AskDefine | Define calque

Dictionary Definition

calque n : an expression introduced into one language by translating it from another language [syn: loan translation]

User Contributed Dictionary



From calque, calque, from calquer, to trace, from calcare.


  • /kælk/
  • Rhymes with: -ælk


  1. A word or phrase in a language formed by word-for-word or morpheme-by-morpheme translation of a word in another language.
The word "watershed" is a calque of the German "Wasserscheide".


word formed by word-for-word translation of a word in another language


  1. To adopt (a word or phrase) from one language to another by semantic translation of its parts.


to adopt a word by translation of its parts

See also


  1. calque

Extensive Definition

In linguistics, a calque () or loan translation is a word or phrase borrowed from another language by literal, "word-for-word" (Latin: "verbum pro verbo") or root-for-root translation.
For example, the common English phrase "flea market" is a phrase calque that literally translates the French "marché aux puces".
Going in the other direction, from English to French, provides an example of how a compound word may be calqued by first breaking it down into its component roots. The French "gratte-ciel" is a word-coinage inspired by the model of the English "skyscraper" — "gratter" literally translates "scrape", and "ciel" translates "sky".
Used as a verb, "to calque" means to loan-translate from another language so as to create a new lexeme in the target language.
"Calque" itself is a loanword from a French noun, and derives from the verb "calquer" ("to copy"). Loan translation is itself a calque of the German "Lehnübersetzung".
Proving a word is a calque sometimes requires more documentation than an untranslated loanword, since in some cases a similar phrase might have arisen in both languages independently. This is less likely the case when the grammar of the proposed calque is quite different from that of the language proposed to be borrowing, or the calque contains less obvious imagery.


From Chinese

From French

From German or Dutch

From Dutch

From German

From Latin

  • English commonplace calques Latin locus commūnis (referring to a generally applicable literary passage), which itself is a calque of Greek koinos topos
  • English devil's advocate calques Latin advocātus diabolī, referring to an official appointed to present arguments against a proposed canonization or beatification in the Catholic Church
  • English wisdom tooth calques Latin dēns sapientiae
  • English Milky Way calques Latin via lactea
  • English Rest in Peace calques Latin requiescat in pace
  • English in a nutshell calques Latin in nuce
  • English Saturday partially calques Latin Diēs Saturnī day of Saturn
Note: the Latin planetary names, as found in the names of the weekdays, in turn calque the Greek names, which calque the ancient Babylonian names (e.g. Friday, and the planet Venus, were named after Freia.)

From Spanish

  • English blue-blood calques Spanish
  • English moment of truth calques Spanish which refers to the time of the final sword thrust in a bullfight.

From other languages


  • Latin compassio calques Greek sympathia "sympathy" (Latin: "suffering with", Greek: "suffering together")
  • Latin insectus calques Greek entomos ("insect", from words meaning "to cut into" in the respective languages)
  • Latin musculus "muscle" (= "common house mouse", literally "little mouse" from mus "mouse") calques Greek mys "muscle" (= "mouse")
  • Latin magnanimus calques Greek μεγαλοψυχος (megalopsychos)
    • Lat. root magnus = Gr. μεγαλος (megalos) = "great; large"
    • Lat. root animus = Gr. ψυχη (psychē) = "soul"

Romance Languages

Examples of Romance language expressions calqued from foreign languages include:
  • French lune de miel, Catalan lluna de mel, Spanish luna de miel, Portuguese lua-de-mel, Italian luna di miele and Romanian luna de miere calque English honeymoon
  • French gratte-ciel, Catalan gratacels, Spanish rascacielos, Portuguese arranha-céus and Italian grattacielo calque English skyscraper
  • French sabot de Denver calques English Denver boot
  • French jardin d'enfants, Spanish jardín de infancia and Portuguese Jardim de infância calque Garden of Infants/children, from German Kindergarten (children's garden)
  • Spanish baloncesto and Italian pallacanestro calque English "basketball"


  • French courriel (contraction of courrier électronique) calques English email (electronic mail)
  • French disque dur calques English hard disk
  • French bien-venu calques English welcome (as if 'well' + 'come'. Eng. 'welcome' is an alt. of O.E. willcyme, willcuma - desired arrival)
  • French en ligne calques English online
  • French haute résolution calques English high resolution
  • French disque compact calques English compact disc
  • French haute fidélité calques English hi-fi (high fidelity)
  • French large bande calques English broadband
  • French modulation de fréquence calques English frequency modulation (FM)
  • French média de masse calques English mass media
  • French surhomme calques German Übermensch (Nietzsche's concept)
  • French OVNI (Objet Volant Non Identifié) calques English UFO (Unidentified Flying Object)
  • In some dialects of French, the English term "weekend" becomes la fin de semaine ("the end of week"), a calque, but in some it is left untranslated as le week-end, a loanword.


