Functions of Latin and Scandinavian Military Borrowings in Modern English

Borrowing as a method of new word formation. History of military borrowing from Latin and Old Norse. The etymology and modern functions of military loanwords. The use of borrowed terms in historical fiction and fantasy genre. Non-military modern meanings.

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Institute of Foreign Languages

Department of Foreign Languages in Theory and Practice


The Head of the Department of Foreign

Languages in Theory and Practice


Functions of Latin and Scandinavian Military Borrowings in Modern English

45.03.02 - Linguistics

Submitted by

A.V. Tikhonova

Moscow 2016




1.1 Borrowing as a method of new word formation

1.2 Classification of borrowings

1.3 The word and the term

1.4 History of military borrowing from Latin

1.5 History of military borrowing from old Norse


2.1 Military loanwords from Latin

2.2 Military loanwords from old Norse

2.3 The present day use of borrowed Latin & old Norse terms

2.3.1 Historical fiction

2.3.2 Fantasy genre fiction

2.4 Non-military modern meanings




The topic of this work deals with the functions of Latin and Scandinavian military borrowings in modern English. The work itself consists of an introductory part, a main part that includes two chapters and a conclusion.

The task of the research is to work through etymological dictionaries to understand the history of each military Latin and Scandinavian loanword, the development and diversity of their meanings, and to analyze modern fiction to understand the role they play in present times. Thus, the goal is to realize the functions of military borrowings in modern English.

The subject of this research will be that part of English vocabulary, that has been build of loanwords, and the complex of military borrowings will serve as the object. Analytical methods will be used to achieve the objective of the work, with dictionaries and fiction serving as the research material.

It is common to speak about loanwords in the language of Anglo-Saxons (Old English), about their etymology, the ways they were acquired, their influence on Old English, even about their functions in present etc. The relevance of this work consists in the fact that the role of Latin and Scandinavian military words will be contemplated not in the context of Anglo-Saxon but in the context of modern English.

borrowing latin military loanword


1.1 Borrowing as a method of new word formation

There can be named several different ways of enriching a language and forming new words.

1) Affixation:

1. Number (rook - rooks)

2. Case (Jacob's cat)

3. Gender (chat - chate (Fr. cat)

4. Time (die - died)

5. Person (go - goes)

6. Degree of comparison: (pretty - prettier)

2) Composing:

a) Pyroscaphe (pyros + scaphe)

b) Steamship (steam + ship)

3) Conversion (the conversion of one part of the speech into another without any changings in its phonetic and grammatical structure):

a) The black, meaning space (TIE pilot slang, the Star Wars franchise)

b) The blue, meaning planetary atmosphere (TIE pilot slang, the Star Wars franchise)

4) Abbreviation (word abridgement).

a) B.C. - Before Christ

b) A.D. - Anno Domini (literally, God's year)

c) BNC - British National Corpus

d) ROFL - rolling on floor laughing (slang)

e) P.S. - post scriptum

f) Km - kilometer

4) Word reviewing (the denotation passes from one word to another one or to a whole group).

5) Borrowings.

A borrowing - or a loanword - is both a foreign element in the language and the process of such an element appearing and remaining in the language. Borrowings are an essential historical and functional part of the language, one of the ways of enriching its vocabulary. They serve as a source for new roots, new word formation elements and new terms.

Borrowings are an important factor of language development - perhaps, even one of the most important. This process lies in the very core of language activity. The percent of borrowings is always high in each language, though the exact number of them is not possible to be counted, because of its constant growth: new borrowings appear, old borrowings get harder to recognize and tell what their origins are and say where did they come from.

Borrowings are seen as a specific and separate layer of the language. In each language it is possible to name several layers of words:

1. Words that belong to every language of one language family.

2. Words that belong to a group or a sub-group of related languages.

3. Aboriginal words.

4. Borrowings.

In terms of English it looks as following:

- Indo-European words (mother, father, brother, daughter, be, hundred);

- German words (bear, winter, see);

- West-Germanic words (ask, love);

- Anglo-Saxon (lord, boy/girl);

- Borrowings (loanwords):

From related languages: knight, low, flat (Ancient Scandinavian), napper, fitter (Holland);

From not related languages: Soviet, vodka, tundra, pernach (Russian), samurai, katana (Japanese), echo, xylophone (Greek).

This is the standard classification of the English language, yet it cannot be called ultimately right. For example, some words that are deemed to be Indo-European may actually belong to older pre-languages, as there have always been trade and war connections between different peoples of the old.

Words that have been borrowed in ancient times and that are now fully assimilated by the receiving language are not taken as foreign. For example, the English word table has actually come from the French word which is spelled absolutely the same. Most times it is hard to differentiate what particular language has transferred a word that lingered in another language and in time became a borrowing (the word figure may have come directly from Latin figura or from French figure). Another difficulty lies in differentiation of a borrowing's origins and a word's derivation.

In spite of all the nuances this classification demonstrates the scope of the phenomenon: most of English words have been borrowed in earlier or latter periods, from relative or unallied language systems.

