It is known that about 45% of the English vocabulary originates from the French language. They also share lexical similarity for certain words. But how did such a similarity in both the languages come to be? Modern English language has been influenced and modified by many other languages, and one of them was Old French. Due to the influence of French in English, there was a change in the spelling, pronunciation, structure, etc. of old English words. For instance, old English words like cwen, scip and scolde became queen, ship and should.
Let’s take a look at the similarities between French and English
There are more than 1,700 true cognates, words that are identical in the two languages. English has certain words called cognates that have been taken from French and retain their meanings most of the time. A few loanwords are taken as they are in French and their meanings in have been retained in English. But some words called ‘faux amis’ or false friends are the same in both the languages but differ in their meaning.
Some of the loanwords in English taken from French are:
- Déjà vu
a feeling of having already experienced the present situation.
(The word shares the same meaning in both French and English as established before.)
- Faux pas
an embarrassing or tactless act or remark in a social situation.
- Avant Garde
Noun: new and experimental ideas and methods in art, music, or literature.
Adjective: favouring or introducing new and experimental ideas and methods.
- À la mode
This word literally means something that’s still in fashion or up to date.
Other words that seem the same in both the language, but signify two entirely different things:
- Library – signifies a reservoir of books, however, in French, it refers to a book store.
- Amateur – signifies a beginner or non-professional in any field, however, in French, it refers to a person who loves or is passionate about something.
- Avertissement – which is similar to ‘advertisement’ means a notice or announcement in a public medium in English. But, it refers to a warning in French. ‘Publicité’ is the word for advertisement.
- Actuellement – Although this is similar to the English word “actually”, it is the French word for “currently” whereas ‘vraiment’ is the right word for “actually”
In the same way, certain English words have been adopted in the French language. A few examples are :
- Le Selfie – A selfie
- Le Sandwich – A sandwich
- L’email – An email
- Cool – Cool
- Le Dressing – a dressing room
- Le Footing – Running/jogging
- Babyfoot – Foosball
- Le Week-end – weekend
Therefore, in the course of time and history, both the languages have influenced each other with the culture and their tongue. French played a significant role in structuring modern English language. Also, English speakers find it easier to learn French due to the usage of French words in English.