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I'm wondering what percentage of English words have Germanic roots, what percentage have Romance roots, what percentage have Greek roots etc.

Is there a table available that gives an overview of this?

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  • How many out of the lexicon, or how many by sampling? In the former you will count very common words just once but will also count all extremely rare words. In the latter, common words will count for much and rare words will not show up so much. This makes a huge difference. Feb 17, 2015 at 1:02
  • Last time I checked, English had something like 600,000 (see OED). Perhaps you want to check that out. The point is not how many come from each but how to recognize those that come from each. I learn new English words practically everyday and English is my mother tongue...
    – Lambie
    Dec 22, 2023 at 15:32

2 Answers 2

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A rather recent survey conducted over 5000 most frequent words from wordfrequency.info list in connection with etymonline.com and memidex.com for determining the word origin has yielded a distribution ranging from

  • completely Anglo-Saxon or other Germanic in the most frequent words,
  • the group of French or Latin origins surpassing Anglo-Saxon or Germanic origins at the 1 875 most frequent words,
  • French and Latin origins together reaching around 56 % for the 5 000 words.

The script used for the survey can be found at https://github.com/TotallyPythonic/EnglishComposition

An older survey by Joseph M. Williams (see pp. 67–68) over 10 000 most frequent words found in business letters yielded the distribution (in % within the decile, i.e. first 1000 most frequent words, the second 1000 words etc.):

Decile English French Latin Danish Other
1 83 11 2 2 2
2 34 46 11 2 7
3 29 46 14 1 10
4 27 45 17 1 10
5 27 47 17 1 8
6 27 42 19 2 10
7 23 45 17 2 13
8 26 41 18 2 13
9 25 41 17 2 15
10 25 42 18 1 14

An overview can be found here: https://en.wikiversity.org/wiki/English_as_a_hybrid_Romance-Germanic_language

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I found this image displaying what I want.

About 26% of English words have Germanic origins and the other percentages are as followed:

  • Latin, 29%
  • French, 29%
  • Greek, 6%
  • Other languages or unknown, 6%
  • From Proper Names, 4% (?)

Source.

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  • Link-only answers are highly discouraged because of the inherent transience of web pages or images. Please elaborate a bit more, you're free to include an image, but also report the data (along with citations where needed) in form of text so that it doesn't get lost if the image disappears. Thanks.
    – Alenanno
    Feb 14, 2015 at 10:31
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    Roughly, Germanic is about 45% and Romance another 45%, with 5% Greek and 5% selected short subjects. A good exercise is to take a paragraph of English that you're fond of and count the words. It'll wind up about half and half. Then take a paragraph of English that you think sucks and repeat the experiment. Remember, you hafta count the and a and pretty much all auxiliaries and prepositions as Germanic. That ups the ante considerably. Feb 15, 2015 at 4:15
  • The mentioned source (Williams) was referenced in the old version of the Wikipedia article “Latin influence in English” along with that pie chart, but the article itself included different figures from Williams. You can access the source for free here at archive.org. The figures I found there are cited in my answer and they differ from those here. I didn’t read the whole book though. Dec 24, 2023 at 8:42

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