A calque is the Latinate term (which comes to us through Italian and then French) for what linguists refer to as “loan translation.” Websters Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary (Amazon Link – It’s a good dictionary that I use in Slovakia, hard covered, sturdy and only costs $ 0.01 for a used copy at that link) defines a loan translation as “a compound, derivative, or phrase that is introduced into a language through translation of the constituents of a term in another language (as superman from German Übermensch).”

German writer Friedrich Nietzsche in Thus Spoke Zarathustra used the term Übermensch and a translator of his controversially used superman as the English equivalent, controversial because it seems to leave out some of the important original intent of the German original. Other translators have used calques such as overman or Beyond-Man in translating Übermensch.

As mentioned in this article on the internationally known Bratislava-developed fighting style Krav Maga, Krava Maga founder Imrich Lichtenfeld stopped going by his Germanic name and began to go by the name of Imi Sde-Or after immigrating to Israel.  Lichtenfeld literally means “light field” in German as does Sde-Or in Hebrew.  Sde-Or is therefore a calque of Lichtenfeld.

For those with the same fascinations with word histories as me: Calque literally means “copy” and comes from the French verb calquer, meaning to trace.  It and the word caulk, the process of making a ship’s seams watertight, are related and have their roots in the Latin calcare, the word for to trample, which is related to the Latin word calx meaning the heel of a foot.

  • join our mailing list
  • Recent Posts

  • Recent Comments on