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English Language
Word and Phrase Origins

The oldest word in the english language?

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March 03, 2012 2:11PM

Modern English is made up of words with origins in Latin, Greek, Old English (Germanic), French, Dutch, modern German and many other sources.

The oldest surviving elements in modern English are probably the pre-Roman Celtic British words and place-names, belonging to the Brythonic language. Since there is more than one such word, no individual word can be selected as the "oldest". Examples are Avon, Dover, Britain, Kent, Severn, Thanet, Thames, York, tor, combe.

However, the fact is that almost every word in English can be traced back to the Sanskrit language and beyond, since all the languages I mentioned above are Indo-European languages derived from extremely ancient languages in northern India; in that sense all English words have the same age, no matter by what route they came down through history.