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Arabic Words in the English Language

1077 of 1160 nominations


Arabic Words in the English Language

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Arabic Words in the English Language

The English language is a complex, flexible and highly expressive one. It is constantly changing, responding to the world around it and absorbing elements from every other language and culture that it comes into contact with. English has absorbed Arabic influences not only through contact with the Moorish invaders of Spain but also through soldiers returning home from the Crusades and trading links with the Arab world. Many words used in astrology and alchemy have their roots in Arabic because the Arabic world was at the forefront of these disciplines. It would probably surprise you to find out just how many English words have their origins in Arabic. Here is just a very small selection:

“Admiral”: from "amiir al-bahr" (meaning “commander of the sea”)

“cotton”: from "qutn"

“cipher”: from "Sifr" (meaning “zero”, which was a vital symbol in early secret codes, hence to “decipher” meaning to translate something out of code

“magazine”: from "makhaazin" (meaning “storehouses”, hence the modern use of the word to mean “storehouses of information on a particular subject”)

“mattress” from "matrah" (“place where something is thrown, mat, cushion”)

Image: Topfoto.co.uk


Your comments

People who speak English do not realise that some of the time they are also speaking Arabic. There are perhaps as many as 10,000 words derived from Arabic. Words like alcohol, banana, guitar, lemon, tulip - and that is just a few. A lot of this influence on languages took place between the 8th and 12th centuries as the Islamic Empire expanded into the Mediterranean. Even today words like shish kebab, couscous, falafel and hummus are beginning to find their way into English dictionaries. The culture of England, like its language, is constantly changing - it's a tapestry of so many things that have happened. The values that we have in this culture are shared by everyone in England. If there is a lesson that can be learned at the moment, it is that everyone of us has a stake in our future shared culture. We have just had Islam Awareness Week in England and if people are interested in finding out more they can visit www.iaw.org.uk

Sher Khan

I have a piece of research called " The Arabic Roots of English Language " which shows for instance that the word "home" was "homa" in Old English, "homa" means "home" in Arabic. The word "house" was "huza" in Old English, "huza" in singular Arabic. The word "justice" is from Arabic "qistas" which means straight justice. This lingual research is now broadcasted on many Arabic satellite televisions. Thousands of English words are from Arabic roots.
Dr. Nabil al-Janabi

yes, it's an interesting linguistic feature, but not really an 'icon' of England.

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I nominate the red pillar box.

Donna Spencer