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Richard Walker

Loanwords vs Calques, with special reference to 'Crossword'

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It is generally agreed that the first crossword was composed by Arthur Wynne and appeared in The New York World on 21st December 1913. Wynn's pioneering word cross as I think he called it is below.

You can see it still had a way to go before it evolved into its modern form. If you decide to have a go and get stuck there are some leads here.

In the more than a hundred years that have passed, crosswords have found their way into most of the world's newspapers, or so I imagine. This set me wondering about what the word for crossword is in other languages. The only one I knew was Greek stavrolexo, which is a literal translation, the stravo bit means cross (as in the name Stavros) and the lexo bit mean word (think lexicon).

This way of exporting a word to another language is called a calque. The alternative is for the target language to adopt the original as a loanword. English has thousands of loanwords, think of bistro, delicatessen, opera, wok, tomahawk, safari, sushi, taco, kiwi, bungalow, budgerigar (not forgetting calque.)

I tried a few sample European languages to see whether crossword because a calque or a loanword and fond a mix. The main reason I stuck to European languages is that outside that group it's harder for me to decide if something is a calque. Lots of languages seem to just use the loanword but there could be ones that have a completely independent word for the concept, I can't really tell.

Here are the calquesI I found, apart from the Greek

German Kreuttzworträtsel (I think rätsel is puzzle)

French mots croissés

Spanish crucigramma

Welsh croesair

Here are languages that use crossword as a loan

Yiddish crossvert

Russian Krossoword Кроссворд

Georgian h'rosvordi კროსვორდი

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Steven McDonald

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A couple more calques:

Dutch kruiswoord

Irish crosfhocal

Another interesting factoid: the English word calque is a loanword (from French) and the word loanword is a calque (from German Lehnwort).

Richard Walker

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<<The English word calque is a loanword (from French) and the word loanword is a calque (from German Lehnwort).>>

How neat is that, thanks Steven!