English enriched by Centuries of borrowed Arabic words

Category: Americas, Life & Society Topics: Arabic Views: 14960
14960

For 1000 years, Arabic was the primary international language of commerce, scholarship and politics, much as English is in today's world. In fact, over the centuries English adopted many words that were either borrowed directly from Arabic, or were absorbed indirectly through other languages, especially Spanish. 

Even today, Arabic still accounts for the greatest number of Eastern elements in English. The lists of examples that follow are only a brief sampling of the many more words available; perhaps some will surprise you! 

No computer, nuclear plant or microchip design could have been possible without the words and concepts we know as algorithm, algebra, and zero - all of which come from Arabic.

The names of many musical instruments -- like lute and guitar - as well as a number of technical performance terms and styles, are also from Arabic roots. 

Many names of familiar animals, plants, spices, herbs and drinks began as Arabic nouns: saffron, henna, camphor, cotton, apricot, lemon, lime, orange, tamarind, lilac, sherry, mango, coffee, artichoke, spinach, jasmine, ginger, tulip, lotus, shrub, giraffe, gazelle, cobra, zebra, cheetah. 

If you have ever taken a chemistry course, the word chemistry itself originates with Arabic, as well as nitro, alkali, alcohol, calibre, antimony, arsenic. 

In your household and daily life, you might easily run into Arabic words that are so common we never give them a second thought: shampoo, sofa, cable, atlas, magazine, pie, pajama, bungalow, mattress, sack, khaki, candy, caramel, jar, sherbet, sugar, syrup, cinnamon, ribs, silk, check, chatty, sandal. 

And, as you might expect, Arabic is very present in slightly more exotic or emphatic English words and proper names: tycoon, carat, chess, checkmate, Sahara, almanac, rum, musk, sesame, tariff, cashmere, mummy, coral, sapphire, jubilee, jargon, thug, Satan, fake, jungle, alchemy, zenith, safari, talc, tartar, zircon, chiffon, amber, Bedouin, Ariel. 

In military vocabulary, frequently-used terms like hazard, admiral, arsenal and assassin all owe their use to Arabic. 

But reference books devoted to tracing the English words borrowed from Arabic are rare. Most were written some time ago and do not include contemporary scholarship or changes in our language. The most recent is more than three decades old -- Arabic Contributions to the English Vocabulary, by James Peters and Habeeb Salloum (1973). Two other useful, but dated, titles are: A History of Foreign Words in English, by Mary S. Serjeantson (1935) and Arabic Words in English, by Walt Taylor (1933). 

Words are much like organic living creatures whose character and meanings evolve over time and circumstance. Those Arabic words that made it into English must have had a fascinating history, much of which has been lost over the centuries. It makes one wonder; Who used the original Arabic words and what were they like? How did these words first come to be spoken by non-Arabs? How many variations did they go through before appearing in English dictionaries? Why are some much easier to trace back to their Arabic roots than others? Linguists have answered some of these questions but there is still much more to be known. Here is a project worthy of far greater attention. Any takers? 

For more information on Islamic Heritage please visit: www.islamichistorymonth.com


  Category: Americas, Life & Society
  Topics: Arabic
Views: 14960

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Older Comments:
MARYAM FROM NIGERIA said:
Assalamu Alaikum. I beleive it's good to show the world that Arabic language has a profound effect on the so called Western achievements that are generally assumed to be of English origin. I also think this article will curb the overall beleif the Engllish is a more mordern and civilized language and should thus be adopted by all. Thaks for reading,Bissalam.
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JN FROM CANADA said:
Just wanted to answer Kam's question. From the seemingly acerbic tone of the question, clarification appears necessary.

While the article has been posted on an Islamic info site, the writer clearly states the roots of many English words are ARABIC not Islamic. Yes, Arabic is the language of Islam; however, the Arabic language existed well before Islam.

Hope this clarifies Kam.
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ABDULRAHMAN ALONGAN MANGORSI FROM PHILIPPINES said:
I am not surprise that many English words came from Arabic. But I am surprise that many westen writers and authors of dictionaries do not state or mention this reality which simply display their bias against the Arabs or Muslims. God is Great!!
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NASIR MANSUR RIDWAN FROM KANO.NIGERIA said:
assalamu alaikum, as we realise that. the higher prophet and belove one to allah is prophet Muhammad[saw], so that how He can sent him without the must wonderfull language hich every language can borrow from it.
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ADDUL-WASIU OMOTOLANI YEKEEN FROM NIGERIA said:
Well, it is never a surprise to find out that most English words have Arabic origin as it has been known that The English never trully have thier own words,most of thier words has been traced to french,latin and spanish which they acknowledged but the hatred of the western world for Islam might coloured thier opinion about this.But it is indeed an eye opener to know that words like shampoo is Arabic in origin.
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MIMS FROM BABGLADESH said:
It was interesting to read the article. however, if references were included then we could use this when discussing with non-mulsims or even muslims who thnk it the west that has lead to all inventions in this world.

