Feb 10th 2013

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Carnivals, Festivals and the important concept of Loanwords

Carnivals. We all know what they are, and how fun they can be, but where does this word come from? Since the the Rio Carnival is heating up right now in Brazil, it’s a perfect time to learn both where the word “carnival” comes from and the concept of a loanword.

A loanword is a word taken from one language and then incorporated into another. The word “loanword” itself is a comes from the German word “lehnwort.” A giant 29% of all words in English come from Latin (tied with French as the largest contributing language to English).

The word “carnival” is suspected to come from the two late Latin words “carne” and “vale” which loosely translates to “farewell to meat.” Early carnivals were Catholic events in Spain and Portugal that took place before Easter. At these carnivals, celebrants would be giving it up for the next 40 days as a means of fasting.

Festival also has Latin roots with an origin in the word “festivus” which means cheerful. Festivals are large parties or events hosted by a community which usually celebrates something particular community.

Historically festivals centered around religious celebrations in honor of gods, but in modern times we have wine festivals, music festivals, literature festivals and many more fun variants.

What carnivals or festivals are you excited to attend this year and what is your favorite loanword found in English?

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