Borrowed Words and Phrases

Copyright 2007 © Laraine Flemming.
The right to copy this material is granted exclusively to instructors and students using textbooks written by Laraine Flemming. General distribution and redistribution are strictly prohibited.

English has borrowed from other languages, and many of those borrowed words and phrases are worth knowing because they frequently turn up in academic contexts. If you learn these words and phrases now, you avoid being confused or puzzled when they appear in texts or lectures.

Note: When these words appear in print, they are often underlined or placed in italics. This indicates that they are still considered foreign words. Since they do come from other languages, you should look these phrases up in your dictionary to learn the correct pronunciation just in case you want to use them in a conversation.




ad hoc: literally, "toward this"; refers to something devised or created for a particular situation or purpose.


ad infinitum: literally, "to infinity"; suggests that someone or something will continue indefinitely.


a posteriori: literally, "from the subsequent"; indicates that reasoning is based on experience, that one may argue from facts to general principles.


a priori: literally, "from the previous causes"; indicates that reasoning is based on theories or general principles rather than experience or factual knowledge.


bona fide: literally, "in good faith"; means that something is genuine or authentic.


in loco parentis: literally, "in place of a parent"; indicates that some group or institution substitutes for absent parents.


in toto: literally, "in sum" or "as a whole"; indicates that something should be taken totally or altogether.


prima facie: literally, "on first appearance"; refers to a first impression formed before any closer inspection.


non sequitur: literally, "it does not follow"; points to an irrelevant or illogical conclusion or statement.


quid pro quo: literally, "something for something"; indicates an equal exchange.

Interactive online practice
You may want to print a hardcopy of the definitions before starting the practice.


carte blanche: literally, a "blank card"; signifies unrestricted power or unconditional authority.


déjà vu: literally, "already seen"; refers to the experience of going through something that seems to have happened before.


double-entendre: literally, "double meaning"; indicates that a word or phrase has two meanings, one of which has sexual overtones.


entrée: literally, "entrance"; can refer to the main course of a meal; can also indicate the right of entrance to a select group.


idée fixe: literally, "fixed idea"; suggests that an idea has become an obsession.


fin de siècle: literally, "end of the century"; refers to the end of the nineteenth century and suggests a climate of extreme sophistication and boredom.


noblesse oblige: literally, "nobility obligates"; signifies that responsible behavior is considered the obligation of all aristocrats.


nom de plume: literally, "pen name"; means the same as "pseudonym."


raison d’être: literally, "reason for being"; refers to the sole or essential reason for the existence of something.


vis-à-vis: literally, "face to face"; can indicate two things or persons that are opposite or corresponding; can also mean "in relation to."

Interactive online practice
You may want to print a hardcopy of the definitions before starting the practice.

Last change made to this page: November 21, 2007