In linguistics, a calque k/ or loan translation is a word or phrase borrowed from another language by literal, word-for-word or root-for-root translation. Used as a verb, "to calque" means to borrow a word or phrase from another language while translating its components, so as to create a new lexeme in the target language.

"Calque" itself is a loanword from the French noun calque ("tracing; imitation; close copy"); the verb calquer means "to trace; to copy, to imitate closely"; papier calque is "tracing paper".[1] The word "loanword" is itself a calque of the German word Lehnwort, just as "loan translation" is a calque of Lehnübersetzung.[2]

Proving that a word is a calque sometimes requires more documentation than does an untranslated loanword because, in some cases, a similar phrase might have arisen in both languages independently. This is less likely to be the case when the grammar of the proposed calque is quite different from that of the borrowing language, or when the calque contains less obvious imagery.

Calquing is distinct from phono-semantic matching.[3] While calquing includes semantic translation, it does not consist of phonetic matching (i.e. retaining the approximate sound of the borrowed word through matching it with a similar-sounding pre-existing word or morpheme in the target language).


One system classifies calques into five groups:[4]

  • the phraseological calque, with idiomatic phrases being translated word-for-word. For example, "it goes without saying" calques the French ça va sans dire.[5]
  • the syntactic calque, with syntactic functions or constructions of the source language being imitated in the target language, in violation of their meaning. For example, in Spanish the legal term for “to find guilty” is properly declarar culpable (“to declare guilty”). Informal usage, however, is shifting to encontrar culpable: a syntactic mapping of "to find" without a semantic correspondence in Spanish of “find” to mean “determine as true”.[6]
  • the loan-translation, with words being translated morpheme-by-morpheme or component-by-component into another language. The two morphemes of the Swedish word tonåring calque each part of the English "teenager": femton "fifteen" and åring "year-old" (as in the phrase tolv-åring "twelve-year-old").
  • the semantic calque, with additional meanings of the source word being transferred to the word with the same primary meaning in the target language. This is also called a "semantic loan". As described below, the "computer mouse" was named in English for its resemblance to the animal; many other languages have extended their own native word for "mouse" to include the computer mouse.
  • the morphological calque, with the inflection of a word being transferred.

This terminology is not universal. Some authors call a morphological calque a "morpheme-by-morpheme translation".[7]

Other linguists refer to the phonological calque, where the pronunciation of a word is imitated in the other language.[8] For example, the English word "radar" becomes the similar-sounding Chinese word 雷达 (pinyin "léi dá").

Other Languages
azərbaycanca: Kalka (dilçilik)
Bân-lâm-gú: Chioh-e̍k
беларуская: Калька (лексіка)
беларуская (тарашкевіца)‎: Калькаваньне
български: Калка
čeština: Kalk
Cymraeg: Calque
eesti: Tõlkelaen
Esperanto: Paŭso
euskara: Kalko
한국어: 번역차용
hrvatski: Prevedenice
Bahasa Indonesia: Pinjam terjemah
interlingua: Calco
íslenska: Tökuþýðing
қазақша: Калька
latviešu: Kalks
മലയാളം: കാൽക്
Bahasa Melayu: Pinjam terjemah
Nederlands: Leenvertaling
日本語: 翻訳借用
norsk nynorsk: Importord
português: Calque
русиньскый: Калька
Scots: Calque
slovenčina: Kalk
slovenščina: Kalk
српски / srpski: Kalk
中文: 借译