1.2 Classification of borrowings

Borrowings differ:

In methods.

a) direct, which a word has come straightly from one language to another one.

b) indirect, through one or several intermediary languages.

In ways.

a) transcription (phonetic way). The word's sound form is kept by the receiving language, e.g. boutique, ballet.

b) transliteration. The way of writing the word is borrowed. The letters change for the letters of the receiving tongue, e.g. sputnik or many Greek words.

c) calque/loan translation. The components of the word or a collocation are translated apart and then joined as in the original word/collocation, e.g. French gratte-ciel which was formed after the English skyscraper.

In types of assimilation.

a) completely assimilated. They do not have an aura of foreign words. Also the verbs that belong to the completely assimilated group of borrowings are usually regular (e.g. punish - punished). Nouns that have assimilated completely have their plural form ending with the s-inflexion (e.g. sack - sacks). In completely assimilated loanwords from French the stress is no longer on the last syllable.

b) polysemantic borrowings. They have been transferred from other languages not fully: only one meaning has been brought into the receiving language (e.g. a loanword sputnik is used in English only in the meaning of an orbital spaceship, while in its mother tongue Russian it has also got a meaning of a person that accompanies someone).

c) partly assimilated borrowings. This group itself consists of several sub-groups:

1) Borrowings that are not assimilated semantically, for they name objects and notions from a specific country which are not common in any other place in the world e.g. sari, vodka, flamenco, taiga, etc.

2) Borrowings that are not assimilated grammatically. For example, such are those nouns that came from Latin and Greek. They keep their plural Latin/Greek forms, e.g. bacteria - bacterium, datum - data, octopus - octopi, etc.

3) Borrowings that are not assimilated phonetically. To this sub-group belong those words that begin with sounds [v] and [z], e.g. volume, zebra. In native-English words these consonants are used only in between vowels (the intervocalic position) as allophones of sounds [f] and [s] (loss - lose, life - live). Scandinavian borrowings tend to have consonants and combinations of consonants which are not palatalized, e.g. [sk] in the words: sky, skate, ski, etc., while in the native words the sound are palatalized; sounds [k] and [g] before front vowels are not palatalized e.g. girl, get, give, kid, kill, kettle, while in the native words they are also palatalized, e.g. German, child.

Some French borrowings have kept the stress on the last syllable as in words bizarre, giraffe, baroque and cartoon. Some French borrowings have kept special combinations of sounds, e.g. [a:3] in the words: camouflage, bourgeois; some of them have kept the combination of sounds [wa:] in the words: memoir, boulevard.

4) Borrowings that are partly assimilated graphically, e.g. in Greek borrowings y can be spelled in the middle of the word instead of i (e.g. etymology, gymnasium), ph denotes the sound [f] (geography, hemisphere, euphoria), ch denotes the sound [k] (mechanic, monarchy),ps denotes the sound [s] (psychosis, psychiatry).

5) Borrowings that are called foreign words and collocations. These borrowings have not changed at all and they have kept their foreign face: their phonetic and grammatical structures. For example, a French war-term melee, which denotes a confused fight, or another French war-term coup de grace, which means the final blow, or a well-known French phrase: C'est la vie! (mostly in Russian).

The English language has received a lot of foreign words. Most of them are of French origin, because of the great number of wars and more or less peaceful contacts with this country. Though there are many words that have come to English from such languages as Latin, German, Arabic, Chinese, Russian, etc. Wars had a great influence, of course, but even more influence was caused by the period of invasions into Britain. The invaders brought their own language with them and through interaction with the locals many a foreign word lingered, stayed and through the course of the times became an assimilated (or not) borrowing.

Foreign words have been integrated into the English language in miscellaneous spheres, one of the biggest being the military one. Most of the military borrowings became what is known to be a war term.

1.3 The word and the term

The best definition of the word is as follows: the word is a fundamental semantic-structural unit of the language, which is used as a principal carrier of meaning.

In its turn, the term expresses a strict notion and is expressed by a word in the language but, unlike the word, the term does not only express a meaning but simultaneously specializes it. Here, is where the most controversial moment lies: what is the difference between an ordinary word and a term and how to determinate the latter.

Moreover, there exist terms-collocations: terms that consist of several components. Scientists single out three types of terms-collocations.

The first type is represented by a term-collocation in which both words belong to specialized vocabulary. The second type is represented by three variants of terms-collocations, which are:

1. Those, in which only one component is a technical term and the other belongs to vernacular vocabulary.

2. Those, in which the first component (the adjective) has a specialized meaning in a specific scientific sphere.

3. Those, in which the second component can be understood in its basic meaning but together with the first component serves as a term in a specific scientific sphere.

The third type unites the terms-collocations, in which both components belong to vernacular vocabulary and only the combination of two turns out to be a term.

In the linguistic aspect the conception of term is unique. The term-consisting vocabulary is more complicated than vernacular vocabulary. The semiotic essence of the term does not coincide with the word's basic (literary) meaning wholly.

