World of Words

Brits may be more multilingual than we realise, as new research has revealed that 10% of us are speaking 12 different languages every day.

November 2018 • Jules Verne
  • Shampoo and ketchup are the most commonly used foreign words in the English language
  • 15% of 18-24 year-olds think a utensil is a seashell
  • 5% of Brits don’t understand words they are saying that have foreign origins

Brits may be more multilingual than we realise, as new research has revealed that 10% of us are speaking 12 different languages every day.

The research, conducted by tour operator Jules Verne, found that we have several different words with foreign origins that we regularly pull upon when in conversation.

Shampoo and ketchup came out on top as the most commonly used words with foreign origin, with utensil, pyjama, cookie, cartoon and patio also used daily by around 10% of us. The most influential languages are: Greek, Japanese, Indian, Italian, French and Chinese.

Those in Wales are leading the way with 51% using at least two Arabic words a week. 29% of those in south west England use at least two French words a week and 27% of those in Scotland use at least two Greek words a week.

It seems some of us however, are less familiar with vocabulary than others with 12% of those in Southampton admitting that they think metropolis is a word for foreign police and 10% of those in Edinburgh think loot is an instrument.

It’s hardly surprising that the older generations (45+) are 15% more likely to know the definitions of many of the words we use but it may come as a shock that 15% of 18-24-year-olds think a utensil is a seashell and 20% think a moped is a type of material.

 


When it comes to the gender divide, men are more likely to know the origins of some of the most commonly used words than women:

  • Tsunami – 59% of men know its origin, compared to 40% of women
  • Metropolis – 43% of men know its origin, compared to 35% of women
  • Utensil – 23% of men know its origin, compared to 15% of women
  • Paparazzi – 67% of men know its origin, compared to 57% of women

Prini Patel, Head of Marketing at Jules Verne, said:  

“Worldwide travel is something that is enjoyed by people of all ages and many of us enjoy the opportunity to try our hand at speaking a different language when we are on holiday. However, in our day-to-day life, many of the words we use have origins from the countries we enjoy travelling to yet lots of us are not aware of the origins of these words, or even the definitions. Jules Verne offer tours to many of these countries and the opportunity to brush up on our language skills.”