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Word Cloud: English Words of Arabic Origin by Mourad Diouri

Eastern words that have passed into the English language

This alphabet lists just some of the words that have come from sources in Muslim civilisation and have passed into the English language with their original meaning intact. It is only a small selection.

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A is for admiral, from amir-al-, “commander of . . .”, like amir al-bahr, or “commander of the seas.” When the Europeans adapted amiral, they added their own Latin prefix ad-, producing “admiral.” When this reached English, via Old French, it still meant “commander,” and it was not until the time of England’s Edward III that a strong naval link began to emerge.

A is also for azimuth (denoting the arc of a celestial circle from the Zenith to the horizon), from old French azimut, from Arabic as-samt meaning “way or direction.”

B is for barbican, from the Arabic bab al-baqarah, or “gate with holes.”

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C is for crimson, from qirmizi, which is related to the qirmiz, the insect that produced the red dye qirmizi.

C is also for cotton, from the Arabic qutn.

Stories - Web of WordsArabic ‘Zoomorphic’ Calligraphy. The word ‘Cat’ in Arabic is قَطّ‎ qaṭṭ ~ قِطّ qiṭṭ. (Source)
English word for ‘Cat’ comes from latin word Cattus, which goes back to Nubian (
Afro-Asiatic Language) word kadīs and accroding to M. Lionel Bender this Nubian term was a loan from Arabic  (Source)

D is for dragoman, an interpreter or guide in countries where Arabic, Turkish, or Persian is spoken; from the Arabic tarjuman and the verb, tarjama, “to interpret.”

E is for Earth, from German Erde and Arabic Ardh.

F is for Fomalhaut, the brightest star in the constellation Piscis Austrinus, the Southern Fish, 24 light-years from Earth; fam al-hut means “mouth of the fish.”

G is for ghoul, from the Arabic ghul, meaning “the demon.”

G is also for giraffe, from the Arabic zarafa.

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H is for hazard, from Old French hasard, from Spanish azar, from Arabic az-zahr, meaning “chance or luck,” from Persian zār or Turkish zar, meaning “dice.”.

I is for Izar, the name of a star in the constellation Andromeda, from the Arabic al’izar, meaning the “veil or covering.”

J is for jar, from jarrah, a large earthen vase.

J is also for jasmine, from the Persian yasmin.

K is for kohl, from kuhl, meaning “a fine powder,” often of antimony, used in eye decoration or as eyeliner.

L is for lilac, from the Arabic lilak, which was taken from the Persian nilak, meaning “indigo.”

L is also for lemon, from the Persian limun, meaning “lemon.”

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Arabic letters transformed into a high art culture, traditional calligraphy

M is for magazine, from an Arabic word makhzan, meaning “store.”.

M is also for mattress, coming from Old French materas, which was taken from matrah, a “place where something is thrown” and taraha, meaning “to throw.”

N is for nadir, a point on the celestial sphere directly below the observer and diametrically opposite the zenith. It comes from nadir assamt, meaning “opposite the zenith.”

O is for orange, from the Persian naranj or narang, meaning “orange.”

P is for Pherkad, a star in the constellation Ursa Minor, from the Arabic al-farqad, meaning “the calf.”

Q is for qanun, the ancestor to the harp and zither, introduced by Al-Farabi in the tenth century, but used in Roman times as a freestanding instrument.

R is for risk, from the Arabic rizq, meaning earning provided by God.

S is for sofa; the seat was originally an Arabian ruler’s throne and has been in existence since antiquity. Originally suffah, meaning “long bench” or “divan.”

S is also for sugar from the Arabic sukkar, meaning “sugar”; and for so long, from salam, a greeting and goodbye meaning “peace.”

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The depiction of Orion, as seen from Earth (left) and a mirror-image, from a 13th-century copy of al-Sufi’s Book of the Fixed Stars. In this version, Orion’s shield has become a long sleeve, typical of Islamic dress.
(Source: “Arabic Star Names…” by Zakri Abdul Hamid)

T is for tariff, via French from Italian tariffa, based on Arabic ‘arrafa, meaning “notify.”

T is also for talcum powder, which is from the Latin talcum, from the Arabic talq. It was first used in medieval Latin as talc around 1317, and in Spanish as talco and in French as talc in 1582. In German, it is talkum.

U is for Unukalhai, a star in the constellation of the Serpent, from the Arabic ’unuq alhayyah, meaning the “neck of the snake.”

V is for vizier, from wazir, meaning “porter, public servant,” from the verb wazara, “to carry.”

V is also for Vega, the brightest star in the constellation Lyra, from the Arabic al-nisr alwaqi’, meaning “the falling vulture.”

W is for wadi, a valley or gully that remains dry except during the rainy season, from the Arabic wadi, which means “valley.”

X in algebra, meaning “a thing,” is an Arabic invention to solve mathematic equations.

TED: Why is ‘x’ the unknown? by Terry Moore (Source)

Y is for yoghurt. The original Turkish word was yogurut, but it had become yogurt by the 11th century. The “g” is soft in the Turkish pronunciation but hard in English. Yog is said to mean, roughly, “to condense,” while yogur means “to knead.”

Z is for zenith, the point of culmination or the peak, coming from the Old Spanish zenit, which was from the Arabic samt, meaning “path,” part of the Arabic phrase samt al-ra’s, meaning “the road overhead,” or “directly above a person’s head.”

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