Jazak Allah khairan.
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OYEBANJO IDAYAT FROM NIGERIA said:
Aiiah is great,is good to be having this kind of article.For the whole world to that arabic words is world words.Thank You.
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MAJIYD SURU FROM TANZANIA said:
It is true.However,the problems is upon muslim scholars who always laments and writes as if these realities are historical artfacts instead of it being a knowledge facts.
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BASIT FROM ETHIOPIA said:
Actually language by its nature develops by borrowing or taking from other languages.So we
should appericiate any one who develops his languages .ARABS AND MUSLIMS should develop ARABIC not by borrowing but by knowing and using
the language
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JAHANUR R. SUBEDAR FROM DALLAS,TEXAS said:
Assalamu Alaikum Wa Rahmatullah,
Our teacher, Imam Yousef Kavakcy, still mentions the english words that came from Arabic, in his Quranic Arabic Class. Some examples I remember, Mixer come from Miksarun or Aid come from EID.
I used these examples in Dawa to non muslims. I think every muslims should know these to revive their confidence to our glorius time of our Khalifat and ecouraging to our youngsters to follow Islam.
Jazzak Allah Khair
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ABDUL JAMIL KHAN FROM USA said:
As a matter of fact the process of arabic words'
integration in indo-euro languages had its begining about 6000years ago when Indo-euro-arabian languages/culture had a shared origin in
mesopotamia and dispersal by the mideast farmers;
this is now well established; thus oldest arabic
then called akkadian appeared first; All this is
revealed in my book " politics of language; Urdu/hindi an artificial divide, now available
at amazon and barnes &noble. this integrates the
out of Africa evolution and neolithic farming with the mesopotamia the mother of Indo-euro-arabian civilisation; THe book exposes the language race theory "aryan/semitic" a german
fabrication of 18-19th cent,
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TAHIR MASOUD FROM UKRAINE said:
well!it is really nice informative article and many things i got to know and reallt it is clear that how much arabic langauge is rich and it make the foundation of todays modern society and science as well
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BROTHER MALI FROM U.S.A. said:
Alhumdulilah! I was familiar with words like; alcohol, chemistry, chemical. But, all the other
ones? Wow! more proof of God's presence.

Salaams.
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AFAQ FROM INDIA said:
it is marvellous soothing and an eye opener. it is better if we help prove the glorious contribution of islam to world. also we should at present start our research in science and technology contribute to a better world and aakhirat for all.islam in addition to submission to allah teaches us to research in this world and develop new technology and new methods to make this world a better place to live in.our aalimmeen and aabideen in religion should be be be big big scientists as well.that is real islaam
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AHMAD SIRAJUDIN FROM MALAYSIA said:
English has borrowed a lot of words from other countries. I would say about a third of the non-technical English words come Greek and Latin, from Asia as well - China, Japan, India, Africa and also from my own country Malaysia. Please look up for the word"Amuk" in any good English dictionary.
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AHMAD SIRAJUDIN FROM MALAYSIA said:
Some of your readers appear skeptical of your claim. I suggest that they refer to specialized dictionaries that explain the origin of words
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MOHAMED ZEROUAL FROM MOROCCO said:
Responding to RY , to make it simple for you I will give you 2 examples :
1- Algebra comes from the name of its father Mohammed ibn-Musa al-Khowarizmi
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Al-Khwarizmi
2- Algorithm come the name of its father Mohammed ibn-Musa al-Khowarizmi
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Al-Khwarizmi

You won't have any problem checking the validity of what I just said .

Peace .
Mohamed
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IS FROM CH said:
To Kam
I wonder whether you want someone really to answer you or you just want to argue. If you are really sincere to yourself you could easily find information in the net allowing you to get quite a good idea of that. Just read islamic history, especially the period in Spain. That will help you a lot. But if you are just there to argue, then probably no book will be of use to you as you already have built your opinion which could not change whatever the truth is.
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MEHMUNA HABIB FROM AUSTRALIA said:
I was aware that the English language had many words of Arabic but the list and extent took me by surprise!Inteesting.
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AS FROM UNITED KINGDOM said:
Arabic was the primary "international" language as stated in the article. It was used as a Lingua Franca across the widest number of civilisations & nations. It corresponds to English today, whilst Hindi & Chinese languages may have large numbers of speakers within their respective regions, English is the widest cross-cultural tongue. Remember the influence upon the universities of Europe, Asia & Africa at various times e.g. Oxford, Paris, Sicily, Spain & Timbuktu.
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MOHAMMAD SYED FROM USA said:
This is an excellent, uplifting and very encouraging article.
The colonists of the past not only looted other countries of wealth and artifacts, destroying culture, education, traditions, and unity; they also took away knowledge without giving due credit. It is up to the new generations to rediscover their treasures and expose it to the world.
Mohammad
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RY FROM USA said:
Arabic was not the "primary" international language. It was one of many during that time period, and I can easily compare Mandarin or Latin in terms of the listed uses as I could Arabic. Also, computers, microchips, and nuclear power plants would be possible. The words for algebra, algorithm, and zero would have derived from somewhere else.
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KAM FROM CANADA said:
Um! I wonder if there is anything in this world of -contribution of iota of - art, literature, law, history, play, religion, philosophy, science, mathematics,medicine, architecture,business, war and violence, kindness and compassion,reading and writing, stupidity, agriculture....etc. etc. which originated or roots outside Islamic world? I mean Is Islam the only creator of everything good and beautiful in the universe ?

Can anybody answer my curiosity?

Kam
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AZIZ UL HUQ FROM USA said:
Wonderful article. Personally I have always been amazed by the sheer number of Arabic words in my own mother tongue which is Bengali in Bangladesh. For some time now I have been fascinated by how so many Arabic words have become part of our daily vocabulary. Presently, this year it appeared as if everyone at my work in America knew the word "Ramadan". Let us try to learn more Arabic so that our intimcy to the Quran can be enhanced. Let us also teach common Quranic Arabic words to our children and neighbors.
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