Sequel to Beg, Borrow or Steal – Words from other parts of the world Part II

Click here to read part I

I wish life was not so short, he thought. Languages take such a time, and so do all the things one wants to know about. - J. R. R. Tolkien, English writer

Many of the words used in the English language have been taken from other languages.  Let’s look at some of these words from a few of these languages: Sanskrit, Hindi, Dravidian, Persian (Farsi), Arabic, African, American Indian, Chinese, Japanese, Pacific Islander, Australian, and the American Indian. Studying these words and using them in your own speech will help expand your vocabulary and make your ESL more fluent. You will be able to think more quickly and use these words with ease. You’ll be able to speak like a native and know the difference between casual and formal words and how to use words in various settings.  Perhaps you have heard of some of these words before or maybe there are additional words you can add to the list. Feel free to make a comment below and let me know.



Avatar – someone who represents a type of person, an idea or a quality; a small picture that represents a computer in a game, on the Internet, etc.

Mother Teresa has been regarded as an avatar of charity and concern for the poor.

My brother chose a football as his personal avatar in the chat room.

Karma - a special quality or impression associated with something

Since we get along so well, I think there is great karma between us.

Mahatma – a person respected for being good, wise and holy

The minister is a mahatma for helping counsel the victims of abuse.

Swastika - an ancient symbol in the form of an equal-armed cross with each arm continued at a right angle

The German’s used a swastika for their party’s emblem.

Yoga - a system of exercises for mental or physical health

The yoga moves were difficult but they should make me feel good.


Temple in Khajuraho - India

Bandanna – a square piece of fabric (usually brightly colored) worn on the head or around the neck

Mother wore the bandanna to shield the sun from her head when she picked strawberries.

Bangle – a large stiff ring that is worn as jewelry around the ankle, wrist or arm

She added a bangle to her ankle before going out on the date.

Bungalow - a one-storied house with a low-pitched roof; a house having one and a half stories and usually a front porch

Their first house as newlyweds was a bungalow.

Chintz – a shiny fabric with a flowery print

The new curtains were made of chintz that matched the colors of the sofa.

Cummerbund - a wide piece of cloth that is worn around the waist beneath the jacket of a man how is formally dressed

The conductor wore a red, silk cummerbund and a black tuxedo for the opening performance.

Dungaree - a heavy coarse durable cotton twill woven from colored yarns; specifically, blue denim (dungaree)

Mother told the children to wear their dungarees at the beach because the temperature was cooler and it was easy to wash the sand off of them.

Jungle – a tropical forest where plants and trees grow very thickly

The jungle was filled with exotic birds and wild animals.

Loot – something that is stolen or taken away by force

The bandit made away with the loot from the robbery.

Pajama - a suit of loose pants and jacket or shirt for sleeping in

The kids slept in their flannel pajamas on the camping trip.

Punch - a refreshing drink usually made of a mixture of soda and fruit juices

After the performance, cookies and punch was served to the audience.

Shampoo - a liquid preparation containing detergent or soap for washing the hair

I used the dog shampoo on my puppy.

Thug – a violent person, especially a criminal

The thug was convicted of the crime and sentenced to jail.

Jamboree - a large celebration or party, typically a lavish and boisterous one

The Scout jamboree was held in Washington, D.C. each year.


Hindu God figure on the gate to the temple

Curry - a dish of meat, vegetables, etc.; cooked in an Indian-style sauce of strong spices and turmeric and typically served with rice

My husband cooked the dinner with curry.

Mango – a fleshy, yellowish-red tropical fruit eaten ripe or used for pickling or chutneys

The bird liked to peck the mango and taste its juice.

Teak – a hard, durable timber used for making furniture or shipbuilding

The outdoor furniture was replaced with new teak furniture.

Persian (Farsi)

persian woman on black background

Check – what a chess player announces when the opponent's king has been placed in check

The winner of the chess game shouted, “Check”, and the game was over.

