Learn the Multicultural Roots of These Travel Words

3 min read

We may not be traveling as much as usual this summer, but that doesn't mean we can't fantasize a little and plan for future adventures. Will you go on holiday? Take a staycation? Even if you're just driving to the country, there's a word for you. Not surprisingly, some of our favorite travel words come from different cultures. Pick your favorite and start planning your itinerary.


If you’re traveling for business or pleasure, chances are you’re going on a trip. Derived from the Middle Dutch trippen, meaning "to skip or hop," "trip" is an apt choice to describe a short or temporary excursion.


Although "trip" and "vacation" are generally interchangeable, if a trip is a short travel experience, a vacation usually refers to a longer break. It stems from the Latin vacare, meaning "to be (blissfully!) unoccupied."


In North American English, "holiday" is usually associated with its origin: the Old English hāligdæg, meaning holy day. Not all holidays are religious, of course, but we're still honoring someone or something. In British English, however, "holiday" is usually interchangeable with "vacation," as in, “We’re going on holiday in France.”


This elegant word refers to a short stay. While the jour comes from the French word for "day," the traditional roots of this word are the Latin terms sub, meaning "under," and diurnum, "day." It's perfect for describing a quick trip or layover as part of a longer journey.


Another name for short recreational jaunts, this Latin-inspired word comes from ex, meaning "out," and currere, "to run." In modern English, people might use the word "excursion" for something as simple as a trip to the grocery store, but its traditional application was related to travel.


The opposite of an excursion in many ways, an expedition is a longer trip that’s taken for a specific purpose such as research, science, exploration, or war. It comes from the Latin expeditio, meaning "to set out with aggressive intent."


While many words for travel are inspired by leisure, treks are defined by work. You might associate treks with traveling on foot, thanks to the early 19th-century South African Dutch roots in the word trekken.


Globe-trotters — much like the Harlem-based exhibition basketball team of the same name — are impressive travelers, frequently journeying around the world. Globe-trotting essentially means you’re stamping your passport more times than there’s pages, as in, “They’re home for the winter after globe-trotting through Europe.”


If you’re traveling by sea, you can say you're going on a voyage. Voyages are generally considered longer, possibly even arduous trips. The word derives from the Latin viaticum, referring to provisions for a long journey.


"Journey" stems from the Old French term jornee, meaning "a day’s travel" or "a day’s work." Any jet-lagged traveler will tell you it’s been a journey to get to their destination.


Staying in a place is one thing; immersing yourself in it is another. For the latter, you might use the word "tour" to describe your adventures. "Tour" — from an Old French word of the same spelling, meaning "turn" — is also the preferred choice for describing a multi-stop travel experience. "Sightsee" has a similar definition and refers to seeing the landmarks and attractions a destination has to offer.


This word is often associated with an animal-focused travel experience in Africa. The origin is Arabic, safara, which the Swahili people use to describe traveling in general.


Traditionally, this term referred to a pilgrim’s journey on a religious mission. Today we use "pilgrimage" for a trip where the destination is significant on a personal or global level. For example, one might take a pilgrimage to their ancestors’ birthplace, a revered monument, or a holy ground.

Jet Set

This term was coined by a New York reporter in the 1950s to describe the wealthy folk known for their international travel. Today "jet-set" also is used as a verb to describe the act of enjoying high-end, enviable, or luxurious travel experiences — as in, “She’s jet-setting around the globe for work.”


Sometimes travel words are all about where you’ll end up — as in "camp" or "staycation." Other times, the season of the year is more significant. If you have large chunks of time, but you don't want to globe-trot, jet set, or trek, you might want to pick a destination at which to summer — or winter. For some reason, "autumn" and "spring" don't get the same treatment.

Photo credit: Charlie Costello/ Unsplash

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