How did words ending on -tion like Operation, Information, or Kommunikation enter the German language? Do these words come from English or French? Or were they first brought to English then to German?

I'm asking this because I saw an article saying that words ending on -tion in English all come from French. Since many German words also end on -tion, (and they don't really look like to have originated in German,) I begin to wonder where do those words come from.

  • 2
    Which words exactly? Different words took different paths, some even came directly from Latin or were created in German, without a model in another language.
    – chirlu
    Commented Jun 14, 2015 at 12:14
  • 5
    C'mon guys, (-3) votes for a new user is a little too much!
    – c.p.
    Commented Jun 14, 2015 at 14:14

2 Answers 2


I'm having a hard time finding good etymological resources, but it seems like Latin loans have been going on for a long time. To tell which ones came via French or English requires you to check the individual etymology.

For example, according to wiktionary, Relation has been around since Middle High German. It gives no estimate for Isolation, but given that it has the French meaning of "insulation" which English doesn't share, suggests this word came via (or was later influenced in meaning by) that language.

And, of course, it can be a new word: Information was a derivation from informare, not a loan.

So it seems to me that mostly -tion words are taken from Latin, and some from French. Given that I can't find a single entry with -tion in any "Liste englischer Wörter im Deutschen," English loans are likely fewer.


Words like "Information" or "Operation" actually come from latin words. So no, the words did not come from English or French, but from Latin. Either they were adapted through roman settlers or later on through the scientific community, which used to mainly use latin as a formal language.

  • 2
    Any sources, especially for the part about Roman settlers?
    – Carsten S
    Commented Jun 14, 2015 at 17:52
  • Yes I'm curious too. Maybe you could provide more of the roman settlers part? :D I would be so grateful! Thanks! Commented Jun 14, 2015 at 18:17
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    Yeah, it's unlikely that any of those words made it into German that early. They would have participated in the usual sound changes and no longer look like their Latin counterparts, as it happened to other early loanwords: Ziegel (from tegula), Schindel (from scandula), Mauer (from murus) etc. Further, at least the meaning of -tion words that made it into the language later was often influenced by French.
    – chirlu
    Commented Jun 14, 2015 at 18:47
  • Echoing what the others have said. If a word was really adopted by 1st to 5th century Germanic tribes, it would at least have to have taken part in the second Lautwandel, which I cannot see for most of the -tion words. E.g. it would like have become Opferazion.
    – Jan
    Commented Jun 14, 2015 at 22:06
  • Not directly from Latin!
    – Quidam
    Commented Nov 25, 2019 at 15:13

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