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Borrowed from German Wanderwort, from wandern (to wander) + Wort (word).[1] Wandern is ultimately derived from Proto-Indo-European *wendʰ- (to turn, to wind), and Wort from Proto-Indo-European *werh₁- (to say, speak).

The plural forms Wanderworte and Wanderwörter are also borrowed from German Wanderworte and Wanderwörter.


  • Singular:
    • (Received Pronunciation) IPA(key): /ˈwɒndəˌwɔːt/, (more similar to German) /ˈvɒndəˌvɔːt/
    • (file)
    • (General American) IPA(key): /ˈwɑndɚˌwɔɹt/, (more similar to German) /ˈvɑndɚˌvɔɹt/
    • Hyphenation: Wan‧der‧wort
  • Plural (Wanderwörter):


Examples (Wanderwörter)

Wanderwort (plural Wanderwörter or Wanderworte or Wanderworts)

  1. (linguistics) A loanword that has spread to many different languages, often through trade or the adoption of foreign cultural practices.
    Synonym: wanderword
    • 1914, H[erman] C[harles] Hoskier, “B in St. Luke’s Gospel”, in Codex B and Its Allies: A Study and an Indictment, part I, London: Bernard Quaritch, →OCLC, page 25:
      Mrs. [Agnes Smith] Lewis has correctly observed that many corrections in the old papyri (things which no doubt the διορωτής corrected) were misinterpreted by the ancients (hence what [Adalbert] Merx calls "Wanderwörte").
    • 1966, Yoël L. Arbeitman, quoting Heinz Kronasser, “Iranian ‘Scribe’, Anatolian ‘Ruler’, or Neither: A City’s Rare Chances for ‘Leadership’”, in Yoël L. Arbeitman, editor, Fucus: A Semitic/Afrasian Gathering in Remembrance of Albert Ehrman (Amsterdam Studies in the Theory and History of Linguistic Science; series IV; Current Issues in Linguistic Theory; 58), Amsterdam, Philadelphia, Pa.: John Benjamins Publishing Company, published 1988, →ISBN, →ISSN, page 77:
      Hittite t/dapar- "leiten, verwalten, regieren" (and also with the Glossenkeil) is connected and we are in the presence of a Wanderwort that ultimately derives from the above Capp[adocian] *labar- "herrschen".
    • 2008, Roger M[arsh] Blench, “The Problem of Pan-African roots”, in John D. Bengtson, editor, In Hot Pursuit of Language in Prehistory: Essays in the Four Fields of Anthropology in Honor of Harold Crane Fleming, Amsterdam, Philadelphia, Pa.: John Benjamins Publishing Company, →ISBN, page 190:
      [Diedrich Hermann] Westermann (1927) in his pioneering identification of "West Sudanic" common lexemes (Niger-Congo in modern terms) also identified Wanderworte, "wander-words" that show up in widely differing language families in similar form.
    • 2009, Patrick McConvell, “Loanwords in Gurindji, a Pama-Nyungan Language of Australia”, in Martin Haspelmath, Uri Tadmor, editors, Loanwords in the World’s Languages: A Comparative Handbook, Berlin: De Gruyter Mouton, →ISBN, section 4.4.3 (Wanderwörter), page 800:
      Some of the vocabulary can be classed as Wanderwörter – items that have diffused widely and whose ultimate source is sometimes hard to discover. [] While 'crocodile' is an animal with exceptional properties which may lead to it being a common topic in interethnic conversations, the same reasons cannot be adduced for the other items above or many other Wanderwörter in this region, at least not given the cultural configuration of the recent past.
    • 2015, Joshua T. Katz, “Aristotle’s Badger”, in Brooke Holmes, Klaus-Dietrich Fischer, Emilio Capettini, editors, The Frontiers of Ancient Science: Essays in Honour of Heinrich von Staden, Berlin, Munich: De Gruyter, →ISBN, →ISSN, pages 280–281:
      In an earlier paper, however, I suggested—without, I confess, having noticed the Slavic forms—that ασβὀς is a very old word indeed, reflecting directly *azgṷ-o-, the thematization of *azgu-, a form of the Wanderwort for "mole" (cf. Greek σκάλοψ and (ἀ)σπάλαξ, Sanskrit ākhú- "mole-like rat," and Hittite āšku- "mole (?)") that travels in concert with *tasku- "badger" and gets confused with it also in Galatian [] and Basque (azkoin "badger").
    • 2016, Patrick McConvell, “Kinship Loanwords in Indigenous Australia, before and after Colonisation”, in Felicity Meakins, Carmel O’Shannessy, editors, Loss and Renewal: Australian Languages since Colonisation (Language Contact and Bilingualism), Boston, Mass., Berlin: De Gruyter Mouton, →ISBN, →ISSN, section 3.1 (Affinal Wanderwörter):
      Affinal terms, designating spouses and in-laws, appear to be among the most highly borrowed kinship terms in Australia, following the worldwide trend identified by Matras []. Some of these are notable Wanderwörter 'travelling words' that are borrowed successively into languages of different groups and families across long distances []. In the case of two such affinal Wanderwörter in northern Australia, I have argued that changes in distribution and meaning which accompany diffusion tell a story of the diffusion of new marriage patterns and which kin controlled the betrothal of women, mothers-in-laws or fathers-in-laws [].

Alternative forms[edit]

Coordinate terms[edit]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ Wanderwort”, in Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary, Springfield, Mass.: Merriam-Webster, 1996–present.

Further reading[edit]



Compound of wandern +‎ Wort.


  • IPA(key): /van.dɐr.vɔrt/, [van.dɐ.vɔːt]


Wanderwort n (strong, genitive Wanderwortes or Wanderworts, plural Wanderwörter or Wanderworte)

  1. (linguistics) Wanderwort

Usage notes[edit]



  • English: Wanderwort