Moreover, there is no single opinion upon what the word term itself means. A term may mean a word or a collocation that demand a specific definition in a specific notinal system [4, p. 77]. A term may mean a word or a collocation that belong to specific objects or subjects and which are used by specialists in certain areas of science [14, p. 110]. A term is also said to be a nominative group connected with scientific and technological texts and expressing a complex of conceptual features [6, p. 14].

Thus, having analyzed several linguistic concepts, the conclusion can be made that a term is a cognitive unit of the language that has formed under the influence of history and time or in a close circle of specialists; is characterized by unequivocality and fully reflects the basic features of a concrete notion that exist during this particular period of science, technique and society's development.

The linguistic nature of the term lies in a group of its peculiarities:

1. A term is a vocabulary unit that belongs to every literary language.

2. Terms possess a lot of informational satiation, because they give the fullest and the most accurate definition of the presented concept.

3. Terms have a nominative character.

4. Terms differ from other words by having system.

5. Terms are mostly single-valued in terms of a presented specific terminological context.

6. Terms stand out from other words by their neutrality and their lack of expressiveness.

Terms form the base of scientific vocabulary because they contain more information than anything else. They make it [the scientific vocabulary] differ from the vocabulary of the literary language by a number of ways:

1. Functionally. Terms have not only the nominative function but also the defining function.

2. Semantically. Terms name specific notions, the contents of which are in most times unique.

3. In the spheres of usage. A lot of terms belong to the scientific sphere and are not used in more generic spheres.

4. In origins and methods of formation.

Thus, having said about what terms (terminology) is and how do they differ from common words, it is time to speak of the ways of them getting into the language.

The military loanwords were received mostly through war conflicts: either using the direct way (as it was said above, from one language straight into the other), or the indirect way (through one or several intermediaries).

Nowadays, the military terms of the old have stopped being actually terms, but they stay in the language as words of general vocabulary. They belong to the functional circumference of the lexical system, though they are used in English along with other Latin and Scandinavian loanwords. The military borrowings are not as high used as, for example, the verbs get and take, but without them it is impossible to speak on topics of old times.

1.4 History of military borrowing from Latin

There were three periods in the history of the English language when Latin words were actively borrowed:

1) Continental borrowing (Zero Period)

2) Latin through Celtic Transmission (Latin Influence of the First Period)

3) Latin Influence of the Second Period: The Christianization of Britain. [10, p. 72-75]

Such military borrowings as camp, banner, wall (weal) belong to the Zero period [10, p. 75] when the Latins contacted with the Angles and Saxes on the continent. Traders, Germanic as well as Roman, came and went, while Germanic youth returning from within the empire must have carried back glowing accounts of Roman cities and Roman life. Such intercourse between the two peoples was certain to carry words from one language to the other. [10, p. 72] The Anglo-Saxon tribes brought these words to Britain and they stayed in the English language. Such words as ceaster (castle) and turris (tower) were borrowed through the Celtic language while the Anglo-Saxons assimilated with the former.

There are two methods of military borrowings from Latin. The first one is the direct method - during the Zero period, when the Anglo-Saxons contacted with the Romans on the continent without any in-between culture.

The second type is the indirect method: as it has already been said, through Celtic: for 5 centuries the Romans have dominated over the Isle.

Up to the 1st century the people who lived on the British Isles were Celts, who had began their immigration there in the 800-700 B.C. The people that lived in Britain are traditionally called the Brits, a name that came from their self-designation - Pryden. At the begging of the Roman invasion era they lived in villages, many of which transformed later into Roman cities, the most known being Londinium (modern London), Eboracum (modern York) and Colenceaster (modern Colchester).

In the year 41 Caligula, the Roman Emperor, was murdered and Claudius (41 - 54 A.D.) inherited the throne. He was not popular in the imperial house, so he decided to strengthen his authority by a war campaign, which he deemed to be fruitful. Britain became the target of this campaign. There were at least two reasons for such a choice: 1) Britain had never been conquered before, not even Julius Cesare, one of the most brilliant Roman war leaders; 2) Britain was a good exporter of metal, fish, corn, hounds and slaves, so the conquer of the island promised much profit to the Roman Empire.

In the year 43 forty thousand Roman soldiers debarkated in Britain and thus the invasion began. The legionaries went ashore near Kent, not far from Richboro (Rutupiae at that time) and soon took under control all the South-East of the island. The Celts - as has been mentioned before, tribes that lived on the British Isles before the invasion and that are considered aboriginal, because not a people is known to had lived there before the Celts did - tried to resist but were pulverized and soon fled to more North-West regions.

Claudius himself travelled to Britain the same year and received capitulations from twelve local rulers.

The conquer of Britain lasted for 40 years. A number of lands did not bow to the Romans easily and it took much struggle and a lot of time to overpower them. Moreover, rebellions on already captured territories were a common thing, arising from the necessity of the locals to serve in the army, from the violence of the invaders and etc.

