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Foreign Words & Phrases (Miscellaneous)

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Foreign Words and Phrases (Miscellaneous)

This page is mainly about words and phrases that have entered English from other languages. It's one of my favourites, because it demonstrates the rich and diverse heritage of the English language – even if some of the words and phrases are indisputably foreign and can't really be said to have entered English.

See also Foreign Words & Phrases (for more direct translations of non-English words and phrases into English).

Word used for unaccompanied singing, originating in an Italian phrase meaning 'as in chapel' Click to show or hide the answer
Latin phrase, used to describe a committee (for example) formed for a specific purpose Click to show or hide the answer
Spanish term for a fan or enthusiast Click to show or hide the answer
Latin for 'things to be done' Click to show or hide the answer
French term meaning 'according to the menu', used where each dish is individually priced and customers can choose freely (cf. 'table d'hote') Click to show or hide the answer
Derived from Spanish for 'the lizard' (el lagarto) Click to show or hide the answer
River whose name means 'destroyer of boats' Click to show or hide the answer
A declaration of affirmation, found in the Bible, and used in Jewish, Christian, and Muslim worship as a concluding word or a response to prayers; said to be of Hebrew origin, but also has roots in Aramaic; typically translated as "so be it", or sometimes "verily" or "truly" Click to show or hide the answer
London–based luxury clothing manufacturer and retailer: name is Latin for 'water shield' Click to show or hide the answer
Keffiyeh Click to show or hide the answer
Word for a group of islands: originates in Italian, but derived from the Greek for 'chief sea' Click to show or hide the answer
Portuguese word (masculine) for someone who is a suspect in a criminal case but has not been charged Click for more information Click to show or hide the answer
Derived from Latin meaning 'star sailor' Click to show or hide the answer
Scots phrase: literally means 'old long since'; more loosely 'old long ago', or (even more loosely) 'a long time ago' Click to show or hide the answer
Portuguese term (very similar in Spanish) meaning 'act of faith' – referring to a public act of penance performed by heretics condemned by the Inquisition; used in English to refer to burning at the stake Click to show or hide the answer
Italian for motorway Click to show or hide the answer
French term used to refer to people, or works of art, that are experimental or particularly innovative Click to show or hide the answer
Spanish for raft Click to show or hide the answer
Greeting traditionally used for emperors in China and Japan: literally '(may you live) ten thousand years' Click to show or hide the answer
Spanish for a framework of sticks Click to show or hide the answer
In South Africa, a braai is a Click for more information
German word for Bavaria Click to show or hide the answer
The word 'barber' has its origins in the Latin word for a Click to show or hide the answer
The classical poetic name for Italy – translated by Longfellow (from Dante) as 'fair land', and by A. S. Kline (from Petrarch) as 'fair country'; used as the name of a semi–soft cheese invented in 1906 Click to show or hide the answer
Name used in parts of Germany for a type of jam doughnut; also the name of a newspaper format (slightly larger than tabloid, but smaller than broadsheet – used in the UK by the Guardian and Observer since 2005) Click for more information Click to show or hide the answer
Item of (bathroom) furniture: name, imported into English from French, is French for a pony Click to show or hide the answer
Used by French–speaking audiences, where English speakers would say 'Encore' Click to show or hide the answer
From the French for 'twice cooked' Click to show or hide the answer
Arabic word meaning 'in the name of God', familiar to non–Muslims from its use in the lyrics of Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody Click to show or hide the answer
Foodstuff, known in French as boudin noir Click to show or hide the answer
French slang term for a German soldier, loosely translated as 'rascal' Click to show or hide the answer
Spanish term (originally meaning 'calm sea'), meaning a sudden and unexpected stroke of good fortune – used as the title of a long–running TV western series (1959–73) Click to show or hide the answer
Japanese name for the art of growing miniature trees Click to show or hide the answer
Originally Norman French for a child's undershirt; first used in English in 1893, for an undergarment known in France as a soutien–gorge (literally, "breast–supporter") Click for more information Click to show or hide the answer
Term used in English for collectable items of low value – from a French phrase meaning 'at random' Click to show or hide the answer
