Linguistic anglicisation (or anglicization, occasionally anglification, anglifying, or Englishing) is the practice of modifying foreign words, names, and phrases in order to make them easier to spell, pronounce, or understand in English. The term commonly refers to the respelling of foreign words, often to a more drastic degree than that implied in, for example, romanisation. One instance is the word "dandelion", modified from the French dent-de-lion ("lion's tooth", a reference to the plant's sharply indented leaves). The term can also refer to phonological adaptation without spelling change: spaghetti, for example, is accepted in English with Italian spelling, but anglicised phonetically.
The anglicisation of non-English words for use in English is just one case of the more widespread domestication of foreign words that is a feature of many languages, sometimes involving shifts in meaning.
The term does not cover the unmodified adoption of foreign words into English (e.g. kindergarten); the unmodified adoption of English words into foreign languages (e.g. internet, computer, web), or the voluntary or enforced adoption of the English language or of British or American customs and culture in other countries or ethnic groups, also known as social and economic anglicisation.
Modified loan words
Non-English words may be anglicised by changing their form and/or pronunciation to something more familiar to English speakers.
Changing grammatical endings is especially common.
The Latin word obscenus /obskeːnʊs/ has been imported into English in the modified form "obscene" /obˈsiːn/. The plural form of a foreign word may be modified to more conveniently fit English norms, like using "indexes" as the plural of index, rather than indices, as in Latin. The word "opera" (itself the plural form of the Latin word opus) is understood in English to be a singular noun, so it has received an English plural form, "operas". The English word "damsel" is an anglicisation of the Old French damoisele (modern demoiselle), meaning "young lady". Another form of anglicising is the inclusion of a foreign article as part of a noun (such as alkali from the Arabic al-qili). "Rotten Row", the name of a London pathway that was a fashionable place to ride horses in the 18th and 19th centuries, is an adaptation of the French phrase Route du Roi. The word "genie" has been anglicized via Latin from jinn or djinn from Arabic: الجن, al-jinn originally meaning demon or spirit. Some changes are motivated by the desire to preserve the pronunciation of the word in the original language, such as the word "schtum", which is phonetic spelling for the German word stumm, meaning silent.
The French word "homage" was introduced by the Normans after 1066, and its pronunciation became anglicised as /ˈhɒmɪdʒ/, with stress on the first syllable; but in recent times showbusiness and Hollywood have taken to pronouncing "homage" in the French fashion, rhyming with "fromage".
Modified place names
Some foreign place names are commonly anglicised in English.
Examples include the Danish city København (Copenhagen), the Russian city Москва Moskva (Moscow), the Swedish city Göteborg (Gothenburg), the Dutch city Den Haag (The Hague), the Spanish city of Sevilla (Seville), the Egyptian city of القاهرة Al-Qāhira (Cairo), and the Italian city of Firenze (Florence).
Such anglicisation was once more common.
In the late 19th century, however, use of non-English place names in English began to become more common.
When dealing with languages that use the same Latin alphabet as English, names are now more usually written in English as in their local language, sometimes even with diacritical marks that do not normally appear in English. With languages that use non-Latin alphabets, such as the Arabic, Cyrillic, Greek, Korean Hangul, and other alphabets, a direct transliteration is typically used, which is then often pronounced according to English rules. Non-Latin based languages may use standard romanisation systems, such as Japanese Rōmaji or Chinese Pīnyīn. The Japanese and Chinese names in English follow these spellings with some common exceptions, usually without Chinese tone marks and without Japanese macrons for long vowels: Chóngqìng to Chongqing (重慶, 重庆), Shíjiāzhuāng to Shijiazhuang (石家莊, 石家庄), both in China; Kyōto to Kyoto (京都) in Japan.
