Why hasn't English (or Latin/Greek/others from which English arrived) borrowed more words from China? I am looking at Wikipedia and there's probably only 30 words there out of the millions of words English has. Most of them are direct ports of the word (like Tea), but the only one that stands out to me is Ketchup. Only one word! How is that possible? How have we not borrowed more from Chinese words. Not talking about specific proper nouns or such, which perhaps there are some more, but mainly general words. Compare that page with the Latin one, and there's easily 1000x more words used directly from Latin (and they are missing many).

Wondering why this is generally. Is it because China and the West only got connected really relatively recently or something along those lines? Or is it the sound of the words compared to English? Or something else?

P.S. I am basically looking for a list of like 30 words, that's all, that are "good" words in English that were taken from Chinese. Shaman is another good example, Ketchup is another. By "good" I mean they are used regularly in English and you wouldn't have known they were from China. Works like "bok choy" obviously sound like a direct port from Chinese, but words like Ketchup don't.

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    Same with Russian, Swahili, Polish, Korean, Hungarian. – user6726 Jan 5 at 16:52
  • You should be aware of calque or translation borrowings too! “Long time no see” (however ungrammatical), “lose face”, etc. should all be borrowings originated from Chinese. Granted, these aren’t words, but phrases. – dROOOze Jan 6 at 1:46

Historical accident, really.

In the history of English, it descends mostly from an Anglo-Saxon base plus a lot of Norman French vocabulary. So the vast majority of our words can be traced back to one of those two. And for quite a while, Latin was a prestige language throughout Europe, with languages borrowing from it for scientific or technical terms.

Direct contact between English-speakers and Mandarin-speakers, on the other hand, hasn't happened until quite recently. So the words we do have tend to be recent borrowings (bok choy) or Wanderworter (tea), and those are relatively rare compared to the thousands of words descended from Anglo-Saxon or French.

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  • Looks like we have more words from Nahuatl to English than from Chinese to English haha. – Lance Pollard Jan 5 at 23:03
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    @LancePollard Spanish didn't have words for a whole lot of things in the Americas, so they borrowed from Nahuatl. Then English didn't have words for those things either, so they borrowed from Spanish. – Draconis Jan 5 at 23:16

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