The average contemporary English speaker knows 50,000 words. Yet stripped down to its origins, this apparently huge vocabulary is in reality much smaller, derived from Latin, French and the Germanic languages. It is estimated that every year, 800 neologisms are added to the English language: acronyms (nimby), blended words (motel), and those taken from foreign languages (savoir-faire). Laid out in an A-Z format with detailed cross references, and written in a style that is both authoritative and accessible, Word Origins is a valuable historical guide to the English language.

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