A Wanderwort (German: ['vandvt], 'wandering word', plural Wanderwörter; capitalized like all German nouns) is a word that has spread as a loanword among numerous languages and cultures, especially those that are far away from one another, usually in connection with trade. As such, Wanderwörter are a curiosity in historical linguistics and sociolinguistics within a wider study of language contact. At a sufficient time depth, it can be very difficult to establish in which language or language family it originated and in which it was borrowed.
Tea, with its maritime variant tea and Eurasian continental variant chai (both variants have entered English), is an example whose spread occurred relatively late in human history and is therefore fairly well understood: tea is from Hokkien, specifically Amoy, from the Fujianese port of Xiamen, hence maritime, while cha (whence chai) is used in Cantonese and Mandarin. See etymology of tea for further details.
Farang, a term derived from the ethnonym Frank through Arabic and Persian, refers to (typically white, European) foreigners. From the above two languages, the word has been loaned into many languages spoken on or near the Indian Ocean, including Hindi, Thai, and Amharic, among others.
Another example is orange, which originated in a Dravidian language (likely Tamil, Telugu or Malayalam), and whose likely path to English included, in order, Sanskrit, Persian, possibly Armenian, Arabic, Late Latin, Italian, and Old French.
The word arslan ("lion") of Turkic origin, whose variants are now widely distributed from Hungarian, Manchu to Persian, although merely serving as personal names in some languages, is used as Aslan in the English novel series The Chronicles of Narnia.
Some ancient loanwords are connected with the spread of writing systems; an example is Sumerian musar 'written name, inscription', Akkadian musarum 'document, seal', apparently loaned to Proto-Indo-Iranian *mudra- 'seal' (Middle Persian muhr, Sanskrit mudr?). Some even older (late Neolithic) Wanderwörter have been suggested, e.g. Sumerian balag, Akkadian pilakku-, or Proto-Indo-European pelek'u- 'axe'. However, Akkadian pilakku- really means 'spindle', and Sumerian balag is properly transcribed bala? (? stands for [?]), meaning 'a large drum or harp'. and was borrowed into Akkadian as balangu-.
chai: A beverage made from spiced black tea, honey, and milk. Etymology: Ultimately from Chinese (Mandarin) chá.