How should I treat foreign terms in MLA style?
Note: This post relates to content in the eighth edition of the MLA Handbook. For up-to-date guidance, see the ninth edition of the MLA Handbook.
Treat foreign terms according to the guidelines in the MLA Style Manual and Guide to Scholarly Publishing:
In general, italicize foreign words used in an English text:
The Renaissance courtier was expected to display sprezzatura, or
nonchalance, in the face of adversity.
The numerous exceptions to this rule include quotations entirely in another language (“Julius Caesar said, ‘Veni, vidi, vici’”); non-English titles of works published within larger works (poems, stories, essays, articles), which are placed in quotation marks and not italicized (“El sueño,” the title of a poem by Quevedo); proper nouns (Entente Cordiale), except when italicized through another convention (SS Normandie); and foreign words anglicized through frequent use.
Examples of terms, phrases, and abbreviations that would not be italicized include “concerto,” “raison d’être,” and “e.g.” (100). For help on using the dictionary to determine whether a foreign expression has been naturalized into English, see our previous post.
MLA Style Manual and Guide to Scholarly Publishing. 3rd ed., Modern Language Association of America, 2008.