A lot of strength demanded the stronghold of Maiden-Castle in Dorset. Only after a long siege the Romans were able to seize it and burn to ashes. While this campaign was being held (in the year 60 A.D.) a rebellion lead by queen Boadicca (Boadicea - Latin), the governess of the Iceni tribe, began. The Iceni were a Celtic tribe that lived in the south-east regions of Britain. The constant violation of their sacred places (the demolition of druidic sacraments on the isle of Mona), trespasses of Roman authorities and an insult to the royalty of the Iceni forced the latter to start fighting against the Roman influence.

The Iceni army moved from the East part of England and marched with triumph through Colenceaster (Colchester), Londinium (London) and Verlamion (St. Albans). The Romans had to interrupt their warfare in Anglesey and march to meet Boadicea.

So the two armies clashed in battle, though the history did not manage to keep the location of this battle. As Roman historians say the Iceni army twelve times outnumbered the Romans, but this fact did not keep the Romans from winning a glorious victory over them. If the notes are to be trusted, eighty-thousand Brits fell during this battle with Romans losing only four hundred of their men. In the outcome, Boadicea poisoned herself and her daughters not to fall into the Romans' hands as captives. Thus the most powerful uprising in Britain against the Romans ended with the latter ones staying triumphal.

The situation with the Celts, that had taken cover in the Scottish forests was more complicated. The myth about them defeating the Ninth Legion is nowadays proved wrong, though they most certainly brought a lot of trouble to the Romans.

In the year 119 A.D. they united and another uprising began.

Before this, in 117, Hadrian became the Roman Emperor. He returned to the old traditions of foreign policy, that were typical of August's times: fortified boundaries and lack of further conquests. In 12, when the Celts had forced the Romans south, Hadrian himself arrived in Britain and, having understood that there was no quick victory for the Romans there, ordered to build a massive wall along the northern bank of the river Tyne right to the bay of Solway Firth, that would cut the Isle from east to west.

The Romans got to work immediately and after six years of hard labor Hadrian's wall appeared. The remnants of this magnificent structure can still be seen on the road from Newcastle to Carlyle.

Hadrian's wall was not just a stone wall. It defensive fortification, consisting of sixteen stronghold. Moreover there were forts built one Roman mile (about 1,48 km) apart from each other that were constantly filled with garrisons on duty (the best known one is Chester). The distances between the forts were fortified with three guard towers.

About twenty years after the Hadrian's wall had been built the Roman army managed to advance further into the north and the question of another fortification wall arose. By the will of Antoninus Pius (138-161 A.D.) another wall was built, though it was such an imposing structure. It stretched from the bay Firth of Forth to the bay Firth of Clyde and carried the name of Antoninus as Hadrian's wall carried the name of Hadrian. The building started in 143 but already in 164 the Romans were forced back into their previous boundaries and there they remained until leaving about 410 A.D. due to attacks on the Roman Empire becoming more frequent.

Still, despite the large influence of Roman culture over the Celtic one and the fact that the Celts have adopted more than 600 words [10, p. 74], few of them were transferred to the language of Anglo-Saxons. Much more military Latin loanwords came through French - especially with the Norman conquest.

The Romans conquered all the Mediterranean coast in seven years (125-118 B.C.) and formed a province, that has lived up to modern days as a south-eastern part of France with the same name: Province. Several times were the Romans in Province attacked by barbaric tribes (teutons, cimbri), but each time they were able to hold their ground and force the attackers back to where they had come from.

About 60 A.D. an alliance of tribes that lived to the east of Rheine displayed interest in waging war upon some of the Gallic tribes that lived to the west of the river. The Gauls turned for help either to the Romans, or sided with the Suevi (the Germans), thus inviting both parties into their lands. The Romans defeated the Suevi and thus gained control of the whole Gaul (Gallia - Latin) for another five hundred years.

Due to the interaction between the Gauls and the Romans words passed between Gaulish and Latin that later evolved in the receiving language and in time, when close contacts with Britain began, passed into English.

1.5 History of military borrowing from Old Norse

The method of borrowing loanwords from Old Norse was only direct due to the Scandinavian conquest of Britain in the 9th century.

The period of invasions did not end for Britain with the Germanic tribes. In the 8th century Scandinavians, tribes that lived in nowadays Norway, Sweden and Denmark rowed to more distant coats in search for richer plunder. Before this time such raids used to end with them devastated the chosen piece of the coast and then returning back home in their boats, which were called drakkars. But systematically repeating raids led the Scandinavians farther and farther from their homes in search for greater wealth.

So in the 8th century the Scandinavians, who had their boats built and equipped better, prevailed in crossing the North Sea to Scotland.

No one there could have ever guessed the consequences of this first raid. From this time on the Scandinavians are more known as Vikings, a term deriving either from Frisian wic `settlement' or Old Norse vik `bay' [14, p. 11]. The first place to be attacked was the monastery of Lindisfarne in the year 793 and the second - Jarrow in 794 [14, p. 11]. The Vikings were dragged to the monasteries because of their riches and they slaughtered everyone within their reach. They eviscerated many more places, such as the island of Iona, a centre of Hiberno-Scottish culture. Very soon the Vikings became the scourge of Ireland and the entire north of England.