Type of pancake: name originated in Mexico, and literally means 'little donkey' Click to show or hide the answer
Samurai code of honour Click to show or hide the answer
Word derived from a French dialect word for straw, used in North America as an alternative name for the pipe of peace Click to show or hide the answer
"Un trou normand" is a term used in France for a pause between courses, in a meal, in which diners (in order to improve the appetite and make room for the next course) partake of a glass of Click to show or hide the answer
Familiar on restaurant menus: the singular form of the Italian word for trousers Click to show or hide the answer
Card game named after the Spanish word for a basket Click to show or hide the answer
Bird whose name means 'horse of the woods' in Scottish Gaelic – because of the sound that the male makes during its courtship display, which is said to sound like horses' hooves cantering on a hard surface Click to show or hide the answer
Derived from a Latin term that literally means 'farewell to meat' Click to show or hide the answer
From Italian: derived from the word for a house – originally referred to the part of a house that was used for socialising Click to show or hide the answer
Spanish term for a charismatic political leader with a military background Click to show or hide the answer
Vegetable known in German as blumenkohl Click to show or hide the answer
Word (from the Sanskrit word for a wheel) used in Hindu tradition and in yoga, to refer to any of the seven energy points in the body Click to show or hide the answer
Gas: from the Greek word Click to show or hide the answer
Derived from the Persian for 'the King is dead' (or 'the King is helpless') Click to show or hide the answer
Hebrew word for audacity, insolence or impertinence Click to show or hide the answer
Type of snake: name is Portuguese for a snake Click to show or hide the answer
Word derived from the Greek word for hair (of the head) – Aristotle described them as 'stars with hair' Click to show or hide the answer
Mercenary soldier leaders (or warlords) of the professional, military free companies contracted by the Italian city–states and the Papacy, from the late Middle Ages and throughout the Renaissance Click to show or hide the answer
French term, originally referred to the ribbon worn by members of the highest order of knighthood under the Bourbon monarchy Click to show or hide the answer
Word that originally referred to the horn of Amalthea, the goat that suckled Zeus (in Greek mythology) – literally meaning 'horn of plenty' Click to show or hide the answer
French term: literally means a bolt of lightning, but used figuratively to mean 'love at first sight' Click to show or hide the answer
French term meaning 'final blow' Click to show or hide the answer
Type of savoury cake (of meat, fish or vegetables) fried in breadcrumbs: name comes from the French word for 'to crunch' Click to show or hide the answer
French phrase meaning 'bottom of bag' – used in English for a dead end or 'no through road' Click to show or hide the answer
Latin phrase meaning 'with praise' or 'with honour' – used in education (particularly in the USA) to recognise high achievement; can be prefixed by 'magna' to mean 'great' or 'summa' to mean 'highest' Click to show or hide the answer
Known in France as crème Anglaise Click to show or hide the answer
Russian word for a second home – originally a small country estate given as a gift by the tsar, now owned by an estimated 25% of Russian city dwellers Click to show or hide the answer
Flower whose Latin name (Bellis perennis) means 'pretty, everlasting' Click to show or hide the answer
Flower whose English name comes from the French for 'lion's tooth' (dent de lion) – but which is known in France as the pissenlit Click to show or hide the answer
Title given to the heir apparent to the French throne, 1439–1830 Click to show or hide the answer
Style of Chinese appetiser: name literally means 'touch the heart' in Cantonese Click to show or hide the answer
Japanese term, meaning 'place of the way', used for a training area – especially for martial arts such as aikido, judo and karate Click to show or hide the answer
Italian phrase for 'nothing at all' – roughly equivalent to 'sweet nothing' Click to show or hide the answer
Italian phrase for a life of self–indulgence or luxury – literally 'sweet life' Click to show or hide the answer
Curry dish, name means 'two onions' – in an Urdu term originally from Persian Click to show or hide the answer
German word for a ghostly double (of a person) Click to show or hide the answer
Famous sobriquet of a Spanish military and political leader, 11th century: a term of respect meaning 'Sir' or 'Lord', often followed by a word meaning Champion Click to show or hide the answer
'Negus' is a word formerly used to mean a king, in Click to show or hide the answer
