Literally: Amazing Words and Where They Come From

Literally: Amazing Words and Where They Come From

By Author / Illustrator

Patrick Skipworth, Nicholas Stevenson


Non Fiction

Age range(s)



What on Earth Publishing Ltd








Did you know that English words come from all over the world and that their meanings have changed along their journey? Our word 'zero' comes from the Arabic word for empty space. 'Companion' is from the Latin for with bread.  With simple descriptions and dazzling, evocative and witty illustrations, this is a fascinating introduction to the rich history and cultural diversity of our language.

Words included: karaoke (Japanese); zero (Arabic); guru (Sanskrit); ukulele (Hawaiian); jaguar (Tupi); royalty (Norman French); companion (Latin); kookaburra (Wradjuri); worm (Old English); mummy (Persian); caribou (Algonquin); safari (Swahili)



Literally: Amazing Words and Where They Come From, written by Patrick Skipworth and illustrated by Nicholas Stevenson, is a journey through amazing words that are in use daily. This book is a true celebration of the 'historical and cultural diversity of our language'.

Each double page spread in the book covers one word. The word is presented with a pronunciation guide, origin and meaning. The illustrations cover the meaning of the word and are incredible. The words included are familiar but also unusual such as 'ukulele' and 'mummy'. The book perfectly shows the match between words and pictures and how meaning an be interpreted through images.

This books would make an excellent starting point for the exploration of word etymology and I can imagine children wanting to research more words and create their own illustrations to match the different styles presented in the text.  There is also a helpful world map covering language families from around the world, showing how languages are interconnected, together with reference to the fact that our understanding of language and words is always evolving.

Children in key stages one and two would thoroughly enjoy this text.

32 pages / Reviewed by Bryony Davies, teacher

Suggested Reading Age 7+


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