Many calques found in Southwestern US Spanish, come from English:
  • Spanish escuela alta calques English high school (secundaria or escuela secundaria in Standard Spanish)
  • Spanish grado (de escuela) calques English grade (in school) (nota in Standard Spanish)
  • Spanish colegio calques English college (universidad in Standard Spanish; colegio, in standard Spanish, is synonymous with escuela and means school)
  • Spanish librería calques English library (biblioteca in Standard Spanish; librería in Standard Spanish means bookshop)
See also: Spanglish.
Also technological terms calqued from English are used throughout the Spanish-speaking world:
  • Spanish tarjeta de crédito calques English credit card
  • Spanish alta tecnología calques English high technology
  • Spanish disco compacto calques English compact disc
  • Spanish correo electrónico calques English electronic mail
  • Spanish alta resolución calques English high resolution
  • Spanish enlace calques English link (Internet)
  • Spanish sitio web calques English web site
  • Spanish página web calques English web page
  • Spanish ratón calques English mouse (computer)
  • Spanish en un momento dado calques Dutch op een gegeven moment

Germanic Languages

Afrikaans and Dutch

  • Afrikaans aartappel and Dutch aardappel calque French pomme de terre (English potato "earth apple")
  • Afrikaans besigheid calques English business
  • Afrikaans e-pos calques English e-mail
  • Afrikaans hardeskyf and Dutch harde schijf calque English hard disk
  • Afrikaans klankbaan calques English sound track
  • Afrikaans kleurskuifie calques English colour slide
  • Afrikaans pynappel calques English pineapple calques French pomme de pin
  • Afrikaans sleutelbord calques English keyboard
  • Afrikaans tuisblad calques English homepage
  • Afrikaans wolkekrabber and Dutch wolkenkrabber calque English skyscraper


  • Fernsehen from "television"
  • Fernsprecher from "telephone"
    • This term, as well as the corresponding fernsprechen (verb: to [tele]phone [so.]), has been on the retreat in recent years in favor of (orthographically normalized) Telefon.
  • Fußball from "football", referring specifically to association football


  • Icelandic rafmagn, "electricity," is a half-calqued coinage that literally means "amber power."
    • raf translates the Greek root ηλεκτρον (elektron), which means "amber"
    • magn, "power," is descriptive of electricity's nature but not a direct calque from the source word "electricity"


  • barnehage (kindergarten) calques German Kindergarten (Kind "child", Garten "garden")
    • from barn (child) and hage (garden).
  • hjemmeside calques English home page
    • From hjem (home) and side (page).
  • hjerneflukt (brain drain) calques English brain drain.
    • From hjerne (brain) and flukt (escape, flight).
  • idiotsikker (foolproof) calques English "foolproof"
    • from idiot (idiot, fool) and sikker (safe, secure)
  • loppemarked (flea market) calcques English flea market and French marché aux puces ("market with fleas")
    • From loppe (flea) and marked (market).
  • mandag (Monday), from Old Norse mánadagr ("moon day") calques Latin dies lunae. The name of every day of the week, except lørdag (Saturday), are loan-translations from Latin.
  • overhode (head of a family, chief) calques German Oberhaupt (ober "over", Haupt "head")
    • From over (over) and hode (head).
  • samvittighet (conscience) calques Latin (through Low German) conscientia (com "with", scire "to know")
    • From sam- (co-) and vittig (today meaning "funny" but which stems from Low German, where it meant "reasonable", related to "vite" (to know) and English "wit".)
  • tenåring (teen, teenager), is from Swedish tonåring which calques English teenager.

Slavic languages


The modern Macedonian language inherits much of its lexicon from Old Church Slavonic. The Saints Cyril and Methodius who developed the language in the 9th century actively calqued words from languages in positions of power and academia, namely Greek and Latin, using Slavic roots to form new word which the language lacked.
  • Macedonian ракопис (rakopis) calques Latin-derived 'manuscript' and 'handwriting':
    • Mac. root рака (raka) = Lat. manus = 'hand'
    • Mac. root пис- (pis-) = Lat. scribo = 'to write'
  • Macedonian правопис (pravopis) calques Greek-derived 'orthography':
    • Mac. root право (pravo) = Gr. ορθός (orthos) = 'correct';
    • Mac. root пис- (pis-) = Gr. γράφειν (graphein) = 'to write'
  • Macedonian православие (pravoslavie) calques Greek-derived 'orthodoxy':
    • Mac. root право (pravo) = Gr. ορθός (orthos) = 'correct';
    • Mac. root славие (slavie) = Gr. δοξα (doxa) = 'glorification'
In more recent times, the Macedonian language has calqued new words from other prestige languages including German, French and English.
  • Macedonian натчовек (natčovek) = calques German-derived 'overman' (Übermensch)
    • Mac. root над- (nad-) = Ger. über = 'over'
    • Mac. root човек (čovek, man) = Ger. mensch = 'people'
  • Macedonian облакодер (oblakoder) = calques English skyscraper:
    • Mac. root облак (oblak, cloud)
    • Mac. root дере (dere, to flay)
  • Macedonian клучен збор (klučen zbor) = calques English keyword:
    • Mac. root клуч (kluč, key)
    • Mac. root збор (zbor, word)
Some words were originally calqued into Russian and then absorbed into Macedonian, considering the close relatedness of the two languages. Therefore, many of these calques can also be considered Russianisms.


