I'd like to have an order of idea of how much more Latin has influenced the French language compared to Greek.

However, there's little to no information on the internet.

I've found this : TextKit and this : Langue Francaise

What I get from those sources is a ratio 10:1 for Latin, but those sources are not much.


It depends on how you count. If you count every word in a dictionary once, you will get a higher score for Greek words; a very infrequently used word will count as 1 just like a very frequently used word, and there will be many more Greek words among the infrequently used words. Then you'd get the following numbers, from Laure's comment below; they don't mention Greek separately, so it is possible that Greek is included in Latin, because many/most Greek words came to French through Latin:

Les mots d'origine préceltique (antérieurs aux gaulois) se comptent sur quelques doigts

Les reliques gauloises : 0,08% de notre vocabulaire.

Les mots germaniques, franciques, couvrent 1,35% de notre vocabulaire, mais 3,5% des mots les plus fréquents.

Le fonds latin constitue l'essentiel de notre patrimoine héréditaire : 86,53%.

Les emprunts aux langues étrangères constituent environ 10% de notre vocabulaire.

Les invasions arabes de la fin du VIIIème siècle n'ont laissé aucune trace ; celles des Normands au IXème siècle n'ont agi que sur les parlers régionaux, donc en Normandie.

If you correct for frequency, i.e. if you count "le" (Latin) as 10,000 times versus logopédie (Greek) 1 time (of course I don't know the exact frequencies), I think that probably better answers the spirit of your question. I don't have any numbers, but I think the proportion will be much higher than 1:10 for Greek:Latin that way, more like 1:1000.

What's also important to consider is that there is much more to language than just vocabulary. English, for example, has borrowed very many words from French and Latin, but its grammar is hardly French or Latin at all; and grammar is mostly what makes linguists classify it as Germanic. I believe French grammar has many more Celtic and Germanic characteristics than its vocabulary has.

Here is a list of the 75 most frequent words in French. I've added the origins off the top of my head, but I'm certain none of those are from Greek:

Fréq.   Nature      Mot     Origine
1050561 (dét.)      le      Latin
862100  (prép.)     de      Latin
419564  (dét.)      un      Latin
351960  (verbe)     être    Latin
362093  (conj.)     et      Latin
293083  (prép.)     à       Latin
270395  (pron.)     il      Latin
248488  (verbe)     avoir   Latin
186755  (adv.)      ne      Latin
184186  (pron.)     je      Latin
181161  (dét.)      son     Latin
176161  (conj.)     que     Latin
168684  (pron.)     se      Latin
148392  (pron.)     qui     Latin
141389  (dét.)      ce      Latin
139185  (prép.)     dans    Latin
143565  (prép.)     en      Latin
127384  (dét.)      du      Latin
126397  (pron.)     elle    Latin
123502  (dét.)      au      Latin
119106  (dét.)      de      Latin
107074  (pron.)     ce      Latin
105873  (pron.)     le      Latin
104779  (prép.)     pour    Latin
103083  (adv.)      pas     Latin
99412   (pron.)     que     Latin
89623   (pron.)     vous    Latin
82277   (prép.)     par     Latin
80180   (prép.)     sur     Latin
77608   (verbe)     faire   Latin
75499   (adv.)      plus    Latin
72134   (verbe)     dire    Latin
71086   (pron.)     me      Latin
70246   (pron.)     on      Latin
70121   (dét.)      mon     Latin
65988   (pron.)     lui     Latin
62554   (pron.)     nous    Latin
59902   (conj.)     comme   Latin
57690   (conj.)     mais    Latin
55394   (verbe)     pouvoir Latin
55081   (prép.)     avec    Latin
47221   (adj.)      tout    Latin
46031   (pron.)     y       Latin
41702   (verbe)     aller   Latin
39659   (verbe)     voir    Latin
38935   (pron.)     en      Latin
37171   (adv.)      bien    Latin
36089   (pron.)     où      Latin
35915   (prép.)     sans    Latin
35774   (pron.)     tu      Latin
34897   (conj.)     ou      Latin
33950   (dét.)      leur    Latin
33202   (subst.)    homme   Latin
32024   (adv.)      si      Latin
30211   (numér.)    deux    Latin
30082   (subst.)    mari    Latin
30053   (pron.)     moi     Latin
29435   (verbe)     vouloir Latin
28542   (pron.)     te      Latin
26148   (subst.)    femme   Latin
26023   (verbe)     venir   Latin
25592   (conj.)     quand   Latin
25388   (adj.)      grand   Latin
24270   (pron.)     celui   Latin
24024   (conj.)     si      Latin
23883   (dét.)      notre   Latin
22703   (verbe)     devoir  Latin
22695   (adv.)      là      Latin
22232   (subst.)    jour    Latin
20489   (verbe)     prendre Latin
19994   (adv.)      même    Latin
19942   (dét.)      votre   Latin
19915   (adv.)      tout    Latin
19379   (pron.)     rien    Latin   
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  • 1
    If that can be of any help and if you don't mind having a look at those figures does 86,53% of of words of Latin origin seem realistic ? I'm not very good with figures. – None Aug 29 '16 at 15:30
  • 1
    @Laure: That's a good site. But that number seems to be a percentage of dictionary/lexicon entries, not weighted by frequency. They only mention frequency for Germanic words: * Les mots germaniques, franciques, couvrent 1,35% de notre vocabulaire, mais 3,5% des mots les plus fréquents.* If you weight by frequency, I think Latin will be higher than 86,53%. Oh, and another thing: they don't mention Greek separately, so it is possible that Greek is included in Latin, because many/most Greek words came to French through Latin. – Cerberus Aug 29 '16 at 15:53
  • "Un recensement, bien entendu non exhaustif, de termes français issus en totalité ou partiellement du grec, donne 3600 mots, hormis les noms propres." Ça me parait peu. Lu ici. – None Aug 29 '16 at 16:25
  • @Laure: Moi aussi, but it depends on what list the author drew those words from. If it was a small dictionary, 3600 might be a lot. He mentions an etymological dictionary from Larousse, but he doesn't really say whether that's where he got them from. And he doesn't seem to take frequency into account at all. – Cerberus Aug 29 '16 at 18:05
  • Dicollecte has a nice database of words but I can't find how to download their etymological data. – Gilles 'SO nous est hostile' Aug 29 '16 at 22:46

