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Arabic words in English

 

You may think you don't speak Arabic but there are more words of Arabic origin in English than you might expect ...

admiral
adobe
alchemy
alcohol
alcove
alembic
alfalfa
algebra
algorithm
alkali
almanac
amalgam
aniline
apricot
arsenal
arsenic
artichoke
assassin
aubergine
azure
barbarian?
bedouin
benzine(?)
Betelgeuse
bint
borax
cable
calabash
calibre
caliph
camel
camise
camphor
candy
cane
cannabis
carafe
carat
caraway
carmine

carob
casbah
check
checkmate
cinnabar
cipher
coffee
copt
cotton
crimson
crocus
cumin
damask
dhow
dragoman
elixir
emir
fakir
fellah
garble
gauze
gazelle
ghoul
Gibraltar
giraffe
grab
guitar
gypsum
halva
harem
hashish
hazard
henna
hookah
imam
influenza
jar
jasmine
jerboa
jessamine

jinn
kafir
khamsin
khan
kismet
kohl
lacquer
lake
lemon
lilac
lime
lute
magazine
mahdi
marabout
marzipan
massacre
massage
mastaba
mate
mattress
mecca
minaret
mizzen
mocha
mohair
monsoon
mosque
muezzin
mufti
mullah
mummy
muslim
muslin
myrrh
nabob
nacre
nadir
orange
ottoman

popinjay
racket
safari
saffron
saloop
sash
scallion
senna
sequin
serif
sesame
shackle
sheikh
sherbet
shrub
sirocco
sofa
spinach
sudd
sufi
sugar
sultan
sultana
syrup
tabby
talc
talisman
tamarind
tambourine
tarboosh
tare
tariff
tarragon
Trafalgar
typhoon
vega
vizier
wadi
zenith
zero

See: W Montgomery Watt: The Influence of Medieval Islam on Europe (Edinburgh University Press, 1982)

Examples are:

earth
brush
bore
term
gibe
good
the
rice
rift
slick
suck
soak
slough

solid
trek
track
add
ill
neck
wood
grass
geyser
gush
glove
(en)gulf
fret

further
fork
fright
fur
flee
falter
fury
cob
cap
crush
corn (horn)
cut
cat

can
canter
call
(ex)claim
less
murmur
nobel
hit
eat
hurry
hash
huff
hail

Cornea - one of the major parts in the eye. Arabic: al-qarniya (qarn = "horn")
  • "Alphabet" comes from the semitic letters alif (first letter) + ba = beit. Beit was the second pictographic letter in the Phoenician.

  • Alhambra: "the red one"

  • Taj Mahal: "crown place"

  • Canal = Arabic qanawat

  • Chemise (French) = qamees (Arabic)

  • Naphtha, naphthalene = naft (mentioned in the Qur'an, meaning oil for burning)


The Oxford English Dictionary says that "massacre" is derived from Old French and adds: "The origin of the OF word is unknown; Diez suggested derivation from a Teutonic source..."

I would like to suggest that it is a corruption of the Arabic word, "majzara", which also means "massacre". Given the difficulty of pronouncing the "jz" sound, it is easy to see how this might have been corrupted to "ss". It seems unlikely that the Arabs borrowed their word from Europe because it is a standard Arabic noun-form, derived from a normal triliteral root, "jazara" (meaning to slaughter or butcher).

Since the modern Spanish word ("masacre") is also very similar, the most likely method of transfer would seem to be the Islamic conquest of Spain and southern France which was eventually halted at a battle in the region of Tours and Poitiers in 732 AD. This may be impossible to prove but it strikes me as no less plausible than the Teutonic theory.

souk/souq; bazaar (both mean "market" in Arabic and are used in English as well)
  • Mulatto from muwalid.

  • Wizard is from wis, wys but is possibly influenced by wazir.

  • Azimuth from the plural of as-samt.

The word "influenza" is originally Italian and originated, as far as I can tell, from the present participle of the Latin verb "influo". It is not Arabic in origin at all. Its use to designate a disease, may, however, be from the Arabic astrologers and alchemists of the Middle Ages.

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