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Anglicifollsation (or anglicization, see spelling differences), occasionally Englishing, is the process of converting something to more "English" norms.[1][2] It commonly refers to the respelling of foreign words, often to a more drastic degree than romanisation. Examples of this include the German city of Köln anglicised to Cologne, or the Arabic word romanised as jinn or djinn (Arabic: الجن, al-jinn) anglicised to "genie".

Social anglicisation

Social and economic anglicisation was an important objective of the English crown in the Celtic regions of the United Kingdom, in Ireland, Scotland and Wales.[3] Social anglicisation was also a feature in some sectors of society under the British Empire.[4][5]

Anglicisation of language

In terms of language, anglicisation is a policy of use of the English language, such as was one of the causes contributing to the Boer War.[6][7] The adoption of English as a personal, preferred language is another form of anglicisation. Calvin Veltman, following the methods of analysis developed in Quebec, Canada for establishing language shift, uses the term to refer to the practice of individuals in minority language groups who cease using their mother tongue as their preferred language and adopt English instead. Rates of anglicisation may be calculated by comparing the number of people who usually speak English to the total number of people in any given minority language group.

Anglicisation of non-English-language vocabulary and names

Anglicisation within a language is adapting oral or written elements of any other language into a form that is more comprehensible to a speaker of English; or in general, of altering something so that it becomes English in form or character.[8][9] It is also called anglification, anglifying, or Englishing.

Anglicisation of loan words

Main article: loanword

The term anglicisation usually refers to the process of altering the pronunciation or spelling of a foreign word when it is borrowed into English. Personal names may also be anglicised. This was common for names of antiquity or of foreign heads of state, and it has also been common among immigrants to English-speaking countries. There have also been cases of deliberate change during periods of international stress or war; for example, the name of the House of Battenberg was deliberately changed to Mountbatten.

Non-English words may be anglicised by changing their form and pronunciation to something more familiar to English speakers. For example, the Latin word obscenus /obskeːnus/ has been imported into English in the modified form obscene /əbˈsiːn/. Changing endings in this manner is especially common, and can be frequently seen when foreign words are imported into any language. For example, the English word damsel is an anglicisation of the Old French damoisele (modern demoiselle), meaning "young lady". Another form of anglicising is the inclusion of a foreign article as part of a noun (such as alkali from the Arabic al-qili).

Anglicisation of non-English place names

Main article: English exonyms

Some foreign place names are commonly anglicised in English as English exonyms. Examples include the Italian cities of Roma, Napoli and Milano, known in English as Rome, Naples and Milan, the German cities of Köln (Cologne), München (Munich) and, more subtly, Hannover (Hanover), the Danish capital city København (Copenhagen), the Russian city of Москва Moskva (Moscow), the Swedish city of Göteborg (Gothenburg), the Dutch city of Den Haag (The Hague), the Spanish city of Sevilla (Seville), the Egyptian city of القاهرة Al-Qāhira (Cairo), and the Moroccan city of مراكش Marraksh which had been called "Morocco" in medieval English literature and is renamed "Marrakesh" in modern-day English writings. Such anglicisation was once more common: nearly all cities and people discussed in English literature up to the mid-19th century had their names anglicised. In the late 19th century, however, use of non-English names in English began to become more common. When dealing with languages that use the same Latin alphabet as English, names are now more usually written in English as they happen in their local language, sometimes even with diacritical marks that do not normally appear in English. With languages that use non-Latin alphabets, such as the Arabic, Cyrillic, Greek, Korean Hangul, and other alphabets, a direct transliteration is typically used, which is then often pronounced according to English rules. Non-Latin based languages may use standard romanisation systems, such as Japanese Rōmaji or Chinese Pīnyīn. The Japanese and Chinese names are spelled in English following these spellings with some common exceptions, usually without Chinese tone marks and without Japanese macrons for long vowels (Chóngqìng to Chongqing (重慶, 重庆), Shíjiāzhuāng to Shijiazhuang (石家莊, 石家庄), both in China, Kyōto to Kyoto (京都) in Japan).

Often the English name reflects a French origin, sometimes unchanged from French, e.g. Cologne, Rome, Munich, Naples, sometimes changed slightly, e.g. Vienna (Vienne), Venice (Venise), Lisbon (Lisbonne), Seville (Séville). The English city-name for the Czech capital – "Prague" is taken with spelling unaltered from the French name for the city, itself descended from the Latin name for the city (Praga), which had been borrowed from an earlier Czech name (pre-dating the /g/>/h/ shift).

