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In "linguistics, a calque "/kælk/ or loan translation is a "word or "phrase borrowed from another language by "literal, word-for-word or root-for-root translation. Used as a "verb, "to calque" means to borrow a word or phrase from another language while translating its components so as to create a new "lexeme in the target language.

"Calque" itself is a "loanword from the French "noun calque ("tracing; imitation; close copy"); the "verb calquer means "to trace; to copy, to imitate closely"; papier calque is ""tracing paper".[1] The word "loanword" is itself a calque of the "German word Lehnwort, just as "loan translation" is a calque of Lehnübersetzung.[2]

Proving that a word is a calque sometimes requires more documentation than does an untranslated loanword because, in some cases, a similar phrase might have arisen in both languages independently. This is less likely to be the case when the grammar of the proposed calque is quite different from that of the borrowing language or when the calque contains less obvious imagery.

Calquing is distinct from "phono-semantic matching.[3] While calquing includes "semantic "translation, it does not consist of "phonetic matching (i.e. retaining the approximate "sound of the borrowed word through matching it with a similar-sounding pre-existing word or "morpheme in the target language).



One system classifies calques into five groups:[4]

That terminology is not universal. Some authors call a morphological calque a "morpheme-by-morpheme translation".[5]

Loan blend[edit]

Loan blends or partial calques translate some parts of a compound, but not others.[6] For example, the Irish digital television service "Saorview is a partial calque of the UK "Freeview service, translating the first half of the word from English to Irish but leaving the second half unchanged. Other examples are: liverwurst (< German Leberwurst), apple strudel (< German Apfelstrudel).


Phraseological calque: "flea market"[edit]

The common English phrase ""flea market" is a phraseological calque of the French "marché aux puces" ("market with fleas").[7] Other national variations include:

Loan translation: "skyscraper"[edit]

An example of a common morpheme-by-morpheme loan-translation in a multitude of languages is that of the English word skyscraper:

Loan translation: translatio and traductio[edit]

The "Latin word translatio ("a transferring") derives from trans, "across" + latus, "borne". (Latus is the past participle of ferre, "to carry".)

The "Germanic languages and some "Slavic languages calqued their words for ""translation" from the above Latin word, translatio, substituting their respective Germanic or Slavic root words for the Latin roots.

The remaining Slavic languages instead calqued their words for "translation" from an alternative Latin word, traductio, itself derived from traducere ("to lead across" or "to bring across", from trans, "across" + ducere, "to lead" or "to bring").[8]

The "West Slavic languages adopted the "translatio" pattern. The "East Slavic languages (except for "Belarusian and "Ukrainian) and the "South Slavic languages adopted the "traductio" pattern.

The "Romance languages, deriving directly from Latin, did not need to calque their equivalent words for "translation". Instead, they simply adapted the second of the above two alternative Latin words, traductio, literally meaning "leading across" or "putting across". Thus, "Aragonese: traducción; "Catalan: traducció; "French: traduction; "Italian: traduzione; "Portuguese: tradução; "Romanian: traducere; and "Spanish: traducción.

The English verb "to translate" similarly derives from the Latin translatio, itself derived from transferre, "to transfer": in this case, "transferred" (translatus) from one language to another.[8] Were the English verb "translate" calqued, it would be "overset", akin to the calques in other Germanic languages.

Following are the Germanic- and Slavic-language calques for "translation", as discussed above:[8]

Semantic calque: mouse[edit]

The "computer mouse was named in English for its resemblance to the animal. Many other languages have extended their own native word for "mouse" to include the computer mouse.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Overzetting (noun) and overzetten (verb) in the sense of "translation" and "to translate", respectively, are considered archaic. While omzetting may still be found in early modern literary works, it has been replaced entirely in modern Dutch by vertaling.


  1. ^ The New Cassell's French Dictionary: French-English, English-French, New York, Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1962, p. 122.
  2. ^ Robb: German English Words germanenglishwords.com
  3. ^ "Zuckermann, Ghil'ad (2003). Language Contact and Lexical Enrichment in Israeli Hebrew. Palgrave Macmillan. "ISBN "1-4039-1723-X. 
  4. ^ May Smith, The Influence of French on Eighteenth-century Literary Russian, p. 29-30.
  5. ^ Claude Gilliot, "The Authorship of the Qur'ān" in Gabriel Said Reynolds, The Qur'an in its Historical Context, p. 97
  6. ^ Philip Durkin, The Oxford Guide to Etymology, sec. 5.1.4
  7. ^ "flea market", The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, fourth edition, 2000
  8. ^ a b c "Christopher Kasparek, "The Translator's Endless Toil", "The Polish Review, vol. XXVIII, no. 2, 1983, p. 83.
  9. ^ "overzetting" in "Woordenboek der Nederlandsche Taal, "IvdNT


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