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


Teach Primary Magazine

"This eye-catching picture book introduced pupils to the rich history and cultural diversity of the UK, through the intriguing story of its language."

Patricia Campbell Carlson, Spirituality & Wonder

“Skipworth gives us a smorgasbord of 12 special words with origins from around the world. Illustrator Nicholas Stevenson brings each vibrantly alive with engaging two-page spreads that capture both the original meaning and the current meaning of each word … A powerful sense of wonder comes through these pages.”

School Library Connection

"This book could be inspirational to a child who is curious about word meanings and those who are considering writing as a career. The title can also be used as a springboard for students to consider more powerful and precise words as they prepare for testing or simply to make their own writing more meaningful and personal. There are very few books out there that address this concept and none that do it with such artistic and beautiful illustrations."

Beth Rogers, YA and Kids' Books Central

"Skipworth and Stevenson have written and illustrated a book that is appealing and satisfying, bringing new and already known words to the forefront to showcase each one's unique importance."

YA and Kids' Books Central

"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."

Oregon Coast Youth Book Review Center

“I can see this book being used in upper elementary classrooms as a springboard to studying ancient cultures as it will capture interest and curiosity. Also a very good addition to the library, and anyone who appreciates linguistics.”

Youth Services Book Review

"Beginning linguists will learn about the origins and meanings of twelve words, all from different linguistic word families. Openings are illustrated with beautiful collage-like art that evokes the meaning."

School Library Journal

"This book will serve as an effective resource for middle school social studies or language arts instruction. It could also serve as a model for projects investigating cultural influences regarding the development of the English language."

School Library Connection

"Posing thought-provoking questions, this book delights in the concept that language is fascinating. The reader learns how 12 English words have changed their meaning over time, prompting curiosity about other words ... The bold, bright, dramatic, and revealing illustrations are intertwined with the description of the word."

Kirkus Reviews

"The accomplished, striking, and vividly colored two-page spreads that cunningly work each word into the overall design of an illustration are the real draw."

Publishers Weekly

"Bold, digitally textured spreads by Stevenson ensure readers will pore over every page, with engaging typography seamlessly incorporated into each illustration (mummy is lettered in a long cloth wrap). A color-coded map depicting large language families concludes this visually appealing resource for budding linguists."

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!"

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