-haired”
- Chic – “stylish” comes from Germanic schick “skill”
- Danser – “to dance” from Old Frankish dancer, dancier
- étendard -“standard, flag”
- Flèche -“arrow”
- Frapper – “to hit, strike”
- Gaillard – “strapping man”
- Lapin – “rabbit”
- Marche – “to march”
- Massacrer – “massacre”
- Meurtre -“murder”
- Normand – “Norman/ Norse man”
Germanic Words in Spanish
Many of the Germanic words in Spanish come from Modern English, Old English, Dutch and German but I will focus on older loan words which come from Visigoths who entered Spain in the Migration Era and others from the Langobards.
- Agasajar – to flatter (from VisiGothic)
- Guardia – guard, bodyguard, protection (from Visigothic wardja “a guard”)
- Atacar – to attack (from Visigothic stakka “a stick, stake)
- Palco – “a balcony” (from Langobardic palko “scaffolding”)
Of course the influence of American media and pop culture has left a great many Modern English words in nearly every language on Earth., including French and Spanish. A large proportion of the Germanic words in French and Spanish can be attributed to American pop culture, but thing that is interesting about the older Germanic words is that they frequently seem to relate to things associated with Germanic barbarians such as fighting and drinking beer!