While speaking in our own language, sometimes we use words which originally derive from other languages. These words are called "Borrowings". Another term for borrowing is "Loanword". Words can be borrowed because a language needs to designate new objects, products, or concepts; an example are the English words for "coffee" (originally from Arabic qahwe) and for "tea" (originally Chinese cha). Sometimes words are borrowed to introduce finer distinctions of meaning which are not available in native words; for example in English, French-derived words such as beef and pork are used to refer to dining terms, while the English words cow and pig refer to the corresponding animals. Smaller languages tend to borrow many words from more dominant, majority languages. This is because of the role that "major" languages have in technology, media, and government institutions, and in public life in general.

Content words - words representing certain concepts, or objects, or products - are usually borrowed most easily and most frequently. But borrowing can also affect the grammar of a language. Words such as and or but are often borrowed by smaller languages in contact with majority languages. These are what we call "Function words"; you cannot for instance draw a picture of what they represent, and yet they play an essential role in the structure of sentences and especially when we combine sentences into conversations.