Danish Influence in English

Over the past century, a lot of new Danish words have been borrowed from English. Most of these borrowed words have been related to technology and advancements within that field, in addition to slang and contemporary terms. But this is not the first time the two languages have influenced each other, which explains why some of the basic words are similar.

The Two Languages Have History

The relationship between Danish and English dates back many years — well over a thousand years, to be exact. The English we use today is a mix of the influence of northern-European ancestors (Anglos, Saxons, Jutes, and Vikings) and French-speaking Normans. The Jutes and the Vikings came from the area we know today as Denmark.

Prior to 1066, English was influenced by the Norse and Germanic languages, which were simple languages with short words and sounds. Afterwards, the French and Latin infusion took hold and added sophistication to the language.

Several language historians feel that the English language has two words for some of the more common terms: one of the words representing the old Norse/Germanic influence, and the other reflecting the newer and more advanced French/Latin influence.

Here are some examples between the simple Norse/Germanic influence and the more colorful French/Latin words:

be = existence

beat = defeat

cow = cattle

do = perform

Additionally, simple words for body parts like arm, leg, tooth, eye, and ear, for example came from the Norse/Germanic influence.

For thousands of years, both the Danish and English languages have benefitted from their mutual respect and admiration for one another. Languages constantly evolve, even more so now that we pride ourselves on being a global economy and marketplace. We will undoubtedly see further influence in both languages from outside sources, although a complete merging of cultures and the formation of one global language will likely not become a reality in our lifetime.

About ToveMaren Stakkestad

I am a bilingual Danish and English speaker currently living in Florida with my husband and four boys. I have 20-years of experience translating anything from children's books to technical documents for the financial industry. I also write SEO-friendly blog posts for several publications including my blog on parenting, “Mama in the Now”.