- n. A form of borrowing from one language to another whereby the semantic components of a given term are literally translated into their equivalents in the borrowing language.
Calque is interesting, not just because it’s a great word (pronounced “kælk,” like the shortening of ‘calculus’), but because it’s an interesting concept. A calque is a word which has been borrowed from another language, but in the sense that we’ve literally translated the component parts of the foreign word into our language.
Brainwashing, for instance, is a literal root-for-root translation of the Chinese xǐ năo (洗腦) (it came into use during the Korean War).
The term “blue-blood,” which is used to refer to aristocrats, comes from the Spanish sangre azul.
Superman is a calque of the German Übermensch, and stormtrooper from Sturmtruppen.
The word “calque” itself comes from the French calquer, or to copy, from the mid-17th century.