Can You Guess What These Foreign Words And Phrases Mean?


English has borrowed many foreign words and phrases into its everyday usage. Many come from cultural and geographical proximity to Western European nations and so are from romance languages, like French, Spanish, or Italian. When phrases are pulled from Latin there is often semantic shift because we live in a very different era than that of the Romans and Medieval scholars who conversed in this language. However other words come from Native American languages like Inuit or Cherokee (especially when we think of place names or new agricultural items/animals found in the Americas).

Other words included have not necessarily been adopted into English. They come from  Tagalog, Welsh, and Russian-- languages English does not often borrow from. However, they describe such a specific feeling/context that we thought you should know them. Taking this quiz will up your cultural knowledge, allow you to catch more references, and even teach you a little of these respective languages. Today, English is the established lingua franca which means that most of the world is doing their business in English, though people predict that Mandarin will soon overtake it. Even so, English speakers are still interested in learning different languages. Hopefully this quiz will inspire you to learn one.

Many words are untranslatable, but we'll try our best.

Do you know what these foreign words and expressions mean?


Like a majority of English loanwords this expletive has been borrowed into English from French. It is enthusiastically used by every French teacher to transmit their enthusiasm about the language of love to their students. It is pronounced in a somewhat smug manner because it means something like "tada," referring to something that has just instantiated. If you are ever wandering around Paris saying this word multiple times along with "vite, vite" (quickly, quickly) will help to fool passers-by that you are a French local. That is, until someone approaches you speaking French.


This very fancy looking word originated in Sweden and was borrowed into English in 1939 during the New York World Fair. It originally described food because the compound literally meant smörgås (sandwich) and bord (table). Other Scandinavian and Eastern European countries have varying versions of this type of feast around Christmastime. It consists of both hot and cold dishes and was originally served as an appetizer but has now moved on to the main course. The word has ben used metaphorically so many times it no longer only describes food but instead pleasant things.

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