The first Scandinavian invaders were Norwegians but in was not long until the Danes joined the ranks of the raiders during the 9th century. The beginning of their activity on the British Isles consisted in a series of raids on the east coast of England in 835. It was then when the history of the Scandinavians in Britain had found its first faces: Ragnar Lothbrok and his sons who burned and marauded Sheppey (an island at the northern coast of Kent).

In the middle of the 9th century the Danes seized control of Kent and East Anglia and, seeing no serious resistance from the local population, they very much akin to the Angles, Saxons and Jutes before them decided to settle in England. During time the so-called Danelaw appeared, which was the area in eastern and north-eastern England that was completely under the rule of the Danes.

Thus the Scandinavians have never left Britain since them. The raids stopped at some time, but the descendants of those who had chosen to stay on the Isles assimilated into the English population.

Though the Danes were at some point surprised and glad for the lack of any resistance, the lack was not permanent. King Alfred the Great, who had been born in Wantage in 849, by of 871 started to wage war against the Danes. His war campaigns lasted for fifteen years (871-886) and the result was in Wessex being freed of Viking control. The Anglo-Saxon chronicles, which have already been mentioned above for several times, describes the victories and defeats of that war. The part of the chronicles known as the Parker Manuscript that has been named after a bishop who possessed it for some time, gives particular details of this struggle. In the years 886 to 892 Alfred seized his war desires for things devoted to temporal, religious and cultural business, but in 892 the Danes, who were previously for several decades occupied by ransacking the north of France, marched upon Alfred once more. Alfred did not let them take Wessex and that part of Mercia that belonged to the English and in 896 the Danes decided to stay in the boundaries of Danelaw. Some of them even went back to France to settle down there. Three years later, in 899, King Alfred died.

The 10th and 11th centuries passed in wars between the Anglo-Saxons and against the Danes, but during the reign of king Edgar (959-975) the former were able to take control over Danelaw, thus establishing a unified kingdom in Britain. As a result, the Vikings began to assimilate in Britain and mix with the Anglo-Saxons. Due to the fact that their languages were akin, the assimilation went faster than most times in common cases.

At the end of the 10th century Viking raids recommenced. The Danish kings, that had been able to unite not just Denmark but the biggest part of Scandinavia, marched on Britain. They were able to conquer Britain once again and one of their kings, Cnut (or Canute), at some point was simultaneously a king of Britain, Denmark and Norway (in the beginning of the 11th century).

After Canute died and another seven years of distractions followed Edward (who was called The Confessor) became the last Anglo-Saxon king of England. After him, the Norman invasion began.

Thus, in this chapter the concept of borrowing has been determined. The classification of such words has been given as well as the description of historical periods when military loanwords were borrowed. The phenomenon of a term has also been explained together with its differentiation from a mere word. The time has come to look closer at the list of loaned military vocabulary and to realize the place its components have in modern English.


Having followed the history of the ways military terms were borrowed from Latin during the Roman conquest and Old Norse, the language of the Vikings, during the Scandinavian invasion, it's time to turn our gaze upon these borrowings themselves. The list of them, which follows after these introductory words, is arranged in alphabetic order and is complete with the etymology of each term and the explanation of the object which is named by the term.

2.1 Military loanwords from Latin

The alphabetic list of Latin military borrowings, which have into English both directly and indirectly, is as follows:

1) archer (n.). Indirect method of borrowing.

Combat arm.

Late 13c., from Anglo-French archer, Old French archier "archer, bowmaker," from Latin arcarius, from arcus "bow" [37].

2) ballista (n.). Indirect method of borrowing (most probably, through Celtic).


An artillery engine, from Latin ballista, which means "a throwing machine [37]. Though the word became a term in the late 14th century, the word itself and the machine were known even before the Roman invasion. Julius Caesar described using ballist? on the Brits during a try to debark in his The Conquest of Gaul.


2.1) Manuballista.


A hand version of the weapon (also called cheiroballista). From manus hand + ballista [37].

2.2) Carroballista.


A version of the weapon that was put on a cart. From carro cart + ballista [37].

3) banner (n.). Direct method of borrowing.

From Old French baniere (Modern French banniere) "flag, banner, standard," from Late Latin bandum "standard". [37]

4) camp (n.). Direct method of borrowing, reborrowing.

Meaning "place where an army lodges temporarily," 1520s, from French camp, from Italian campo, from Latin campus "open field, level space". It is a later reborrowing of the Latin word, which appeared originally in Old English as camp "contest, battle, fight, war." [37]

5) castle (n.). Indirect method of borrowing (through Celtic).


Late Old English castel "village" (from Vulgar Latin); then "large fortified building, stronghold," from Latin castellum "a castle, fort, citadel, stronghold; fortified village," diminutive of castrum "fort," from Proto-Italic kastro- "part, share [37].

The oldest castle known in Britain is the Portchester castle which is located in Portchester, Hampshire and is dated with 285-290 A.D.


5.1) Chester (castle)

The word Cestre has come from Old English ceaster "Roman town or city," from Latin castrum "fortified place". Many English cities' names evaluated from this word, e.g. Chester, Colchester, Dorchester, Manchester, Winchester, Lancaster, Doncaster, Gloucester, Worcester [37].

