English-Borrowed Words in Vietnamese Language Posted by on Jul 27, 2021 in Culture, Vocabulary

Image by DWilliam from Pixabay

Just like any other language, Vietnamese vocabulary includes many borrowed words from different countries that have influenced Vietnamese culture throughout its history. The majority of the borrowed words are from Chinese, French, and English.

It’s easy to understand why there are so many Chinese, French, and English borrowed words in the Vietnamese vocabulary. Looking at the history, Vietnam was under Chinese rule for roughly 1,000 years, then became a French colony for about 100 years, and then twenty years of direct involvement with the United States during the Vietnam war. I will save the French & Sino-Vietnamese vocabulary for a separate topic in another blog. This one is only about the use of English words in the Vietnamese language.

Most recently, with trade, the booming of the World Wide Web, and the eagerness for many Vietnamese people to learn English as a second language for practical reasons, many English words and short sentences have become popular among the young generation and are used in daily conversation. I would say, English is the most widely foreign language known and used by the Vietnamese these days. French once was the most popular in the past century and Russian influence was short-lived following the end of the Vietnam War.

There is a trend of many English words/phrases used in the entertainment industry, particularly in reality television shows by their hosts. It’s not the lack of the Vietnamese vocabulary, it’s more of an “English knowledge show off” or a “cool” thing to say. Words like “hello” or “OK” (Okay) are widely used and understood by many Vietnamese.


Listed below are a few common English borrowed words. In other words, the words are in French/English but pronounced in a Vietnamese way. In English, we call this a cognate; a word borrowed from another language using the same sounds, but adapted to the alphabet of the new language. Note that most of the borrowed English words do have either the pure Vietnamese or Sino-Vietnamese words that are equivalent. Both are used and understood by the Vietnamese.

English Vietnamese (Phonetically) Vietnamese Translation
Mobile phone Mô-bô phôn Điện thoại di động
PC (computer) Pi-xi Máy tính cá nhân
Laptop Láp-tóp Máy tính xách tay
TV (television) Ti-vi Vô tuyến truyền hình
Selfie Seo-phi Tự chụp/Tự sướng (slang)
Sandwich Xăng-uých Bánh mì kẹp
Rock music Nhạc Rốc Nhạc Rốc
Pop music Nhạc Pốp Nhạc Pốp
Film Phim Phim
Shorts (pan) Quần sooc Quần ngắn/quần đùi
Font Phông Phông chữ
Dollar Đô-la Tiền đô
Beefsteak Bít tết Thịt bò bìt tết
Taxi Tắc-xi Xe Tẵc-xi
Stress Xì-chét Căng thẳng



It’s very common to hear the Vietnamese who live in the United States mix some English words while speaking Vietnamese. Surprisingly, it’s also a trend among the young, educated Vietnamese who lives in big cities in Vietnam. Mixing English words, particularly in the Vietnamese showbiz, is a controversial issue. Here are some examples:

  • Chị có ok không? (are you ok?)
  • Hôm nay nhiều việc, stress quá đi (too much work today, so stressful)
  • Em còn single, chưa có gia đình (I’m still single, not married)
  • Ban giám khảo chỉ cho bạn ấy 7 điểm, không fair tí nào (the judges only gave him/her 7 points, not fair at all)
  • Mỗi ngày ra park đi bộ có lợi cho sức khỏe của bạn (walking in the park every day is beneficial for your health)

I dislike the use of mixed English words while speaking Vietnamese to the Vietnamese. However, I do it subconsciously all the time. it’s hard to avoid because of the lazy habit of “finding” the right Vietnamese word while an English word pops into my head. Also, it’s “time-saving”. In some cases, it would take more than a few words in Vietnamese to express the same meaning as a single English word.

Image by Sasin Tipchai from Pixabay

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