13th July 2024

Atoll: The only English loanword from the Maldives



The island country Maldives, one of the most geographically dispersed countries, is a chain of twenty-six atolls spread around 90,000 sq km.

The word ‘atoll’ – an island, or a group of islands, formed of coral – is a word that has its roots in the Maldivian language Dhivehi. The word ‘atoll’ derives from the Dhivehi word atholhu. 

Much to the delight of Maldivians, it is the only word English has borrowed from their language.

Apparently, very few languages in the world are as evolved as English. Its vocabulary thrives on a large share of words borrowed from languages round the globe. It is therefore not very surprising that the language lives on words from lands largest to smallest.

You didn’t know this atoll, did you?

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