For example, if we were to take one of the most used Latin dictionaries (Lewis and Short?), and find out the percentage of total entries that have made it one way or another into English and Spanish, how much these percentages would be?

Notice that this is different from the reverse question, which is: "How many English words come from Latin?"

There seem to be some stuff around the web, but they look mostly informal (e.g. this one, stating that 10% of Latin words made it directly into English).

Are there are more reliable sources regarding this issue? Perhaps some mathematical or computational algorithm that perform such calculation?

I think this is an important question, and which relates to another I asked earlier. Since vocabulary seem to me a crucial determinant of the speed at which a new language can be learned, I would like to know this.

  • Do you want percentage counted by dictionary entries or by occurrence in some classical work or corpus? The latter will give more weight to more common words, the former will not. Or would you be happy with any kind of information, as long as it's clear what is meant? I'm not sure if this would work better as separate questions for English and Spanish; let's see what others think.
    – Joonas Ilmavirta
    Commented Apr 26, 2017 at 19:58
  • @JoonasIlmavirta Good points. To be fair, I thought such analysis might no exist, or be very restricted, and as such, I am in principle open to anything, as long as it is clear what represents. I guess the use of corpus might be a better approach, but I do not know enough to judge that myself.
    – luchonacho
    Commented Apr 26, 2017 at 20:08
  • Are you differentiating between borrowed and inherited words?
    – cmw
    Commented Apr 26, 2017 at 20:42
  • 3
    All of your questions are answered in *Borrowed Words" by Philip Durkin (OUP, 2014). global.oup.com/academic/product/…
    – Alex B.
    Commented Apr 26, 2017 at 23:49

1 Answer 1


The graphs below are taken from "Borrowed Words, A History of Loanwords in English" by Philip Durkin (2014), as suggested by Alex B.

Around 13,000 words out of 92,500 (the most frequent entries in the third edition of the OED, OED3) are derived only from Latin with around 2,000 which are from French and/or Latin (uncertain etymology).

enter image description here

Interestingly, most of the borrowing from Latin is "post-medieval", perhaps reflecting the emergence of formal science. The spike in the 19th century might reflect the new sciences of geology, biology, botanic, paleontology, etc.

enter image description here

Overall, "loanwords" (including from Latin) are around a third of the main English words in OED.

enter image description here

Other corpora like Shorter Oxford English Dictionary (SOED), Advanced Learner’s Dictionary of Current English (ALD) and General Service List of English Words (GSL) also give particular relevance to Latin.

enter image description here

This is only half of the answer. I am still missing a similar study for Spanish.

  • 1
    I heartily second the figures posted from the OED. English--though chock full of Latin roots, phrases, mutations and so on--just doesn't belong in the same category as Spanish. Same with French, Italian, Portuguese, and any additional Romance Languages I'm blanking on. I took Latin from 6th grade through my freshman year of college, and it's especially interesting to think about this era of etymology while looking at a map. Before the sheer scope of the British Empire, geography--and language itself--is a country's destiny.
    – Ray Ron
    Commented Jul 15, 2020 at 16:56

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.