Chess - a board game of strategic skill for two players that is played on a checkered board, of which the object is to put the opponent's king under a direct attack from which escape is impossible

He was quite good at capturing my Queen in chess.


two camels with riders on backs

Bedouin – a nomadic Arab of the desert

The Bedouin community roamed the northern desert area.

Emir - a title of various Muslim (mainly Arab) rulers

The emir of Kuwait moved the country toward great economic success.

Gazelle - a small slender antelope that typically has curved horns and a yellowish-brown coat found in open country in Africa and Asia

The gazelle gracefully pranced along the river.

Giraffe - a large African mammal with a very long neck and forelegs, having a coat patterned with brown patches separated by lighter lines

The giraffe ate the fruit from the tall tree.

Lute - a plucked stringed instrument with a long neck bearing frets and a rounded body with a flat front that is shaped like a halved egg

The lute was used in Shakespeare’s play.

Minaret - tall slender tower, typically part of a mosque, with a balcony from which a muezzin calls Muslims to prayer

The minaret was made of strong marble for the muezzin to stand on and call for daily prayers.

Mosque - a Muslim place of worship

They went to the mosque in the morning to pray.

Myrrh - a fragrant gum resin obtained from certain trees and used, especially in the Near East, in perfumery, medicines, and incense

The business used the myrrh for their fragrance.

Salaam - a common greeting in many Arabic-speaking and Muslim countries; a gesture of greeting or respect, with or without a spoken salutation, typically consisting of a low bow of the head and body with the hand or fingers touching the forehead.

The businessman offered a salaam to his clients.

Sirocco- a hot wind, often dusty or rainy, blowing from North Africa across the Mediterranean to southern Europe

The strong sirocco winds made it nearly impossible to travel.

Sultan - a king or ruler of a Muslim state or country

The sultan ordered a new national holiday.

Vizier - a high executive officer of various Muslim countries and especially of the Ottoman Empire

The vizier had important power over Egypt.

Bazaar – a type of market found especially in Middle Eastern countries that has rows of small shops that sell many different things

We toured the bazaar and bought many souvenirs.

Caravan – a group of people or animals traveling together on a long journey especially through the desert; a group of vehicles traveling together

The caravan of jeeps wound through the desert sands.

African Languages

Mount Kilimanjaro. Savanna in Amboseli, Kenya

Banjo - a ukulele with a drum-like body

The banjo player strummed his instrument while everyone sang around the campfire.

Boogie-Woogie - a style of playing a type of music similar to jazz (called the blues) on the piano with a fast, strong, steady beat

He played the Boogie-Woogie on the keyboard in the blues bar.

Chigger - a small insect that bites people and causes painful swelling on the skin

The tent was infested with the chiggers and we itched all night from the bites.

Goober – peanut

The goobers were made into a thick butter.

Gorilla – a type of very large ape that has black fur and that comes from Africa

The gorilla frightened the smaller animals at the zoo.

Jazz – a type of American music with lively rhythms and melodies that are often made up by the musician who plays the music

The jazz band played in the street.

Jitterbug – a very lively dance that involves the two-step, swings, and twirls

The young couple enjoyed the jitterbug best of all.

Jitters - a sense of panic or extreme nervousness

The lead actor had a case of the jitters right before opening night.

Yam – a large root of a plant that has orange skin and orange flesh that is eaten as a vegetable and tastes sweet

Yam is a very nutritional food and it’s often served at a traditional Thanksgiving meal.

Zebra – an African animal that looks like a striped black and white horse

The zebra loved to run wildly through the grasslands.

Zombie - a person who moves very slowly and is not aware of what is happening especially because they are very tired

She didn’t remember the conversation we had at breakfast this morning because of her zombie-like behavior.

American Indian Language

Rivière du Québec Parc Jacques Cartier Canoé Indien

Avocado - a fruit with rough dark green or purple skin, smooth light green flesh, and a large seed in the middle

I ordered a chicken salad with avocado on the side.