French is Latin mispronounced by German. The Wikipedia article has a longer story. The French Wikipedia article has a much longer, more complete story.

A vast majority of French words come from Latin. A small number of common words come from (proto-) German. (See Language of Franks vs later French for a bit of historical background.) This is the foundation of French in the early Middle-Ages.

During the late Middle-Ages and the Renaissance, scholars introduced a number of new words. French has many doublets with a common word of popular origin which evolved from Latin and some less common derivatives that were created much later from the same root. For example the everyday noun œuf (egg) comes from the Latin ovum by way of Old French, whereas related scholarly words such ovule, ovaire (ovary), ovoïde (egg-shaped), ovivore (egg-eater), etc. were formed much later.

Later in that period of scholarly language increase, it became common for scholars to learn ancient Greek in addition to Latin. At that point many words of Greek origin entered the language, mostly to designate scientific and philosophical concepts. This added to an already existing set words in the same lexical area that reached French via Latin because the Romans had taken them from the Greek, such as logique and physique.

Of course over the years French has acquired many words from other languages, but Latin is the biggest provider by far and proto-German and Ancient Greek are distant seconds (with German mostly for everyday words and Greek for scholarly concepts).

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It is a pity that Greek origin words in French are not mentioned as such. They are mostly referred to as Latin and it is really difficult for the researcher to trace back a word into its Greek origin.But the truth cannot be denied.Thousands of words used in European languages come from Greek through Latin .And the wonderful thing is that it is not just the words but the ideas behind them.Don't be surprised why Greeks learn european languages so fast.Have a quick look at the following sites .Even the word -est- comes from Greek- ειμι ει εστι - εστι is the third person singular εστι is est

http://projetbabel.org/ellenika/lexique.htm https://fr.wiktionary.org/wiki/Cat%C3%A9gorie:Mots_en_fran%C3%A7ais_issus_d%E2%80%99un_mot_en_grec_ancien


I hope I was a bit of help!

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  • 3
    While there are many words that either directly came from Greek to French or were crafted from Greek components, the French third person est is strongly related to the Latin est. This Latin est was unlikely borrowed from the Greek εστι. Both likely just share the same Indo-European root *h₁ésti also found in Old (and modern) High German ist, Persian است (ast), Old Persian 𐎠𐎿𐎫𐎡𐎹 (astiy), Hittite 𒂊𒌍𒍣 (ēszi), Old Church Slavonic єстъ (est"), Sanskrit अस्ति (asti) ... See en.wiktionary.org/wiki/…*h%E2%82%81es- – jlliagre Sep 23 '18 at 22:54
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    The previous link was broken, here it is – jlliagre Sep 24 '18 at 15:55

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