Is being a loan word limited by time of adoption?

For example the English word "loci" comes from Latin, as other 60% of English words do. Is it a loan word in English?

Or is it only for "recently added" ones? Like "monitor, print" etc that English gave to other languages recently.

Thank you.

  • 1
    Why are they called loanwords if we never intend to pay them back to their original languages?
    – dan04
    Commented Dec 17, 2021 at 23:10
  • 1
    @dan04. Now that is a more interesting question.
    – fdb
    Commented Dec 17, 2021 at 23:11
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    Loci is a lot more loan-wordy than print, because it’s still transparently foreign, whereas print is completely nativised. If you didn’t know it’s from Latin (and most people don’t), you’d think it was just a native, English word. Not so with loci. Commented Dec 17, 2021 at 23:22

2 Answers 2


Any word that entered a language by borrowing is technically a loanword, regardless of how much time has gone by since. Of course, the longer ago a word was borrowed, the less likely speakers are to realize it's a loanword.


I'm not really firm with anglophone terminology here, but in German terminology there is a difference between Lehnwort and Fremdwort.

A Fremdwort (literally "foreign word") is a recent borrowing that still has signs of its origin (unusual phonology, unusual inflections, etc.)

A Lehnwort (literally "loan word") is a less recent borrowing that shows strong assimilation like complete integration into the native phonology, complete integration into existing grammatical paradigms. Even words borrowed 2000 years ago into German are still called Lehnwort (e.g., Fenster from Latin fenestra "window" or Mauer from Latin murus "wall")

  • Is time really relevant to the distinction? Older loans can retain unusual phonology (nasal vowels in older French loans is the best example I can think of, but I’m sure there are better ones), and brand-new loans can happen to look just like native words and fit the morphology perfectly, but presumably those would still be considered Fremdwörter and Lehnwörter, respectively? Commented Dec 17, 2021 at 23:30
  • No, time is not the relevant factor, although it correlates with the degree of integration. The retention of foreign phonological features can pose some tricky questions: When is the phonological system of the acceptor language permanently changed by the loans and they are otherwise assimilated? Commented Dec 18, 2021 at 1:25

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