English speakers tend to be very proud of their language. This is the case on both sides of the Atlantic; Americans love “talking American” and the Brits nobly speak “the Queen’s English.”

What they tend to overlook, however, is just how many words and phrases have been pinched from other languages. Some of our most eloquent ideas and abstract concepts can only be described through foreign loan words.

Here, we take a look at some of those which we use every day.

Bona fide

A Latin phrase that directly translates to English as “in good faith.” We use it to mean “genuine,” which is similar to how our Ancient Roman friends would have used the phrase.

Ad nauseum

Here we have another Latin phrase that has snuck into English. It’s the same “naus” that’s in “nausea.” Literally translated, it means “to seasickness.” We use it to mean “to a sickening degree.”

En route

This is a sneaky one. A French phrase that many regular users perceive to be English. With the same pronunciation and literal meaning as “on route,” it’s an easy mistake to make.


A particularly elegant way of saying “hands off.” It is another one borrowed from French, which means “allow to do.”


This is an interesting one, as it is a unique concept that only the Germans could describe. English speakers also take enjoyment from the misfortune of their enemies, so naturally we took the word for ourselves.


In English, this means a devoted fan. Literally translated from Spanish, however, it is an “amateur.” There is a link here, as most fans tend to be amateurs relative to their heroes.

Prima donna

The first Italian contribution on the list, it translates directly to “first woman.” It’s an opera term for the main female singer, but it seems the English decided to use the term ironically, as it refers to someone who considers themselves very important, but probably isn’t.


In German, “zeit” means times and “geist” means spirit. Putting these two together, we have zeitgeist, which is an abstract but fascinating concept. It refers to the cultural and intellectual climate of a specific point in time, giving a unique snapshot of human society in that moment.