6) catapult (n.). Indirect method of borrowing.


This word became an English military term only in the 16th century, having come from Middle French catapulte that, in turn, came from Latin catapulta "machine for throwing [37].

7) circumvallation (n.). Direct method of borrowing.


From Latin circumvallare, from circum circle and vallum wall, rampart.

Circumvallation is a trench with a parapet which is made by the besiegers between themselves and the outer space in case the besieged have a supportive army on the outside of the city [12, p. 324] [see Pic.1].

8) contravallation (n.). Direct method of borrowing.


From Latin contra against and vallum wall, rampart.

Contravallation is a line, or a trench with a parapet, encircling the besieged city to shield and cover the besiegers from possible enemy's fire. The fortifications themselves are called lines of circumvallation, and they usually consist of earthen walls and dry moats [12, p. 404] [see Pic.1].

[Pic. 1]

9) cuirass (n.). Indirect method of borrowing.


A piece of armory that protects the chest and back, came into English in the middle of the 15th century, though was a basic element of Roman equipment, from Middle French cuirasse, which in its turn is a derivative of Latin coriacea vestis leather clothes from Latin corium leather and vestimentum garment (vestis dress (n.) or vestitus clothing) [37].

10) legion (n.). Indirect method of borrowing.


From Old French legion "Roman legion" (3,000 to 6,000 men, under Marius usually with attached cavalry), from Latin legionem (nominative legio) "body of soldiers" [37].

11) mangonel (n.). Indirect method of borrowing.


A mangonel is yet another war engine of catapult type. It is derived from Old French mangonel "an engine of war that hurls stones" (Modern French mangonneau), diminutive of Medieval Latin mangonum, from Vulgar Latin manganum "machine" [37].

12) onager (n.). Indirect method of borrowing.


Having come from Old French onager ?(wild ass; siege engine), the term that denotes another type of stone hurling war engines has its origin in Latin onager ?which means wild ass [37].

13) phalanx (n.). Indirect method of borrowing (probably, through Celtic).


Phalanx is a battle formation when men of one unit stand close to each other in ranks. Borrowed from Latin phalanx compact body of heavily armed men in battle array, while the initial origin of the word is Greek [37].

14) tower (n.). Indirect way of borrowing (through Celtic).


The Old English for tower is torr "tower", derived from Latin turris "a tower, citadel, high structure" [37].


14.1) Watchtower.


A tower from where the sentries/guards/lookouts can keep an eye on the space before the city or the castle walls in case of an enemy or any other type of danger [37].

14.2) Siege tower.


A tower that can be moved on wheels, which was used during storming walls as a platform for bowmen and a safe place for the attackers from the arrows of the besieged. Due to the fact that siege towers were always made of wood and so could easily burn, they sometimes had metallic parts of were covered by either by metal plates or fresh animal skins [37].

15. wall (n.). Direct method of borrowing.


Old English weall, Anglian wall "rampart, dike, earthwork" (natural as well as man-made), "dam, cliff, rocky shore," also "defensive fortification around a city, side of a building," an Anglo-Frisian and Saxon borrowing (Old Saxon, Old Frisian, Middle Low German, Middle Dutch wal) from Latin vallum "wall, rampart, row or line of stakes" [37].

2.2 Military loanwords from Old Norse

The number of military loanwords from Old Norse - the language the Vikings spoke - is a lot smaller than from Latin.

1) arrow (n.)


early 14c., from Old English arwan, earlier earh "arrow". Most possibly a loanword from Old Norse or (genitive orvar). A weapon with a metal spear-shaped head on a thin wooden shaft with feathers on the other end of it, that is shot from a bow [37].

3) dirk (n.)


A long thin dagger. The word was used in Old Norse and meant "a picklock, but eventually evaluated into the name of a weapon [37].

4) club (n., also v.)


From Old Norse klubba "cudgel" or a similar Scandinavian source. A thick stick used as a weapon, sometimes with a metallic round head or with spikes [37].

5) knife (n., also v.)


Of late Old English cnif, probably from Old Norse knif. A short metal blade with a handle, used for cutting and piercing [37].

This is the only word the object of which has survived up to this day and is used not only by military men but by every person and in every house.

6) sling (n., also v.)


From Old Norse slyngva "to knock down". A part of an artillery weapon that holds a boulder or a different type of missile [37].

2.3 The present day use of borrowed Latin & Old Norse terms

As time went by and our civilization progressed, the methods of warfare changed. Cold steel arms firstly evolved and for some time existed with firearms which took the place of bows and crossbows. Then they were fully replaced by firearms and the terms which named them became obsolete. They are no longer used in modern speech but can be heard when a discussion goes to historical topics.

Later, fortification terms also became obsolete, because architecture changed. Due to the development and the growing efficiency of artillery, castle walls became less and less effective, their building at long last ceased and castles were replaced by palaces.

The only sphere in which these old military terms are still used is art. More specifically, in literature and cinematography, when the plot is based upon either some specific historical events or is happening in a fantasy universe where the civilization and the society are still on the Medieval level.

