Hawaiian a bigger influence on English than Cornish

It certainly came as a surprise to us to find out that British languages Welsh, Scottish Gaelic and Cornish have had less of an impact on the English language than Hawaiian, Swahili and Zulu.

Given the geography, it would be natural to assume that our neighbours from Wales and Scotland and the inhabitants of the South West had contributed a significant amount to English. However, the Oxford English Dictionary found that Cornish has donated just 40 words to English, making it the 45th biggest influencer of the language.

Even those words we have adopted from our British relatives are not in particularly common use. When was the last time you spoke about a fugou (a Cornish word for a house dug into the ground) or took your coracle for a whirl on the lake (a Welsh word for a small round boat)?

The theory behind this is that the Anglo-Saxons felt that the native British languages at the time were insignificant, and that this snobbery led to their being sidelined. As these languages have continued to decline and English has fully established itself as the overwhelming language of choice in the UK, there has been little pressure to adopt words from other indigenous languages of the British Isles.

Unsurprisingly, Latin and French are the two biggest influencers, giving us 40,000 and 20,000 words respectively. Latin arrived in the UK with the Romans, while French became highly influential during the Roman invasion. Our other Western European cousins have also had a significant impact on English, as well as Scandinavian languages from the Viking invasion, with many modern place names being derived from their Viking names.

Read more about the influence other languages have had on English>>