When is a word descended from another word? Is it limited to ancestor-to-child language relationship? If, for example, Spanish borrows from French, is the loanword a descendant of the French word?

  • 2
    I'm not aware of descendant word as an established phrase, so if I encountered it in a text I would not necessarily know whether the writer meant to include or exclude borrowings.
    – Colin Fine
    Feb 11, 2018 at 10:57
  • Take for example the Wiktionary entry gutta.
    – coco
    Feb 11, 2018 at 11:07
  • 2
    Ah. So, I look in Wiktionary's Entry layout and I find that there it means "terms in other languages that have borrowed or inherited the word." That doesn't mean that other sources will use it the same way.
    – Colin Fine
    Feb 11, 2018 at 11:37
  • 1
    @ColinFine. That is one of the many problems with Wiktionary.
    – fdb
    Feb 11, 2018 at 14:52
  • 1
    @fdb. I agree. But at least it does specify exactly what it means, if you know where to look.
    – Colin Fine
    Feb 11, 2018 at 16:25

1 Answer 1


In linguistics we distinguish (usually) between descendants and borrowings. French chauve "bald" is a descendant of Latin calvus. French calvitie "baldness" is borrowed from Latin calvities.

  • 3
    For instance, note the various different descendant and borrowed cognates to various PIE roots in English: *penkʷe, *sed-, *dei-.
    – jlawler
    Feb 11, 2018 at 17:42

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.