French term for 'bad step' – used in English for a social gaffe Click to show or hide the answer
Word used in the Middle East and North Africa to refer to a farmer or agricultural laborer: derived from the Arabic word for a ploughman or tiller Click to show or hide the answer
Chinese phrase meaning 'wind and water' Click to show or hide the answer
World–famous Italian surname that means 'blacksmith' or 'iron worker' Click to show or hide the answer
French term for a cut of tenderloin steak – literally 'cute fillet' or 'dainty fillet' Click to show or hide the answer
Italian name for the city of Florence Click to show or hide the answer
Hejira (the event from which the Muslim calendar dates) Click to show or hide the answer
Rose cultivar, named after the Latin for 'many–flowered' (cf. Polyantha) Click to show or hide the answer
Chinese dish: name literally means 'lotus egg' Click to show or hide the answer
'Welsh': comes from the Anglo–Saxon word wealas, meaning Click to show or hide the answer
The Spanish name Paco is a diminutive of Click to show or hide the answer
Island whose former name is Portuguese for 'beautiful' Click to show or hide the answer
Japanese word, literally 'outside person', equivalent to 'foreigner'. Used as the title of a novel by James Clavell (1993) Click to show or hide the answer
Astronomical term derived from the Greek for milk Click to show or hide the answer
Confection made from chocolate and cream, and used as icing, sauce or filling: name is French for the cheek or jowl Click to show or hide the answer
Suburb of Seoul: name means 'south of the river' Click to show or hide the answer
Name given to a mounted herdsman or cowboy of the South American pampas – particularly one of mixed Spanish and Native American descent (also known, apparently, as a charro in Mexico, huaso in Chile, chalan in Peru, guajiro in Cuba, jibaro in Puerto Rica, llanero in Venezuela or Colombia, chagra in Ecuador, and paniolo in Hawaii) Click to show or hide the answer
Latin: plural of genus (cf. opus/opera) Click to show or hide the answer
Mongolian for 'gravel–covered plain' Click to show or hide the answer
Weapon (a hand–thrown bomb) named from the French word for a pomegranate (pomme–grenade) Click to show or hide the answer
Native South American word (from Quechuan) for seabird droppings used as fertiliser Click to show or hide the answer
Diminutive form of the Spanish word for war Click to show or hide the answer
In Arab countries, a dragoman is a Click to show or hide the answer
Soviet agency responsible for the labour camp system – name came to be used for the camps themselves Click to show or hide the answer
German word for a secondary school Click to show or hide the answer
Song from The Lion King – title is Swahili for 'no worries' Click to show or hide the answer
In the Zulu language, 'izulu' (not 'Zulu' itself) means Click to show or hide the answer
Greek term meaning 'the many', used in English to denote 'the masses' Click to show or hide the answer
Prefix that means 'man' or 'male' in Latin, but 'same' in Greek – leading to potential confusion when used in English as a prefix to 'erotic' Click to show or hide the answer
Latin for 'little man': term used in various fields to mean a representation of a human being, and especially a miniature but fully–formed human body – a concept that evolved from folklore into 16th–century alchemy and 19th–century literature Click to show or hide the answer
Food product: name (resulting from a national competition won by London student Herbert Grime) comes from the Latin phrase for 'strength of man' (hominis vis) Click to show or hide the answer
Producer or sponsor of theatrical events (derived from Italian) Click to show or hide the answer
Italian word, originating in Latin and meaning 'unknown'; used in English to describe a person with a false or hidden identity Click to show or hide the answer
Books published before 1501 – Latin for 'swaddling clothes' or 'cradle' Click to show or hide the answer
Title given in Spain and Portugal to princesses (female descendants of the king, and consorts of princes; male descendants who were not the heir apparent were given the same title in its masculine form, infante) Click to show or hide the answer
Latin phrase, used in law to mean 'caught in the act (of committing a crime)' – literally vin blazing crime' – closely analagous to 'caught red–handed' Click to show or hide the answer
Literally Arabic for 'tremor' or 'shiver'; a key concept in contemporary Arabic usage referring to a legitimate uprising against oppression, often rendered into English as 'uprising', 'resistance', or 'rebellion' Click to show or hide the answer
Russian equivalent of the name John Click to show or hide the answer
Infantry units that formed the sultan's bodyguard and household troops in the Ottoman Empire – from the Turkish for 'new soldier' Click to show or hide the answer
