Spelling Foreign Words Study Guide

Updated on Sep 28, 2011


In this lesson, we'll look at foreign words that have made their way into the English language.

A large percentage of English words derive from Latin roots. Latin forms the basis of many languages spoken in the Americas and Europe, a group of languages that is collectively known as the Romance languages. The Romance languages include Spanish, Portuguese, French, Italian, Romanian, and Catalan. Although many of our words are derived from Latin, English is officially considered a Germanic language because of its grammatical structure. If you've ever taken Spanish, French, or Italian, however, you know that Romance and Germanic languages have many similarities.

There are also many English words that come from Greek or other languages. Although all English words were originally derived from other sources, many words have been adopted into the English language directly from other languages without any changes. Usually, we have taken these words because there are no English words that carry the exact same meaning; often these are words used in writing about history or politics—and cooking. Culinary terms such as paella, salsa, cabernet, chutney, croissant, and antipasto come to us unchanged from foreign languages.

Don't shy away from using foreign words in your writing for fear of spelling them incorrectly. If you choose a few select words to learn, you can use them with great impact. That is one reason why words from other languages have found their way into English: they make an impact that an English word simply cannot.

TIP: No need to learn the whole language of foreign words that confuse you. Just practice, practice, practice—and commit the spelling of your chosen words to memory. You may benefit from creating mnemonics (described in Lesson 2) for the foreign words that you want to learn to spell. Make your mnemonics personal so they hold meaning; this will make the words easier to remember.

Commonly Used Foreign Words 

The following table includes 24 commonly used foreign words, their meanings, and some sticky spelling situations that you should watch out for. Use this list as a starting point for developing your own list of high-impact foreign words.

Foreign Words


Practice exercises for this study guide can be found at:

Spelling Foreign Words Practice Exercises

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