In the following parts it will be proved that though the time has claimed the objects the terms named, they are still very common in literature and cinematography.

2.3.1 Historical fiction

1. At the foot of the hill were the three enormous catapults that Nur ad-Din's engineers had constructed. Yusuf watched as one of the catapults fired. The heavy counterweight - stones and dirt gathered in a wooden bin - fell, and the long arm of the catapult rose into the air. Trailing from the far end of the arm was a leather sling, which now snapped upwards, hurling a three-hundred-pound boulder. [22, p. 391]

2. En meget storre boltfraen ballista piskede en bygeafjord op, mensen kanon blev affyret fra Harfleursmur [38], which when translated from Danish means A much bigger bolt-firing ballista whipped a missile up, but its blow landed far from the walls of Harfleurs.

3. I don't even know anything about this blooming great castle we're sitting under. The Normans built this, didn't they? William the Conqueror and his lot. [12, p. 48]

4. The first onager was a little more than a black, charred skeleton. A short distance away the other onager almost looked undamaged as the enemy swarmed round it. [41]

5. There was a loud clanking just behind John as the mangonel lever was released. He turned to watch the catapult in action // A rock from another mangonel hit the wall a few feet away, and a chunk of stone fell loose. [24, p. 181]

6. The manuballista can fire fifty heavy bolts per quarter hour, to about three hundred paces, and is very accurate. It can kill at a five hundred paces. It is a more powerful version of the scorpion that the Dacians use. Artillery Centurion Turpilinus stepped forward and enthusiastically added, We have also introduced an all metal manuballista. [20, p. 189]

7. Their own defenses weren't neglected. Towards the end of August, the nine-mile-long lines of circumvallation (facing outwards from the town) and contravallation (facing inwards) were completed, signaling to the enemy that they were endeavoring to put stranglehold on Lille. [39]

8. The Wall would be built by the legions, which, descended from Rome's first soldiers, phalanxes of farmer-soldiers from the plains of Latium, remained the core of the army. [11, p. 155]

9. While in later clearer vision

I can sense the coppery sweat,

Feel the pikes grow wet and slippery

When our Phalanx, Cyrus met. [40]

10. Thomas felt his heartbeat quicken at the sounds and the movement, even the stink wafting up from bellow. Old memories and sensations welled up inside him as the galley prepared for battle. He turned to Richard. `Bring me my cuirass, helmet and sword. And arm yourself.' [30, p. 137]

11. I pushed him into the trees, then slid the sword from its scabbard and turned to face my pursuers, one of whom took an arrow from the bag strapped at his waist. That persuaded me to follow Willibald into the corpse. The arrow slid past me and ripped through the undergrowth. I wore no mail, only the thick fur cloak that offered no protection from a hunter's arrow. [16, p. 9]

12. The second archer raised his stave, then recoiled, dropping the bow to clap his hands to his face and I saw a spark of blood there, blood bright as the holly berries. [16, p. 10]

13. John let them come. The man on the right swung his club for John's head. [23, p. 223]

14. The gate's arch was flanked by a pair of stone towers but the rampart above was wooden. There were at least a score of men on the platform, and more were joining them. I could see no way up to the rampart and the stairway was inside one of the towers. [17, p. 221]

15. They came in through your section of the camp!' King Conrad was shouting as he pointed at King Louis.

`You're the one who insisted that we camp here,' Louis retorted. `There are hundreds of paths through the orchards. It is impossible to guard every one of them. My men's blood is on your hands!'. [22, p. 75]

16. John spotted Yusuf's standard at the heart of the fighting, pushing towards Baldwin's banner. [22, 395 p.]

2.3.2 Fantasy genre fiction

The following examples will start with six quotes taken from the works of J.R.R. Tolkien, because he can be called the founding father of the fantasy genre. Though his works are based mostly on the Bible, Old Scandinavian lore, Old & Middle English legends, Finnish & Celtic myths and British literature works (such as Shakespeare's Macbeth), latter authors have borrowed a lot from Tolkien, starting with races and ending with geographical names. Of course they were also influenced by the medieval atmosphere and with it came the medieval warfare with all the supporting vocabulary.

1. `But the Ring was lost. It fell into the Great River, Anduin, and vanished. For Isildur was marching north along the east banks of the River, and near the Gladden Fields he was waylaid by the Orcs of the Mountains, and almost all his folk were slain. He leaped into the waters, but the Ring slipped from his finger as he swam, and then the Orcs saw him and killed him with arrows.' [32, p. 69]

2. As soon as the great catapults were set, with many yells and the creaking of rope and winch, they began to throw missiles marvellously high, so that they passed right above the battlement and fell thudding within the first circle of the City; and many of them by some secret art burst into flame as they came toppling down. [34, p. 1076]

3. Then perceiving that the valour of the City was already beaten down, the hidden Captain put forth his strength. Slowly the great siege-towers built in Osgiliath rolled forward through the dark. [34, p. 1079]

4. Then Sauron made it into a watchtower for Morgoth, a stronghold of evil, and a menace; and the fair isle of Tol Sirion became accursed, and it was called Tol-in-Gaurhoth, the Isle of Werewolves. [35, p. 197]

5. `Have they got any weapons?' asked Merry.