De-anglicisation has become a matter of national pride in some places and especially in regions that were once under colonial rule, where vestiges of colonial domination are a sensitive subject.[10][11] Following centuries of English rule in Ireland, Douglas Hyde delivered an argument for de-anglicisation before the Irish National Literary Society in Dublin, 25 November 1892; "When we speak of 'The Necessity for De-Anglicising the Irish Nation', we mean it, not as a protest against imitating what is best in the English people, for that would be absurd, but rather to show the folly of neglecting what is Irish, and hastening to adopt, pell-mell, and, indiscriminately, everything that is English, simply because it is English."[10] Despite its status as an official language, the Irish language has been reduced to a minority language in Ireland due to centuries of English rule, as is the case in North America where their indigenous languages have been replaced by that of the colonists. In the process of removing the signs of their colonial past, anglicised names have been officially discouraged in many places: Ireland's Kingstown, named by King George IV, reverted to its original Irish name of Dún Laoghaire in 1920, even before Irish independence in 1922; India's Bombay is now Mumbai, even though this is not the oldest local name (see Toponymy of Mumbai) and "Bombay" is still commonly used in the city; Calcutta is Kolkata and Madras is Chennai. Bangladesh's Dacca is Dhaka. Many Chinese endonyms have become de-anglicised: Canton is now more commonly called Guangzhou (廣州, 广州), and Peking is generally referred to as Beijing (北京), although this reflected a name change from Beiping (Peiping) to Beijing (Peking) with the de-anglicisation of the name taking place after the name change to reflect a pronunciation change in Mandarin.

In Scotland, many places' names in Scots Gaelic were anglicised, often, but not always, accidentally due to Ordnance Survey mappers not being native speakers of Gaelic. Often the etymology of a place name is lost or obscured, such as in the case of Kingussie, from "Cinn a' Ghiuthsaich" (The Heads of the Pine Forest).

In Wales, several places were anglicised, for example Caernarfon became Carnarvon and Conwy became Conway, these have now reverted to their Welsh names. Most places in Wales are still in the Welsh language.

In other cases, established anglicised names have remained in common use where there is no national pride at stake: this is the case with Ghent (Gent, or Gand), Munich (München), Cologne (Köln), Vienna (Wien), Naples (Napoli), Rome (Roma), Milan (Milano), Athens (Αθήνα, Athina), Moscow (Москва, Moskva), Saint Petersburg (Санкт-Петербург, Sankt-Peterburg), Warsaw (Warszawa), Prague (Praha), Bucharest (Bucureşti), Belgrade (Београд, Beograd), Lisbon (Lisboa), and other European cities whose names have been familiar in their anglicised forms for centuries. However, the de-anglicised names now often appear as an alternative on maps, in airports, etc.

Sometimes a place name can appear anglicised, but is not, such as when the form being used in English is an older name that has now been changed. For example, Turin in the Piedmont province of Italy was named Turin in the original Piedmontese language, but is now officially known as Torino in Italian. English-language media can sometimes overcompensate for this in the mistaken belief that the anglicised name was imposed by English speakers and is cultural domination.[12] The International Olympic Committee made the choice to regard the city officially as "Torino" throughout the 2006 Winter Olympics.

The English and French name for Florence in Italy is closer to the original name in Latin (Florentia) than is the modern Italian name (Firenze).

Historical anglicisation of personal names

In the past, the names of people from other language areas were anglicised to a higher extent than today. This was the general rule for names of Latin or (classical) Greek origin. Today, the anglicised name forms are often retained for the more common persons, like Aristotle for Aristoteles, and Adrian or (later) Hadrian for Hadrianus. However, less well-known persons from the antiquity are now often given their full name (in the nominative case).

For royalty, the anglicisation of personal names was a general phenomenon, especially until recently: Charles for Carlos, Karoly, and Karl; Frederic for Friedrich or Fredrik, etc. Anglicisation is still the rule for popes, including recent ones: Pope John Paul II instead of Ioannes Paulus II, Pope Benedict XVI instead of Benedictus XVI.

Medieval Scottish names

The anglicisation of medieval Scottish names consists of changing them from a form consistent with Scottish Gaelic to the Scots language, which is an Anglo-Frisian language. For instance, the king known in Scottish Gaelic as Domnall mac Causantín (Domnall son of Causantín) is known in Scots as Donald, son of Constantine.

Anglicisation of immigrant family and personal names

During the time in which there were large influxes of immigrants from Europe to the United States and United Kingdom during the 19th and 20th centuries, the names of many immigrants were changed either by immigration officials (as demonstrated in The Godfather Part II)[13] or personal choice.

French immigrants to the United States (both those of Huguenot and those of French Canadian background) often accommodated those unfamiliar with French pronunciations and spellings by altering their surnames in either of two ways: spellings were changed to fit the traditional pronunciation (Pariseau became Parizo, Boucher became Bushey, Mailloux became Mayhew), or pronunciations were changed to fit the spelling (Benoît, pronounced [bənwa], became /bɛnˈɔɪt/) Benedict. In some cases, it could go either way (Gagné, pronounced [ɡaɲe], became /ˈɡæɡni/ or Gonyea), or something only slightly similar (Bourassa became Bersaw).

Most Irish names have been anglicised. A good example of this can be seen in the surnames of many Irish families – for example, Ó Briain has often become O'Brien, Ó Rothláin became Rowland, Ó Néill became O'Neill, and some surnames like Ó Gallchobhair may be shortened to just Gallagher. Likewise, native Scottish names were altered such as Somhairle to Sorley, Mac Gill-Eain to MacLean, and Mac Aoidh to MacKay. Many Welsh names have also been altered, such as "ap Hywell" to Powell, or "ap Siôn" to Jones.

