Unlike most other languages, English was born out of a combination of two languages. The Anglo-Saxons, the people who settled in England during the fifth century, spoke a German language we now call “Old English.”
Then in the 11th century, England was conquered by French-speaking people from Normandy, and French became the official language of England. Gradually, the two languages merged to form a new one, which we call “Middle English.” And Middle English gradually changed into modern English, the language we speak today.
During the time that Old English and French were both being spoken in England, poor farmers spoke Old English and rich landowners usually spoke French.
That’s why the words we use for animals on the farm, such as cow, sheep, pig, and calf, come from a German language, while the words we use for meat at the table, such as beef, mutton, pork, and veal, come from French.