Word Origins Part A

Writing Tutorial

Word Origins Part A


The English language spoken today developed over thousands of years. Some important early influences on modern English are described below.

Old English: Many simple one-syllable English words are derived from this Germanic language, originally spoken by peoples who invaded Britain in the fifth century C.E.
Examples: arm, be, cow, earth, farther, hate, house, love, mother
Old Norse: In the eighth and ninth centuries, Viking invaders also made contributions to the language.
Examples: birth, cake, egg, gap, rag, skill, sky, want
French: French was the official language of Britain from the Norman Conquest (1066) until the fourteenth century. Many words related to government, the arts, and courtly life were introduced by French-speaking conquerors.
Examples: parliament, courage, judge, jury, court, royal, grace
**Note: Since French is derived from Latin, many of these words are also listed as having Latin origins. The word court, for example, is derived from Old French cort, which is in turn derived from Latin cohors.
Latin & Greek: These classical languages influenced the development of English at several stages. Monks first introduced some religious Latin and Greek words as early as the sixth century. Under the Normans, Latin was used in churches, universities, and law courts. Finally, in the sixth century, a new wave of Latin and Greek words, especially those related to science and medicine, were introduced into the language by Renaissance scholars.
Examples: Latin: sacred, college, study, legal, infection, virus
Greek: analyse, bishop, diagnosis, geology, physiology, psalm

Sample Problem

A. Based only on the information and examples in the box above, label the following groups of words according to the language from which each is derived: Old English (OE), Old Norse (ON), Old French (OF), Latin (L), and Greek (GK). Do not use a dictionary.

1. divinity, medicine, student, university ___________
2. anatomy, geometry, prognosis, psychology ___________
3. courtesy, dance, duchess, government ___________
4. bag, gape, skirt, troll ___________
5. brother, dog, stone, truth ___________

Question Source:
Banel, J., Kleitsch, C., Robitaille, D., & Gage Learning Corporation. (2004). Literacy power. Toronto: Gage Learning.


1. Latin (L)
2. Greek (GK)
3. Old French (OF)
4. Old Norse (ON)
5. Old English (OE)

About The Author

Aspiring Teacher
Hello, My name is Ashley Riopel. I am a graduate from Elliot Lake Secondary School. During that time, I helped out in a grade 10 mathematics class. Currently, I am co-oping at an elementary school. I am an aspiring teacher who is looking for experience in aiding children who need a little extra h...
10 Subjects
KnowRo Tutor
1 Tutorial
Elliot Lake, ON
Get Tutoring Info

Suggested Tutors for Writing Help

Emily V

Alexandria, VA

Versatile And Flexible Tutor

Maxine J

Bethesda, MD

Any Topic, Any Language

Sophia G

Washington, DC

General Tutor

Bridget S

Arlington, VA

Humanities, Language, And Organizational Support