Why Does English Have So Many Words That Mean The Same Thing?

Why Does English Have So Many Words That Mean the Same Damn Thing?

Video: It's because though English is a Germanic language (the grammar and core vocabulary comes from that), there are a lot of words that come from the Romance (Latin-based) languages too, which were leaked into English when French-speaking Normans ruled England. That explains why there are a lot of twin words that mean the same thing in the English language. Think about it! Folk and people. Want and desire. Buy and purchase. Understand and comprehend. Needs and requirements. Woods and forest. Gift and present. Thought and idea.

Other words that are similar but used for slightly different things in English (like cow and beef and pig and pork) tell an interesting history between the relationship of English speakers and French speakers too. Watch as Akira Orent explains in the video below.


Comments

    That's the reason they existed, but not why we still have them. In a lot of cases, we have multiple words because while they might mean roughly the same thing, they do not mean precisely the same thing. A wood is a small forest, for example. The fact that both words remain in the English language is because we have a need for both words. There are things you can express better using one or the other.

    Why does English have articles like "a" and "the" ? And why does English have plurals? Japanese have neither and it works fine without these useless words :) I guess English doesn't have gender words like other European languages.

    Last edited 11/03/16 8:12 pm

    A language rich in vocabulary is a language that is strong in prose, poetry and ways of describing things. It also means that words that have a similiar meaning at first blush may have subtle differences understood to native speakers. It's why people who don't have English as a first language still write songs in English. It may not be the most efficient language, but it is the most expressive language.

    Adding to French and German words, a big part of English is Scandinavian, due to the Viking invasion of Britain, Latin (most of the rules of English grammar come from Latin), Celtic languages (due to the Celtic invasion of Britain) and even words from former British colonies ("bungalow", for example is from Hindi). The strength of English is its ability to borrow from other languages and incorporate the new words seemlessly.

Join the discussion!

Trending Stories Right Now