You may claim English as your first, or only, language, but one of the beautiful things about English is how many foreign languages have contributed to it. Everyday you probably use a loan word, a foreign word adopted into another language without translation. You may not be able to carry on a conversation in French, or Italian, but let’s take a look at some of the foreign words and their meanings that you probably use everyday.

Latin Loan Words

bona fide

This means genuine, or real. You may call someone a bona fide expert, or claim someone is a bona fide friend.

caveat emptor

“Buyer beware” — you’ll hear this one thrown around when talking about a deal that seems too good to be true.

ad nauseam

The nausea in this word should provide a context clue; this is Latin for "to a sickening degree." You might refer to your friend going on and on about his new girlfriend, ad nauseam.

modus operandi

This refers to the particular way of doing something. A written manual will lay out the modus operandi.

prima donna

If you’re at the opera, you’ll be watching the prima donna, the lead female singer, perform. It doesn’t speak well for her reputation that the other definition of prima donna is a temperamental or conceited person.

pro bono

This is work that is done for free or donated without charge. You’re most likely to hear it on your favorite legal drama.

persona non grata

That nasty customer who always has complaints will quickly become a persona non grata, or an unwelcome person.

quid pro quo

You’re not asking for a favor when you propose a quid pro quo deal. Instead you’re expecting an equal exchange — you give something in return for the same back.

status quo

This stands for the existing condition. Your manager may complain that the status quo isn’t good enough, and he or she wants better results at work.

French Loan Words

carte blanche

If you’re given carte blanche, you have unlimited authority — use it wisely!

faux pas

This is a social blunder. Watch your manners if you don’t want to commit a faux pas.

bon voyage

You’ll cheer this as your cruise ship departs, because it literally means “nice trip.”

fait accompli

This refers to something everyone knows or expects. It’s fait accompli that President Trump will run for re-election.

en masse

Use this term when describing the actions of a large group. The crowd flooded the field en masse when the home team scored the winning goal at the buzzer.

German Loan Words


Literally translated, this means garden for children, and it’s an appropriate place for four and five-year-olds to spend their days.


We borrowed the German word for fear to give name to what teenagers often experience as they’re trying to navigate new and big emotions.


The ride-sharing app borrowed this word that means above and beyond. We’ll let you describe your own experience with the service.


Another literal translation, this means car of the people.