Cacao– the dried seeds of a tropical tree that are used to make cocoa and chocolate

Chocolate is made from cacao trees.

Cannibal – a person who eats the flesh of human beings or an animal that eats its own kind

There are many species of fish and reptiles that practice cannibalism.

Canoe – a long, narrow boat that is pointed at both ends and is moved through the water by a paddle with one blade

The family took a canoe down the river to the next portage.

Chipmunk - small North American animal that is related to the squirrel

The chipmunk was gathering nuts for the winter and bringing them to its nest.

Chocolate – a good that is made from cacao beans and is used as a sweet flavoring to make other foods or is eaten as a candy

Although I was on a diet, my weakness was chocolate.

Chili - a small pepper with a hot flavor; a spicy dish made of ground beef, hot peppers or chili powder and usually beans

We ordered a bowl of hot chili after the football game.

Hammock – a swinging couch or bed usually made of netting or canvas and slung by cords from supports at each end

It was fun to take a nap on the hammock under the oak trees

.Hurricane – an extremely large, powerful and destructive storm with strong winds that occurs especially in the western part of the Atlantic Ocean

The hurricane hit the shore and devastated the island.

Maize - Indian corn

The maize was tied with an orange bow for a fall door decoration.

Moccasin – a flat shoe that is made of soft leather originally worn by some Native Americans

He slipped on the moccasins to keep his feet warm in the house.

Moose – a large animal with large, flat antlers that lives in the northern forested parts of America, Asia and Europe

The moose were seldom attacked by humans.

Papoose - a young child of American Indian parents; now used to refer to a young child

After the baby’s nightly bath, it was time to wrap up the papoose in a warm blanket to sleep.

Pecan – a nut that grows on a tall tree in the U.S. and Mexico

We shelled the pecans to make a pecan pie.

Potato - a round root of a plant that has brown, yellow, or red skin with either white or yellow flesh, eaten as a vegetable

The restaurant sliced the potato to make French fries.

Skunk – a small black and white North American animal that produces a very strong, unpleasant smell when it is in danger

Someone must have run over a skunk with their car because a stretch of that road really smells.

Squaw - an American Indian woman

The squaw was left to cook dinner for the visiting elders.

Terrapin – any of various aquatic turtles from the family Emydidae

The diamondback terrapin is a common turtle that lives near the rivers of North America.

Tobacco – a plant that produces leaves which are smoked in pipes and cigarettes

The tobacco plants were harvested to make cigarettes.

Tobaggan – a long, light sled that has a curved front that is used for sliding over snow and ice, and down hills

The toboggan gained speed and then went off the snowy path of the hill.

Tomahawk  - a light axe used as a missile and as a hand weapon especially by North American Indians

The Native American used the tomahawk for protection from the poisonous snake.

Tomato – a round, soft red fruit eaten raw or cooked; it is often used in salads, sandwiches and sauces

The spaghetti sauce recipe was my grandmother’s recipe. It was made with freshly ripened tomatoes.

Woodchuck – a grizzled thickset marmot of North America; also called a groundhog

The woodchuck chopped wood with its front teeth.


the great wall with sunset glow

Chop suey – a dish prepared chiefly from bean sprouts, bamboo shoots, water chestnuts, onions, mushrooms, and meat or fish and served with rice and soy sauce

Now, let’s spread the chop suey vegetables over the fried rice.

Chow mein – a seasoned stew of shredded or diced meat, mushrooms, and vegetables that is usually served with fried noodles

I would like to order chow mein to go, please.

Ketchup – a seasoned pureed condiment usually made from tomatoes

I must have forgotten to buy the ketchup at the grocery store.

Tea – an aromatic beverage prepared from tea leaves by infusion with boiling water

People the world over enjoy drinking tea.

Ginseng – a Chinese perennial herb (Panax ginseng syn. P. schinseng of the family Araliaceae, the ginseng family) having five leaflets on each leaf, scarlet berries, and an aromatic root valued especially locally as a medicine

Ginseng has been harvested across the eastern third of America since colonial times.