Literally Arabic for 'struggle' or 'striving' – especially with a praiseworthy aim; in contemporary usage, often rendered into English as 'holy war' Click to show or hide the answer
Name is derived from the Greek for 'to look at beautiful forms' Click to show or hide the answer
Name meaning 'Princess', taken by all Sikh women Click to show or hide the answer
Imported probably from Malay, where it's used to mean 'seafood sauce'; this in turn comes from a Chinese word or phrase THat' defined in English as 'brine of pickled fish' Click to show or hide the answer
Comes (via Pakistan) from a Persian word for dust or ashes; means 'dust–coloured' Click to show or hide the answer
Hebrew word meaning 'gathering' or 'clustering', used in Israel for a residential community based on agriculture; the first was Degantia Alef, established in 1909, in Ottoman Palestine, by a group of Russian Jewish emigrés Click to show or hide the answer
Japanese word: literally translates into English as 'a thing to wear' Click to show or hide the answer
Yiddish word for a chronically clumsy person Click to show or hide the answer
Black powder, used in South Asia, the Middle East and north and west Africa for cosmetic purposes; Arabic word, also the origin of the English word 'alcohol' Click to show or hide the answer
South Africa: a hill, especially one with a rounded top – made famous by a battle of the Second Boer War (1900) Click to show or hide the answer
Composed of two Chinese words, the first meaning 'work', 'achievement' or 'merit', the second possibly meaning 'man'; can be translated as 'achievement of man' or 'work', 'time' and 'effort' Click to show or hide the answer
Dance whose name refers to the wave–like motion of a whip (obscure Brazilian Portuguese word) Click to show or hide the answer
German word for 'living space' Click to show or hide the answer
German word for a recurring theme in an opera Click to show or hide the answer
1958 Italian novel Il Gattopardo – filmed in 1963 with an international cast including Burt Lancaster, Alain Delon and Claudia Cardinale – English title Click to show or hide the answer
Common English translation of the remark 'Qu'ils mangent de la brioche' – attributed by the 18th–century Swiss–French philosopher Jean–Jacques Rousseau to 'a certain princess'. The quotation is widely believed to be from Marie Antoinette, consort of Louis XVI of France, but Rousseau was referring to Maria Theresa of Spain, consort of Louis XIV – who may or may not have actually said something similar (referring to 'the crust off the paté' rather than brioche) Click to show or hide the answer
Original meaning of éclair, in French (the link to the name of the pastry is obscure) Click to show or hide the answer
Style of car: gets its name from a French word for a rough wollen great–coat Click for more information Click to show or hide the answer
Name comes from the Italian for 'bad air' (mala aria) Click to show or hide the answer
French term for Shrove Tuesday – literally 'fat Tuesday' – also used in various English–speaking locations, particularly in the USA, and in Rio de Janeiro Click to show or hide the answer
British food product whose name is French for a cooking pot Click to show or hide the answer
Cosmetic product: name is Italian for mask Click to show or hide the answer
Spanish for 'killer' Click to show or hide the answer
Said to be derived from a French call for help (M'aidez) Click to show or hide the answer
From the Latin for 'centre (or middle) of the Earth' Click to show or hide the answer
Word for a standing stone, from the Celtic words for 'stone' and 'long' Click to show or hide the answer
(International organisation that took its name from the) Latin for 'table' Click to show or hide the answer
From the Greek, meaning 'between two rivers' Click to show or hide the answer
Adopted from French: a person's specialist field, calling or forte Click to show or hide the answer
The most southern areas of France and Italy are known respectively as le Midi and il Mezzogiorno, which are the local terms for Click to show or hide the answer
Fata morgana Click to show or hide the answer
In Germany, a 'handy' is a Click to show or hide the answer
Title by which the Dauphin was addressed Click to show or hide the answer
French term meaning 'exactly the right word' Click to show or hide the answer
Known as an autoroute in France, autobahn in Germany, autopista in Spain, and autostrada in Italy Click to show or hide the answer
Word for civilian dress, when worn by someone who normally wears a uniform: originally a Muslim legal expert (who was a civil rather than a religious official, and so didn't wear clerical dress) Click to show or hide the answer
Term used in perfumery, believed to be ultimately derived from the Sanskrit word for a testicle Click to show or hide the answer
Condiment, known as Senf in German Click to show or hide the answer
Inuit name for the polar bear Click to show or hide the answer