German names have also been anglicised (from Licht to Light) due to the German immigration waves during times of political instability in the late 19th century and early 20th century. A somewhat different special case was the politically motivated change of dynasty name in 1917 by the royal family of the United Kingdom from the House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha to the House of Windsor. Incidentally, Saxe-Coburg is an anglicisation of Sachsen-Coburg.

In India, amongst others, a lot of Bengali surnames have been anglicised. Banerjee, Chatterjee and Mukherjee are anglicised forms of Bandhopadhay, Chatophadhay and Mukhopadhay respectively.

The anglicisation of a personal name now usually depends on the preferences of the bearer. Name changes are less common today for Europeans emigrating to the United States than they are for people originating in East Asian countries (except for Japan, which no longer has large-scale emigration). For instance, Xiangyun might be anglicised to Sean as the pronunciation is similar (though Sean – or Seán – is Irish and is a Gaelicisation of the Anglo-Norman Jean, which itself has been anglicised to John).


In some cases ethnonyms may be anglicised from a term in another language (either the language of the group described or the language of another people).

Anglicisation within other non-English languages

A more recent linguistic development is anglicisation of other languages, in which words are borrowed from English; such a word is known as an anglicism. With the rise in Anglophone media and global spread of British and American cultures in the 20th and 21st centuries, many English terms have entered popular usage in other tongues. Technology-related English words like internet and computer are particularly common across the globe, as there are no pre-existing words for them. English words are sometimes imported verbatim, and sometimes adapted to the importing language in a process similar to anglicisation. In languages with non-Latin alphabets, these borrowed words can be written in the Latin alphabet anyway, resulting in a text made up of a mixture of scripts; other times they are transliterated. Transliteration of English and other foreign words into Japanese generally uses the katakana script.

In some countries such anglicisation is seen as relatively benign, and the use of English words may even take on a chic aspect. In Japan, marketing products for the domestic market often involves using English or pseudo-English brand names and slogans. In other countries, anglicisation is seen much more negatively, and there are efforts by public-interest groups and governments to reverse the trend; for example, the Académie française in France insists on the use of French neologisms to describe technological inventions in place of imported English terms.

See also


  1. English in Wales: diversity, conflict, and change - Page 19 Nikolas Coupland, Alan Richard Thomas - 1990 "'Anglicisation' is one of those myriad terms in general use which everyone understands and hardly anyone defines. It concerns the process by which non-English people become assimilated or bound into an ..."
  2. The British World: Diaspora, Culture, and Identity - Page 89 Carl Bridge, Kent Fedorowich, Carl Bridge Kent Fedorowich - 2003 "Beyond gaps in our information about who or what was affected by anglicisation is the matter of understanding the process more fully in terms of agency, periodisation, and extent and limitations."
  3. Marc Cartrball Poets and politics: continuity and reaction in Irish poetry, 1558-1625 - Page 114 - 1998 "... Ulster counties with English and Scots settlers was soon set in motion. The plantation concept was underpinned by the crown's objectives of economic and social anglicisation of these areas. The two east-Ulster counties of Antrim and Down, ..."
  4. Radhakamal Mukerjee A history of Indian civilization Volume 2 - Page 411 1958 "For some decades it appeared that the dissemination of Western learning would bring about a complete social anglicisation and wholesale conversion of the people to Christianity in Bengal. But a cultural counter-movement soon started in ..."
  5. "BBC Wales - History - Themes - Welsh naming".
  6. Language planning and policy in Africa - Page 202 Richard B. Baldauf, Robert B. Kaplan - 2004 "... them (the Afrikaners) to become Anglicised (Watermeyer, 1996). Afrikaner resistance against Anglicisation is, among other factors," said to have contributed to the Anglo-Boer War of 1899-1902, which the British won (see e.g. Moodie, 1975)."
  7. Success with Asian Names: A Practical Guide for Business and ... - Page 32 Fiona Swee-Lin Price - 2007 "names: anglicisation. Anglicisation is the process of adapting a name to make it look more like an Anglo-Saxon name so that it is easier for English speakers to use. Names from most Asian countries are not structured like Anglo-Saxon names."
  8. anglicise - Free Online Dictionary Retrieved: 2013-10-21
  9. Cura's supreme English-English-Tamil dictionary: Revised, enlarged and updated Retrieved 2010-05-11
  10. 1 2 Hyde, Douglas (25 November 1892). "The Necessity for De-Anglicising Ireland". Retrieved 2008-03-27.
  11. ""de-anglicisation", in Free Online Dictionary". Retrieved 2013-10-21. the elimination of English influence, language, customs, etc.
  12. Owen, James (March 6, 2006). "From "Turin" to "Torino": Olympics Put New Name on the Map". National Geographic. Archived from the original on 12 February 2008. Retrieved 2008-03-27.
  13. Messenger, Chris (2002). The Godfather and American Culture: How the Corleones Became "Our Gang". State University of New York Press. Retrieved January 29, 2014.
    • a "...arrives at Ellis Island in 1901 (film version) and accepts the change of his name to "Corleone..." — pg. 214, ¶ 2.
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