English words of Arabic origin

English and the world

English is a rich language. Its lexicon has a multitude of words from different origins. In fact, English has evolved through centuries open to the influence of other civilizations, other cultures. Now it has become a global  language, influencing in its turn other languages with such an amazing speed. Everywhere in the world languages borrow from English words that enrich their lexicon. But English was and I hope, is still, a language that is open to other cultures and civilizations. The following are examples of English words of Arabic origin. They have been introduced to the language through various periods of time.

English words of Arabic origin

  1. adobe
    الطوب aṭ-ṭūb, the brick.
  2. admiral
    أميرالبحار amīr al-bihār, “commander [emir] of the seas”, a title in use in Arabic Sicily and continued by the Normans in Sicily as admiralius maris, and adopted successively by Genoese and French. An English form under King Edward III (14th century) was “Amyrel of the Se”. Insertion of the ‘d’ was doubtless influenced by allusion to common Latin “admire”
  3. algorithm
    الخوارزميal-khwārizmī, a short name for the mathematician Muhammad ibn Mūsā al-Khwārizmī. The appellation al-Khwārizmī means “from Khwārizm”.
  4. algebra
    al-jabr, completing, or restoring missing parts. The mathematical sense comes from the title of the book al-kitāb al-mukhtaṣar fī ḥisāb al-jabr wa-l-muqābala, “The Compendious Book on Calculation by Completion and Balancing” by the 9th century mathematician al-Khwarizmi.
  5. alcohol
    الكحل al-kohl
  6. candy
    قندي qandi, sugared.
  7. cotton
    قُطْن qutun = cotton. Entered the Romance languages in the mid-12th century and English a century later.
  8. gazelle
    غزال ghazāl.
  9. giraff
    زرافة zarāfa.
  10. hazard
    from French hasard, probably through Spanish from Arabic الزار al-zār, the dice. “The original sense was certainly a game of dice.”
  11. jar
    جرة jarrah, earthen vase.
  12. lemon
    ليمون līmūn, citrus fruit
  13. magazine
    مخازين makhāzin, storehouses. In the West, the original meaning of storehouse evolved to arsenal, and then receptacle for storing bullets. (Crossref arsenal in this list.) A magazine in the publishing sense of the word started out meaning a storehouse of information about military or navigation subjects
  14. nadir
    نظير naẓīr, the point of the sky opposite the zenith (crossref zenith in this list). Naẓīr literally means the complement or counterpart.
  15. racket
    راحة rāhat, palm of the hand.
  16. safari
    from Swahili safari, journey, in turn from Arabic: سفر‎, safar.
  17. sofa
    صفة suffah, a sofa, a couch or bench.
  18. sugar
    سكّر sukkar, sugar
  19. tariff
    تعريف taʿrīf. Arab root meant a notification.
  20. zenith
    سمت الرأس samt ar-ra’s, zenith, vertex. Origin in texts of Astronomy in medieval Islam.

More english words of arabic origin can be found in wekipedia

Clash of civilizations?

These words have become part and parcel of English. This shows how civilizations can contribute to the richness of each other. Bridges that at a certain time have been demolished (or some want to be demolished) kept the flow of communication steady which just reminds us that we are human beings that instead of destroying each other in a presumable “clash of civilizations”, should, instead, work for the improvement of ties and bonds of respect and mutual understanding. The differences between cultures and civilizations – that may appear to be a hindrance towards such goals to some – are, to my mind, the essence upon which we can build a better future for our kids.

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