Guess the Meaning of the Word: Borrowed Words/Loanwords in English 

Have students guess the meaning of a particular word (that has a certain degree of the ‘wow factor’).


Listen to the song and try to guess the meaning of the expression TICKETY-BOO

FYI: According to the Word Detective, there are a number of theories about “tickety-boo” (also sometimes spelled “ticketty-boo” and “tiggity-boo”) meaning “all in order, correct, satisfactory.” The phrase seems to have first appeared around 1939, although slang etymologist Eric Partridge asserted that it dates to the early 1920s. Partridge also believed that “tickety-boo” originated as armed forces slang. If so, it may be a relic of the British colonial presence in India. One of the leading theories about “tickety-boo” traces it to the Hindi “tikai babu,” meaning “it’s all right, sir.” A similar phrase common in the British Army in the mid-20th century, “teek hi” (meaning “all right”), was apparently drawn from the Hindi “thik,” meaning “exact or precise.” May have originated in the British military. Possibly related to the Hindi expression “tickee babu”, meaning “everything’s alright, sir”. Some people spell it “diggity boo” or “tiggity boo”.


Over the centuries English has incorporated many foreign words into the language. Split your students into small teams and ask to guess some of these words:

  1. Clothes worn for sleeping (Indian)
  2. Large area of tropical trees (Indian)
  3. A yellow citrus fruit with thick skin and fragrant, acidic juice (Middle East)
  4. American currency (Czech)
  5. A large keyboard musical instrument (Italian)
  6. Mathematics (Arabian)
  7. Comfortable lying seat (Arabian)
  8. Hot mixture of herbs and water (Chinese)
  9. Soft fabric used to make clothes (Chinese)
  10. A liquid preparation for washing the hair (Hindustani)
  11. Sweets; confectionery (French)
  12. A mechanical device that sometimes resembles a human and is capable of performing a variety of often complex human tasks (Czech)
  13. A short and striking or memorable phrase used in advertising (Gaelic)


  1. Pyjama
  2. Jungle
  3. Lemon
  4. Dollar
  5. Piano
  6. Algebra
  7. Sofa
  8. Tea
  9. Silk
  10. Shampoo
  11. Candy
  12. Robot
  13. Slogan

No persnickety-poo over here. We are tickety-boo:)

(Photo: PhotoSteve101/Creative Commons)

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