Usage of the abbreviations "e.g." and "i.e." is very common in English, but not so much in other language. In Dutch they are used sometimes, but they are recent imports due to a lot of exposure to English. While I am not particularly fluent in these languages, the same seems to hold for French, German, Spanish and Italian.

I have not been able to find etymological information for these phrases beyond "they are Latin." How and why were they imported into English, and why specifically into English, and not into Continental languages?

  • 1
    Because English is a language built out of stolen bits of other ones? :)
    – anon
    Jul 6, 2016 at 13:03
  • English did in general import a lot from Latin, at least significantly more than other Germanic languages - for example, you often need a Latin root to form the adjective of a Germanic nominal root, e.g. tooth -> dental, tree -> arboreal etc. - so although I can't explain excactly why this happend in English more than in other Germanic languages (the Romance languages like French and Spanish mostly have the Latin cognate roots already so no need to loan much), I don't find it too surprising that this also affected abbreviations. Jul 6, 2016 at 17:39
  • 1
    @lemontree There is more or less no adjective from German Zahn or Baum either. And anyway English having more Latin than other Germanic languages would hardly explain why these abbreviations are also uncommon in modern Romance languages. Jul 6, 2016 at 19:48
  • 1
    It's pretty much chance that these phrases and others got borrowed as a whole into English. And there's no way to find out why they weren't borrowed elsewhere; consider what else wasn't borrowed, for instance -- everything.
    – jlawler
    Jul 7, 2016 at 4:26
  • It may have to do with differences in academic practice in England vs. other European countries in the early modern period, when academic prose conventions began to take form. I'd be interested if any contributor knows about such things. E.g., if in some countries it was customary to write in the vernacular language, while in England it was customary to write instead in Latin. These are "extralinguistic" factors, but still of interest.
    – user483
    Nov 1, 2018 at 2:43

1 Answer 1


Russian has a calque:

id est (Latin) => to est (то есть) (Russian), can be abbreviated to "т.е."

There is also a calque for "et cetra", also can be abbreviated.

For post-scriptum "P.S." there is a calque as well, it even uses the same sounding initial letters: "prodolzhenie sleduet" ("continuation follows").

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.