Geisha – a Japanese girl or woman who is trained to provide entertaining and lighthearted company especially for a man or a group of men

The film is about the life of a geisha in Japan.

Hara Kiri – ritual suicide by disembowelment practiced by the Japanese samurai or formerly decreed by a court in lieu of the death penalty

He ended up committing hara-kiri in front of hundreds of people.

Judo – a sport developed from jujitsu that emphasizes the use of quick movement and leverage to throw an opponent

Judo can be used to defend oneself.

Jujitsu – an art of weaponless fighting employing holds, throws, and paralyzing blows to subdue or disable an opponent

He presented an image of a Jujitsu master or a samurai.

Kamikaze – an airplane containing explosives to be flown in a suicide crash on a target

Kamikaze fighter pilots crashed their aircraft into enemy battle cruisers, killing themselves and damaging the enemy.

Karaoke – a device that plays instrumental accompaniments for a selection of songs to which the user sings along and that records the user's singing with the music

They sing karaoke for fun at the restaurant on Saturday nights.

Samurai – a military retainer of a Japanese daimyo practicing the code of conduct of Bushido

The Samurai were faithful to their masters.

Soy – a brown liquid sauce made by subjecting beans (as soybeans) to long fermentation and to digestion in brine

Left over soy sauce can be kept and used later.

Sumo – a Japanese form of wrestling in which a contestant loses if he is forced out of the ring or if any part of his body except the soles of his feet touches the ground

These two people aren’t real sumo wrestlers.

Sushi – cold rice dressed with vinegar, formed into any of various shapes, and garnished especially with bits of raw seafood or vegetables

Tuna sashimi is very healthy.

Tsunami – a great sea wave produced especially by submarine earth movement or volcanic eruption

The New York Times covered the aftermath of the tsunami.

Pacific Islands

Moais in Ahu Tongariki, Easter island, Chile

Bamboo – a tall plant with hard hollow stems that are used for building and to make furniture, tools, etc.

The bamboo was eaten by the koala bear.

Gingham – a clothing fabric usually of yarn-dyed cotton in plain weave

The photo in the magazine shows a gingham bag and a flower-print bag.

Rattan – a rattan cane or switch

Bamboo and rattan were used to keep the animals in line.

Taboo – a prohibition imposed by social custom or as a protective measure

That word is taboo among them.

Tattoo – to mark or color (the skin)

His arms were all covered in tattoos.

Ukulele a small guitar of Portuguese origin popularized in Hawaii in the 1880s and strung typically with four strings

I would rather listen to the ukulele any day.

Boondocks – rough country filled with dense brush

It would be a shame to let his talents go to waste in the boondocks.


Australian outback endless road

Boomerang – a curved, flat, wooden tool that can be thrown in such a way that it returns to the thrower

My dog likes to play with the boomerang.

Budgerigar – a small Australian parrot usually light green with black and yellow markings in the wild but bred under domestication in many colors

The budgerigar gave a quick peck at the seed.

Didgeridoo – a large bamboo or wooden trumpet of the Australian aborigines

Playing the didgeridoo may help train muscles of the upper airway.

Kangaroo – an Australian animal that moves by hopping on its powerful rear legs

The kangaroo is jumping across the creek


J.R.R. Tolkien admits that languages take time. He wishes there was more time. I think you’ll agree with me that most things worthwhile in life take time. And that most of us, if we could, would like more time. However, with learning a 2nd language, the important thing to remember is to keep studying. Keep using the English you have learned and it will become easier for you. You will become a stronger English-speaker. Easier to listen and understand. Easier to speak. Easier to read. Easier to write. The more you learn, the more your self-confidence will increase. Do write to me using the comments section below and let me know how things are going. Can I help you with learning English? Do you know some tips to master your spoken English? Remember, languages take time. But it is so worth it.

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