I was discussing French influence on English language with some other users and while on the topic of if the Latin influence on English language came exclusively from the Normans, it occurred to me that I have never given a thought to whether Roman Britannia left any lingering effects on the subsequent Old English of Anglo Saxons.

Now on cursory look it seems unlikely because Anglo Saxon migration to the British Isles only occurred when the Roman authority in the Isles had effectively ceased to exist. And the British subjects of the Roman Empire were mainly the Celtic people i.e. Britons, not the Anglo-Saxons.

But it is possible that Anglo-Saxons may have borrowed words from the Celtic British people which may have in turn be borrowed from Latin rulers. It is also possible that they may have borrowed some words while they were on the main continent Europe.

Is there any evidence for or against Roman influence on Language of the Anglo-Saxons?

  • 1
    When Britain was part of the Roman Empire, the Romanized Britons assimilated quite a few words from Latin. After the fall of the empire, some words survived long enough, especially those related to The Catholic Church. Later, that liturgical vocabulary was also assimilated by the Norman French. If I had the time I would expand this into an answer and cite examples and references.
    – Centaurus
    Jan 13, 2018 at 23:12

1 Answer 1


There were certainly words that were borrowed from Latin when the Angles and Saxons were living in continental Europe; a handful of them survive into modern English. We know this because the words also appear in other Germanic languages. Examples of such words are wine, pound and chest.

Wikipedia has a list of Britannic loans into English. A few of them are noted as possibly of Latin extraction originally, but it seems like most of this is unclear. "Sark" is more likely Germanic, and "bannock" seems only a possibility.


  • Nice, I could not find a definition for Early borrowing in the linked page. Are we sure that this period refers to the time when Anglo-Saxons were still on the mainland?
    – NSNoob
    Jan 11, 2018 at 11:35
  • I read some of the entries, inclduing the ones listed above, and they typically give an etymology stretching back to proto-germanic, which would indicate that it is indeed from that time. (A few of the hits are later loans into English, such as "Kaiser").
    – andejons
    Jan 11, 2018 at 11:53

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