`Whips, knives, and clubs, enough for their dirty work: that's all they've showed so far,' said Cotton. `But I dare say they've got other gear, if it comes to fighting. Some have bows, anyway. They've shot one or two of our folk.' [34, p. 1321]

6. The dwellings of the Rohirrim were for the most part many leagues away to the South, under the wooded eaves of the White Mountains, now hidden in mist and cloud; yet the Horse-lords had formerly kept many herds and studs in the Eastemnet, this easterly region of their realm, and there the herdsmen had wandered much, living in camp and tent, even in winter-time. [33, p. 555]

7. The javelin hurled through the flames faster than any ballista dart. [19, p. 294]

8. The gods of Winterfell kept a different sort of wood. It was a dark, primal place, three acres of old forest untouched for ten thousand years as the gloomy castle rose around it. [27, p. 29]

9. In gloved hands were clutched all manner of weapons: longswords and lances and sharpened scythes, spiked clubs and daggers and heavy iron mauls. [27, p. 312]

10. I notched an arrow. Geryon laughed. `You fool! One arrow is no better than one sword'. [28, p. 127]

11. The proud towers of Myr Tariniel shone brightly in the last light of the setting sun. [29, p. 294]

12. Instead, they placed a pair of riding boots before me, along with a soldier's tunic and a bronze cuirass - the same uniform that they wore. [18, p. 83]

13. A fine theory. Only works if you advertise their presence, though. We didn't know they were aboard until they were charging us in a [bloody] phalanx. [26, p. 746]

14. She kept to the shade, head constantly moving to survey the crowd, and she wore truncheon and dirk openly on her belt. [26, p. 2134]

2.4 Non-military modern meanings

Sometimes the meaning of the listed words may change and then they stop being a military term of the old and start naming an entirely different object or phenomenon. Such a thing happened to the word wall: only in the 13th century wall began to name an interior part of a building [37]. The word arrow came to mean modern road signs which show direction and specific buttons on computers and other gadgets.

For example:

Maria reached for her camera and clicked to the display before handing it to him. I think this one's the best, she said. But there are a few more. Just use the arrow button there to go through them. [31, p. 168]

For another example the word tower can be taken. It has become a verb in the middle of the 15th century with the meaning to rise high [37] and to loom over. Now it is used to name a structure for catching signals and broadcasting.

Wayne Tevis, the radar supervisor, was alerted by the tower chief, who went personally to the radar room to inform Tevis of Flight Two's condition, its estimated arrival time, and the doubt about which runway - two five or three zero - was to be used for landing. [21, p. 479]

This word has even passed into science-fiction (both literary and cinematographic), meaning either a part of a spaceship with the same function or a different name for the bridge (the place from which the ship is commanded). [See Pic.2&3]

[Pic. 2]


The word camp has kept its terminological appurtenant up to the modern times yet it has also developed a more peaceful meaning: a place were people live in tents for a period of time (for example, for a holiday).

The word banner has also developed another meaning. From 1913 newspapers' headlines were started to be called so.

Two more examples will follow:

1. The little theatre in which appeared this animated statue was surrounded by a moat some six feet wide, which acted as a barrier protecting the young savage from any possible approach. Beside this circumvallation an armchair had been placed [for Valmont]. [25, p. 175]

In this quote the former term circumvallation no longer means a trench with a parapet which is made by the besiegers between themselves and the outer space in case the besieged have a supportive army on the outside of the city [36, p. 324], but means a barrier, a circular wall that parts the girl from the outer space.

Or as it is in an another example:

2. The Wall would be built by the legions, which, descended from Rome's first soldiers, phalanxes of farmer-soldiers from the plains of Latium, remained the core of the army. [11, p. 15]

This quote was already mentioned before, but then the focus was on the word legion (which itself has another meaning of a lot of something). Now the gaze should be turned to the word phalanx. In this context it does not mean a particular military formation made up by soldiers but just lines, rows of people going in the same direction.

Perhaps, this is all that should be said on this topic. Thus, having analyzed the ways military loanwords exist in modern English, the research is over.


The tasks of the research have been complete. The part of the English vocabulary that consists of borrowings was analyzed and the not so short list of Latin and Scandinavian military loanwords has finally been made up. Through using etymological dictionaries, their roots and types of borrowing have been established. Their new meanings were gained through the use of monolingual dictionaries and through analyzing historical and fantasy fiction their roles in modern English have been found and determined.

The results of the research have shown that the Latin and Scandinavian military borrowings have lost their terminological meaning and are no longer actual in the military sphere. Yet they have also shown they are still valuable and highly used in the language.

Nowadays they function as:

1. Terms of the old, without which one cannot discuss or write on the topic of history not only of the British Isles but of history itself.

2. Important vocabulary in the fantasy genre literature.

3. Words that developed from the military terms but that in the modern state of the language have new, different meanings.

Thus, it can be said that the goal of the research has been reached.


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