Word of the Day


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Liz Potter
Written by Liz Potter


1.  the activity of changing spoken or written words into a different language

2. spoken or written words that have been changed into a different language

View the full definition in the Macmillan Dictionary.

Origin and usage

The noun translation is a borrowing from the French word ‘translation’ and the Latin ‘translatio’. Like the related verb ‘translate’ it was first used in the late 14th century.


Translation is hard work, as anyone who has done any will know, and if it is done well it is more or less invisible, so it’s good that a day has been set aside for the appreciation of translators (and interpreters) and the work they do. Yesterday was International Translation Day, a UN-sponsored celebration of the work of translators and other language professionals and their role in bringing people together. The date was chosen as it is the feast of St Jerome, the  translator of the Bible into Latin, who lived between the 4th and 5th centuries of the Common Era and is regarded as the patron saint of translators. For centuries translation was the main method by which languages both ancient and modern were taught. The grammar translation method of language teaching has largely fallen out of favour, although it still has its advocates. Its flaws are obvious to anyone who spent many years in school diligently translating into and out of a language only to find themselves bewildered and tongue-tied when presented with the challenge of actually communicating in the language they have been studying.


“Belinda: Ay, but you know we must return good for evil.
Lady Brute: That may be a mistake in the translation.”
(Sir John Vanburgh, The Provok’d Wife)

Translation is at best an echo.”
(George Borrow, Lavengro)

Related words

target language, bilingualism, fidelity, multilingualism

Browse related words in the Macmillan Thesaurus.

About the author

Liz Potter

Liz Potter

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