The poet Aleksandr Pushkin (1799 - 1837) was perhaps the most influential among the Russian literary figures who would transform the modern Russian language and vastly expand its ability to handle abstract and scientific concepts by importing the sophisticated vocabulary of Western intellectuals.
Although some Western vocabulary entered the language as loanwords -- e.g., Italian salvietta, "napkin," was simply Russified in sound and spelling to салфетка (salfetka) -- Pushkin and those he influenced most often preferred to render foreign borrowings into Russian by calquing. Compound words were broken down to their component roots, which were then translated piece-by-piece to their Slavic equivalents. But not all of the coinages caught on and became permanent additions to the lexicon; for example, любомудрие (ljubomudrie) was promoted by 19th-century Russian intellectuals as a calque of "philosophy," but the word eventually fell out of fashion, and modern Russian instead uses the loanword философия (filosofija).
  • Russian любомудрие (ljubomudrie) calqued Greek-derived 'philosophy':
    • Russ. root любить (ljubit' ) = Gr. φιλειν (filein) = 'to love';
    • Russ. root мудрость (mudrost' ) = Gr. σοφία (sofia) = 'wisdom'
  • Russian зависимость (zavisimost' ) calques Latin-derived 'dependence':
    • Russ. root за (za) = Lat. de = 'down from'
    • Russ. root висеть (viset' ) = Lat. pendere = 'to hang; to dangle'
  • Russian полуостров (poluostrov) calques German Halbinsel, both meaning 'peninsula':
    • Russ. root полу- (polu-) = Ger. halb = 'half; semi-'
    • Russ. root остров (ostrov) = Ger. Insel = 'island'
  • Russian детский сад (detskij sad) calques German Kindergarten, both literally suggesting 'children's garden'


  • велике спасибі (velyke spasybi) calques Russian большое спасибо (bol'shoe spasibo), both literally "a big thank-you"


Since Finnish, a Finno-Ugric language, differs radically in pronunciation and orthography from Indo-European languages, most loans adopted in Finnish either are calques or soon become such as foreign words are translated into Finnish. Examples include:
  • from Greek: sarvikuono (rhinoceros, from Greek "rinokeros"),
  • from Latin: viisaudenhammas (wisdom tooth, from Latin "dens sapientiae"),
  • from English: jalkapallo (English "football", specifically referring to association football),
  • from English: koripallo (English "basketball"),
  • from English: kovalevy (English "hard disk"),
  • from French: kirpputori (flea market, French "marché aux puces"),
  • from German: lastentarha (German "Kindergarten"),
  • from German: panssarivaunu (German "Panzerwagen"),
  • from Swedish: moottoritie (highway, from Swedish "motorväg"),
  • from Chinese: aivopesu (brainwash, from Chinese "xi nao"),
  • from Spanish: siniverinen (blue-blooded, from Spanish "de sangre azul")


When Jews make an aliyah to Israel, they sometimes change their name to a Hebrew calque. For instance, Imi Lichtenfield, founder of the martial art Krav Maga, became Imi Sde-Or. Both last names mean "light field".
  • tappuach adamah (potato) from French pomme-de-terre
  • gan yeladim from German Kindergarten
  • kaduregel (כדורגל) (football, specifically association football) from English football


External links

calque in Breton: Drevezadenn (yezhoniezh)
calque in Czech: Kalk
calque in German: Lehnübersetzung
calque in Spanish: Calco semántico
calque in Esperanto: Paŭso
calque in French: Calque (linguistique)
calque in Galician: Calco léxico
calque in Hebrew: תרגום שאילה
calque in Korean: 번역차용
calque in Croatian: Prevedenice
calque in Indonesian: Calque
calque in Italian: Calco linguistico
calque in Malay (macrolanguage): Calque
calque in Dutch: Leenvertaling
calque in Japanese: 翻訳借用
calque in Norwegian: Importord
calque in Norwegian Nynorsk: Importord
calque in Polish: Kalka (językoznawstwo)
calque in Russian: Калька (лексика)
calque in Slovak: Kalk
calque in Ukrainian: Кальки
Privacy Policy, About Us, Terms and Conditions, Contact Us
Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2
Material from Wikipedia, Wiktionary, Dict
Valid HTML 4.01 Strict, Valid CSS Level 2.1