Japanese art of carving delicate ornaments, hung from a sash, used to carry things in (instead of pockets) – traditionally, most often from ivory Click to show or hide the answer
'The shop where you leave things to heaven' is a loose translation of Click to show or hide the answer
The word 'chaparral' originates from the Spanish word for (tree) Click to show or hide the answer
Musical instrument: name comes from French, meaning 'high wood' (haut bois) Click to show or hide the answer
Simple musical instrument: name is Italian for 'little goose' Click to show or hide the answer
French word for work, used in English to denote an artist's total output Click to show or hide the answer
Meaning of the Catalan word vella, used in the name of the capital city of Andorra Click to show or hide the answer
Senex (from which the English word Senate is derived): Latin for Click to show or hide the answer
Spanish word meaning 'scented' – used for a type of sherry Click to show or hide the answer
Word indigenous to Danish, Norwegian and Swedish, derived from an Old Norse word that essentially meant 'representative' or 'trusted intermediary' Click to show or hide the answer
The Mafia 'code of silence' (derived from the Italian for 'manliness', or possibly 'humility') Click to show or hide the answer
Bus is short for (Latin word meaning 'for all') Click to show or hide the answer
Vegetable: known as cebolla in Spanish, cipolla in Italian, ui in Dutch, Zwiebel in German Click to show or hide the answer
Latin: singular of Opera (meaning work) Click to show or hide the answer
Type of pasta – Italian for 'little ears' Click to show or hide the answer
Japanese art of folding paper without cutting Click to show or hide the answer
Bufano Bufano – the nickname of the South African national football team – is a Zulu term meaning Click to show or hide the answer
Type of field where rice is grown – from the Malay name for the rice plant Click to show or hide the answer
Word derived from the Latin for 'father', used in English to address a priest – particularly a chaplain in the armed forces Click to show or hide the answer
Italian word for an annual sporting or athletic contest – particularly the horse race in Siena Click to show or hide the answer
Word commonly used in journalism, ultimately derived from a made–up Italian word that's said to mean a large and bothersome mosquito Click to show or hide the answer
In art: a mix of styles, or an imitation of another style – comes (via French) from the Italian word for a pie crust Click to show or hide the answer
Latin name for the Lord's Prayer, also an item of fishing tackle Click to show or hide the answer
Known to native Americans as the Calumet Click to show or hide the answer
Group of flowering plants: name is literally Greek for a flame Click to show or hide the answer
French phrase, used in English for a small second home, usually in a city Click to show or hide the answer
Term used in China for boy and girl twins Click to show or hide the answer
Name of Aberdeen FC's ground – means 'dunghill' Click to show or hide the answer
Rose cultivar, named after the Greek for 'many–flowered' (cf. Floribunda) Click to show or hide the answer
Common name for a type of primula, as distinct from the primrose: from the Greek for 'many–flowered' Click to show or hide the answer
Alternative title for the Pope, from the Latin for “bridge builder” Click to show or hide the answer
Ceramic material: name comes from the Italian word for a cowrie shell, because it has a similar appearance (don't ask why the Italian word for a cowrie shell refers to a young female pig) Click to show or hide the answer
Administrator who made the use of dustbins compulsory in Paris in 1884, and after whom the dustbin came to be named in French Click to show or hide the answer
Word for a province or state, in several south Asian languages: appears in the names of five Indian states Click to show or hide the answer
Gambas in an Italian restaurant Click to show or hide the answer
Purplish–brown or reddish–brown colour – French for 'flea' Click to show or hide the answer
Rajah's wife (the equivalent of 'queen') Click to show or hide the answer
In India, a dhaba is a Click to show or hide the answer
The Greek word dromos (used in English words such as aerodrome, palindrome and dromedary) means Click to show or hide the answer
Matryoshka Click for more information Click to show or hide the answer
Jew born in Israel of immigrant parents Click to show or hide the answer
The galápagos tortoise (which gave its name to the Galápagos Islands) was so named because the shape of its shell reminded early Spanish visitors of a galápego, which was the front part of a Click for more information Click to show or hide the answer
Comes from a Swahili word for a journey Click to show or hide the answer
Military nobility of pre–industrial Japan – meaning 'servant' – 'champions' of the Shoguns Click to show or hide the answer
