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Does English Have Many Words of Finnish Origin?

Everyone knows that English has borrowed countless words from other languages. Words of Latin, French, Greek, and German origin are especially common, but you'll also find plenty of words from languages such as Arabic, Persian, Hebrew, Italian, and Spanish in the dictionary. Surprisingly, though, Finnish, a language with around five million speakers, has donated just a single word to everyday English: sauna. It's a word that many people are familiar with, especially if you've experienced one at a gym or spa. Saunas are incredibly common in Finland, as most houses contain a built-in sauna and nearly all Finns visit the sauna at least once a week. Essentially, a sauna is a small, wood-lined room or building equipped with a heater. Saunas are designed for experiencing dry heat, which makes people perspire. Bathers are able to tolerate temperatures as high as 100 °C (212 °F) in saunas because humidity levels are kept low. Steam is generated by pouring water onto hot stones. So although only one Finnish word has made its way into the English language, it's certainly a memorable one!

More about saunas:

  • Many people enjoy saunas for their therapeutic benefits and as a method of relaxation. There are many purported health benefits, such as relieving asthma, improving heart health, strengthening the immune system, and soothing certain skin conditions.
  • Guinness World Records recognizes the Koi Sauna in Sinsheim, Germany as the world's largest sauna. It can hold over 150 people and has an aquarium full of exotic fish.
  • Many other cultures have sweat bathing facilities, as well, such as the Turkish hammam, the Japanese onsen, and the ancient Roman thermae.
Margaret Lipman
By Margaret Lipman , Writer and editor
With years of experience as an educator, Margaret Lipman produces thoughtful and informative content across a wide range of topics. Her articles cover essential areas such as finance, parenting, health and wellness, nutrition, educational strategies. Margaret's writing is guided by her passion for enriching the lives of her readers through practical advice and well-researched information.

Discussion Comments

By dimchild — On Mar 01, 2020

I know that Sanskrit is equally an old language that has influenced many other languages including English. But I can assure you that the English words, mother and father come from Greek, not from Sanskrit. Mother comes from the word "metir" which is Greek for mother. In the interjection "metir" becomes "meter". So you have metir > meter > mether > mother. The derivation is the same for father. The Greek word for father is "patir" and in the interjective case, "pater". So you have patir > "pater" > pather > father. Now jungle can come from Sanskrit because there is no Greek root in it. I'll be glad to give you the Greek root of at least 70% of all English words.

By anon1002728 — On Feb 02, 2020

English language has borrowed heavily from Sanskrit as well. Words such as jungle, mother, father etc all originate from Sanskrit!

By dimchild — On Feb 02, 2020

Well, I inform the writer of this piece that 70% or more of the English language has a Greek root. Latin comes a distant second. Comparatively, the rest of the countries mentioned contribute little or nothing! I know because I speak English as my first language and Greek as a second language.

Margaret Lipman

Margaret Lipman

Writer and editor

With years of experience as an educator, Margaret Lipman produces thoughtful and informative content across a wide range...
Learn more
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