Many English names for foreign places have been directly taken over from the French version, sometimes unchanged, such as Cologne, Rome, Munich, Naples, sometimes only slightly changed, like Vienna (Vienne), Venice (Venise), Lisbon (Lisbonne), Seville (Séville). The English city-name for the Czech capital, Prague (Praha), is taken with spelling unaltered from the French name for the city, itself descended from the Latin name for the city (Praga), which had been borrowed from an earlier Czech name (pre-dating the /g/>/h/ shift).
De-anglicisation has become a matter of national pride in some places and especially in regions that were once under colonial rule, where vestiges of colonial domination are a sensitive subject. Following centuries of English rule in Ireland, Douglas Hyde delivered an argument for de-anglicisation before the Irish National Literary Society in Dublin, 25 November 1892: "When we speak of 'The Necessity for De-Anglicising the Irish Nation', we mean it, not as a protest against imitating what is best in the English people, for that would be absurd, but rather to show the folly of neglecting what is Irish, and hastening to adopt, pell-mell, and, indiscriminately, everything that is English, simply because it is English." Despite its status as an official language, Irish has been reduced to a minority language in Ireland due to centuries of English rule, as is the case in North America where indigenous languages have been replaced by that of the British colonists. In the process of removing the signs of their colonial past, anglicised names have been officially discouraged in many places: Ireland's Kingstown, named by King George IV, reverted to its original Irish name of Dún Laoghaire in 1920, even before Irish independence in 1922; India's Bombay is now Mumbai, even though this is not the oldest local name (see Toponymy of Mumbai) and "Bombay" is still commonly used in the city; Calcutta is now Kolkata and Madras is Chennai. Bangladesh's Dacca is Dhaka. Many Chinese endonyms have become de-anglicised or otherwise replaced with the more recent Hanyu Pinyin Romanization scheme: Canton is now more commonly called Guangzhou (廣州, 广州), and Peking is generally referred to as Beijing (北京), although this reflected a name change from Beiping (Peiping) to Beijing (Peking) with the de-anglicisation of the name taking place after the name change to reflect a pronunciation change in the newly established Beijing dialect-based Mandarin.
In Scotland, many place names in Scots Gaelic were anglicised, sometimes deliberately, sometimes accidentally because of unfamiliarity with Gaelic. Often the etymology of a place name is lost or obscured, such as in the case of Kingussie, from "Cinn a' Ghiuthsaich" ("The Heads of the Pine Forest"). In Wales, a large number of place names were anglicised, with some examples including: Caernarfon became Carnarvon, Conwy became Conway, Llanelli became Llanelly, Caerdydd became Cardiff. Many of these place names have since reverted, especially in the west of the country (as is the case for Llanelli, Caernarfon, Conwy and Porthmadog), though in the east Welsh and English spellings of place names are often seen side-by side even when very similar to each other, such as with Rhyl/Y Rhyl, or Blaenavon/Blaenafon.
In other cases, now well-established anglicised names, whatever their origin, have remained in common use where there is no national pride at stake.
This is the case with Ghent (Gent, or Gand), Munich (München), Cologne (Köln), Vienna (Wien), Naples (Napoli), Rome (Roma), Milan (Milano), Athens (Αθήνα, Athina), Moscow (Москва, Moskva), Saint Petersburg (Санкт-Петербург, Sankt-Peterburg), Warsaw (Warszawa), Prague (Praha), Bucharest (Bucureşti), Belgrade (Београд, Beograd), Lisbon (Lisboa), and other European cities whose names have been familiar in their anglicised forms for centuries. However, the present local names sometimes appear as alternatives on maps, and in public places (airports, road signs).
Sometimes a place name might appear anglicised compared with the current name, but the form being used in English is actually an older name that has since been changed.
For example, Turin in the Piedmont province of Italy was named Turin in the original Piedmontese language, but is now officially known as Torino in Italian. The International Olympic Committee made the choice to regard the city officially as "Torino" throughout the 2006 Winter Olympics. The English and French name for Florence in Italy is closer to the original name in Latin (Florentia) than is the modern Italian name (Firenze).
