Currently my understanding is that is completely on-topic to request a translation of a non-English word or phrase to an equivalent word or phrase in English; e.g, ,.

Would also be on-topic to request the origin of English word or phrase back to its language of origin knowing that is how it originated?

A simplified example would be, "I know there is a word for having a strong desire to travel, I think it was of German origin" with the answer being "Wanderlust".

  • [correction: Would it also be on topic to request etc.]
    – Lambie
    Mar 21 at 16:22

1 Answer 1


Yes, asking for a translation to English is entirely on-topic. But two things should usually be done to prevent it being closed or migrated (these reasons are not actually about translation but usually come up in that circumstance).

  1. It shouldn't be a word you can just look up in an on-line dictionary. The question should be about the nuances of the English word which are often not in dictionaries.
  2. It should provide enough explanation of the source language word. You should give all the relevant nuances of the original word. A potential answerer in English is not guaranteed to know the nuances in the original language and culture.

Also yes, asking for the etymology of an English word is totally on-topic, even if the word is of obviously non-English borrowing.

Also, after your example, asking to give a word that is English from a description of its meaning is also on-topic, even if that word is of obviously non-English borrowing. However, single word requests, which this is an example of, can be problematic for other reasons: often underspecified, often opinion-based, often HNQ bait for casual answers.

From behavior of those with closing abilities here, it is considered questionably on-topic to ask about the provenance of a word -before- it arrived in English since it is ostensibly not a question about English. For example, 'What is the origin of Wanderlust in German?' should probably be directed over at [german.SE].

Of course all the usual caveats about questions are relevant. Many plain etymology questions are answerable easily by reference like etymonline, which should be checked before asking a question.

But in the end, once a term is used often enough by a language's speakers, it becomes part of that language, even if it still looks foreign. 'Guru' is not your usual English order of sounds, so it obviously comes from somewhere else (Hindi) but it's now also a part of English.

  • Yes, but the OP asks about the translation of terms. Right? [Is that your kitty?]
    – Lambie
    Mar 21 at 16:23
  • @Lambie Oh. Yes. Hm. I missed that. Just added.
    – Mitch
    Mar 21 at 17:18
  • @Lambie That is not a cat.
    – Mitch
    Mar 21 at 17:19
  • No, it's a representation of one.
    – Lambie
    Mar 21 at 21:01
  • @Lambie uh actually, it's a picture of a cat and a picture of a cat. I think 'representation' is a vague metaphor too far.
    – Mitch
    Mar 23 at 0:47

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