The Cognates of English Words in the Romance Languages
San José State University

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The Cognates of English Words
in the Romance Languages

The prolific French writer, André Maurois, tells of an encounter between a French soldier and a Potuguese soldier in World War I. The Portuguese soldier tells the French solidier that for one hundred francs he can teacg him one thousand words of Portuguese in less than one minute. The French soldier, thinking it is an impossible task, agrees to the Portuguese soldier's proposal. The Portuguese soldier then says, "All of the words that you have in French that end in -tion, they are the same in Portuguese but the end in ¸ão, which you should pronounce as saong. There are over a thousand of them and they are all feminine in gender just as in French. That took less than a minute didn't it? One hundred francs, please."

The words that are similar in two languages are called the cognate words of the two languages. The Romance languages of French, Catalan, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian and Romanian, all being derived from Latin have lots of cognate words.

English being derived from Germanic Anglo-Saxon has many cognates with the Germanic family of German, Dutch, Friesian and the Scandinavian languages. But English was highly influenced by French after the Norman conquest andalso adopted many words directly from Latin. Thus English has more cognate words with other languages than do the rest of the languages of Europe.

English-Romance Language Cognates

Rather than displaying the many individual Romance language words cognate with English words it is better to focus on the combinatorial forms, as displayed in the table below.

The words involving combinatorial forms tend to be abstract and of feminine in gender.

Cognates of Combinatorial Forms of English in the Romance Languages
EnglishFrenchCatalanSpanishPortugueseItalianRomanian
-tion-tion-cióción-ção-zionetune
-ty-at-dad-dade-ate
-ly-ment-ament-mente-mente-mente
-able
-ible
-able
-ible
able
-ible
-able
-ible
-vel-abile
-ibile
-abil
-ibil
-ent-ente-ent-ente-ente-ente-inte
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