In the past, the names of people from other language areas were anglicised to a higher extent than today.
This was the general rule for names of Latin or (classical) Greek origin.
Today, the anglicised name forms are often retained for the more well-known persons, like Aristotle for Aristoteles, and Adrian (or later Hadrian) for Hadrianus. However, less well-known persons from antiquity are now often given their full original-language name (in the nominative case, regardless of its case in the English sentence).
For royalty, the anglicisation of personal names was a general phenomenon, especially until recently, such as Charles for Carlos, Karoly, and Karl, or Frederic for Friedrich or Fredrik. Anglicisation of the Latin is still the rule for popes: Pope John Paul II instead of Ioannes Paulus II, Pope Benedict XVI instead of Benedictus XVI, Pope Francis instead of Franciscus.
The anglicisation of medieval Scottish names consists of changing them from a form consistent with Scottish Gaelic to the Scots language, which is an Anglo-Frisian language. For instance, the king known in Scottish Gaelic as Domnall mac Causantín (Domnall son of Causantín) is known in Scots as Donald, son of Constantine.
During the time in which there were large influxes of immigrants from Europe to the United States and United Kingdom during the 19th and 20th centuries, the names of many immigrants were never changed by immigration officials (as demonstrated in The Godfather Part II) but only by personal choice.
French immigrants to the United States (of Huguenot or French Canadian background) often accommodated those unfamiliar with French pronunciations and spellings by altering their surnames in either of two ways: spellings were changed to fit the traditional pronunciation (Pariseau became Parizo, Boucher became Bushey, Mailloux became Mayhew), or pronunciations were changed to fit the spelling (Benoît, pronounced French pronunciation: [bənwa], became /bɛnˈɔɪt/). In some cases, it could go either way (Gagné, pronounced [ɡaɲe], became /ˈɡæɡni/ or Gonyea), or something only slightly similar.
Most Irish names have been anglicised.
An example is the surnames of many Irish families – for example, Mac Artáin now commonly spelt McCartan also Mac Cartaigh which evolved to become the McCarthy.
Ó Briain has often become O'Brien, Ó Rothláin became Rowland, Ó Néill became O'Neill, Mac Cana became McCann and some surnames may be shortened, like Ó Gallchobhair to just Gallagher. Likewise, native Scottish names were altered such as Somhairle to Sorley, Mac Gill-Eain to MacLean, and Mac Aoidh to MacKay. Many Welsh names have also been altered, such as "ap Hywell" to Powell, or "ap Siôn" to Jones.
German names of immigrants were also anglicised (such as Bürger to Burger, Schneider to Snyder) in the course of German immigration waves during times of political and economic instability in the late 19th and early 20th century.
A somewhat different case was the politically motivated change of dynasty name in 1917 by the royal family of the United Kingdom from the House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha to the House of Windsor. Incidentally, Saxe-Coburg was already an anglicisation of the German original Sachsen-Coburg.
The anglicisation of a personal name now usually depends on the preferences of the bearer.
Name changes are less common today for Europeans emigrating to the United States than they are for people originating in East Asian countries (except for Japan, which no longer has large-scale emigration). However, unless the spelling is changed, European immigrants put up with (and in due course accept) an anglicised pronunciation: "Lewinsky" will be so pronounced, unless the "w" becomes a "v", as in "Levi". "Głowacki" will be pronounced "Glowacki", even though in Polish pronunciation it is "Gwovatski". "Weinstein" is usually pronounced with different values for the two "-ein-" parts, (/ˈwaɪnstiːn/.
As is the case with place names and personal names, in some cases ethnic designations may be anglicised based on a term from a language other than that of the group described.
For example, "Germany" comes from the Latin designation Germania, not the local name Deutschland.
English exonyms of Arabic speaking places
English terms with diacritical marks
Linguistic purism in English