French term for self–control, or coolness under stress – literally 'cold blood' Click to show or hide the answer
Japanese ritual of suicide by sword disembowelment Click to show or hide the answer
German word for 'pleasure in the misfortunes of others' Click to show or hide the answer
Yiddish word for jewellery, used colloquially to refer to the male genitalia and hence as an insult Click to show or hide the answer
Disease: name derived from Latin, literally means 'little sow' Click to show or hide the answer
Mal de mer is the French term for Click to show or hide the answer
Light cotton or linen fabric, with a crinkled surface and often striped: name comes from the Persian for 'milk and sugar' Click to show or hide the answer
Latin phrase (meaning 'always faithful'): used as a motto by the City of Exeter and the US Marine Corps, among many others; also the title of a march by Souza, composed in response to a request from President Chester Arthur for a new piece to be associated with the US President Click to show or hide the answer
Origin of the word 'denim' Click to show or hide the answer
Hebrew word for 'peace', used as a greeting and a farewell Click to show or hide the answer
Title given to the military leaders who effectively ruled Japan, 794–1867 Click to show or hide the answer
Swahili for 'lion' Click to show or hide the answer
Name meaning 'lion', taken by all Sikh men Click to show or hide the answer
Hat whose name is derived from the Spanish word for shade or shadow (ombre) Click to show or hide the answer
Aigre (as in vin aigre, anglicised as vinegar) is French for Click to show or hide the answer
The English word 'infant' is derived from a Latin word that literally means 'unable to ... ' Click to show or hide the answer
Latin term meaning the current state of affairs Click to show or hide the answer
Printer's instruction: Latin for 'let it [i.e. the original version] stand' Click to show or hide the answer
Levante, Poniente – two districts of Benidorm, which give their names to the town's two main beaches: meaning Click to show or hide the answer
French term for a meal of several courses at a fixed price (cf. À la carte) Click to show or hide the answer
Latin phrase, often translated into English as 'a blank slate': refers to the idea that people are born without built–in mental content, and all knowledge comes from experience or perception Click to show or hide the answer
Prime Minister of the Republic of Ireland Click to show or hide the answer
Type of pottery: name is Italian for 'baked earth' Click to show or hide the answer
Italian word for a sports fan – particularly those of the Ferrari motor racing team Click to show or hide the answer
Tora (as in the 1970 film Tora! Tora! Tora!): Japanese for Click to show or hide the answer
Comes from a Boer word for a journey Click to show or hide the answer
Word from the Greek for 'three legs', used for the symbol of the Isle of Man (Sicily uses a similar symbol) Click to show or hide the answer
French term for an optical illusion, particularly in art; literally 'deceive the eye' Click to show or hide the answer
English words derived from the Ottoman Turkish word tulbend (muslin or gauze) Click to show or hide the answer
Hummum Click to show or hide the answer
Made–up Japanese word for 'savouriness' – imported into English (2007) as the name of the fifth taste Click to show or hide the answer
Name comes from the French for 'velvet hook' (velours crochet) Click to show or hide the answer
Italian for 'revenge'; used in English to mean a blood feud between families Click to show or hide the answer
Mediaeval Latin word meaning 'word for word' (basically an adverbial form of the noun verbum, 'a word') Click to show or hide the answer
Name for a type of wine containing aromatic herbs and other flavourings: comes (via French) from an old German word for the absinthe plant Click to show or hide the answer
Comes from an Old French term for 'sour wine' (vin aigre) Click to show or hide the answer
Latin phrase for an oral examination Click to show or hide the answer
'I roll' in Latin Click to show or hide the answer
'Planet' comes from the Greek for Click to show or hide the answer
In Venice, a vaporetto is a Click to show or hide the answer
Type of Chinese dumpling, filled with spiced pork and usually served with soup: name literally means 'pastry' in Cantonese Click to show or hide the answer
'Huang' is Chinese for (Huang Ho is the Yellow River, Huang Hai the Yellow Sea) Click to show or hide the answer
Sanskrit for 'union' Click to show or hide the answer
Peninsula whose name (according to Hernan Cortes) means 'I don't understand you' in the local native language Click for more information Click to show or hide the answer
Word meaning a fanatical adherent to a cause; originally meant a member of an anti–Roman Jewish sect of the first century AD Click to show or hide the answer
German word for 'spirit of the times' Click to show or hide the answer

© Haydn Thompson 2017