Did you know that English words come from all over the world? And often their meanings have changed over time? Find out about the journeys of a selection of words from the English Language in this amazing visual resource!

Selected for California Reading Association’s 2020 EUREKA! Honor Awards

Have you ever wondered where our words come from?

In this non-fiction picture book, you’ll be amazed to discover the global and cultural diversity hidden in the English language that we use every day!


Author Patrick Skipworth has carefully selected words with a diversity of origins from all around the globe: some are derived from phrases (“companion” – the Latin for “with bread”), some from actions or behaviours (“caribou” – meaning “snow shoveler” in Mi’kmaq, an indigenous language of eastern Canada), and some from sounds or onomatopoeia (“Kookaburra” – Australian Aboriginal languages)

Each word is paired with a two-page spread illustration, which takes inspiration from the origins of the word itself.


With simple descriptions and dazzling, evocative and witty illustrations, this is a fascinating introduction to the rich history and cultural diversity of our language. The perfect book for budding linguists aged 7 – 11 to learn about the origins and meanings of the English language.

Author: Patrick Skipworth

Click here to watch video: Q&A with Patrick Skipworth

Illustrator: Nicholas Stevenson

  • Hardcover: 32 pages
  • Publisher: What on Earth Publishing (7 May 2020)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1912920174
  • ISBN-13: 978-1912920174
  • Product Dimensions: 28.2 x 0.9 x 27.2 cm


Big Issue North

"MOMENT OF TRUTH" choice: "A vibrantly illustrated brief dictionary of quirky words and where they come from."

Carly Glendinning, Absolutely Prep & Pre-Prep Magazine

"We love the way [Literally] teaches children about the global diversity hidden in the English language."


Vibrantly illustrated look at global diversity and cultures through the prism of language. From its striking yellow cover to the colour drenched inside spreads, this is a book which grabs the reader’s attention … This fascinating and accessible introduction to linguistics also has some surprises, for example the word Mummy used to describe a preserved body does not come from where you would expect! The witty illustrations add their own explanation of the meaning and connections behind each word and each word becomes part of the illustration. A useful map of language families completes a book designed to whet the appetite to explore yet more word origins. Readers will be left with a real awareness of the cultural diversity and ever-changing nature of the English language. An attractive and appealing information book that will be read with pleasure.”

Teach Early Years Magazine

"Patrick Skipworth’s latest picture book turns on our brain when delving into the science of etymology, while Nicholas Stevenson’s illustrations delight the eye. Focusing on English words, the book looks at the origin of the word, it’s current meaning and links the word to languages around the world. With strong ties to geography, children have fun exploring the connections to indigenous languages and cultures both past and present, showing how- no matter where we are from- we are all interconnected. A riveting must-read!"

Add a Review