User:Mzajac/Foreign terms

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This is a think-tank proposal for incorporating foreign terms into the inflection templates. Please continue general discussion about the merits and features at WT:BP#Foreign terms. Specific technical implementation issues can be discussed below. Feel free to improve the proposal. Michael Z. 2008-05-14 22:38 z

Foreign terms[edit]

"Foreign terms" are often italicized in English usage. Some English dictionaries indicate these by italicizing headwords (e.g. the Canadian Oxford italicizes a headword "if the word is originally a foreign word and not naturalized in English").


  • Defined by usage:
    • An English term which is usually italicized in attestations [>50%?]
    • A term which is indicated as usually italicized in published dictionaries, style guides, etc.
  • Not by etymology (whether a term is a calque or reborrowing belongs in the Etymology section)

What about in other languages?


Category:English borrowed words is currently headed "Words borrowed from other languages, retaining the "foreign" spelling." This is very broad, and may be problematic (e.g. can we say that either horilka or gorilka retains the original spelling горілка? ).


  • Inflection templates have a new parameter added to allow flagging the term as foreign. Suggested names:
    • borrowed=yes –the class includes naturalized borrowings
    • borrowing=yes – includes naturalized borrowings
    • foreign=yes +non-jargon
    • italicize=yes –mandates a particular visual display
    • loan=yes –includes naturalized loanwords
    • loanword=yes –includes naturalized loanwords
  • Style is applied using an HTML class, so registered Wiktionarians can customize the display. The class name is the same as the parameter name: class="foreign" or whatever.


Italics are unobtrusive but meaningful. They don't add new sections, additional notes or other visual clutter, or interfere with reading. Their use to indicate foreign terms is common in general writing and used in some dictionaries. Their meaning can be inferred, and easily remembered, although it is not explicitly indicated in an entry. And unlike in paper dictionaries, in Wiktionary several headwords are usually not seen together so italicization may be harder to notice. Do we need another method?

  • Foreign terms are indicated by rendering the main headword in italics.

Where else do we italicize foreign terms in Wiktionary? Terms are already italicized to indicate the w:use-mention distinction in running text, by using {{term}}. Foreign terms also could be italicized in senses, in lists of related entries, when linked in form of templates. They cannot normally be italicized in main entry headings (h1) or in category listings. Trying to italicize in more than one place is likely to remain out-of-synch.

  • A foreign term and its inflections will be italicized in its inflection header. Example:
    comme il faut (comparative more comme il faut, superlative most comme il faut)
  • A foreign term may also be italicized in a form-of template [?]. Example:
    1. Alternative spelling of horilka.

What about other-language foreign terms. Italicization might not be used for this in particular languages, and some foreign writing systems have no equivalent to italics. We should be conservative in introducing foreign-language typographic conventions into en.Wiktionary.

Do we indicate foreignness in other ways?

  • Foreign terms need not be identified in a usage note, unless there is more relevant information.