The English Language

Borrowed Words From

97 Words Listed

Arabic Language Notes

"The Arabs have contributed nothing to Western civilisation."
Robert Kilroy-Silk, UK Politician

Arabic is an Afro-Asiatic language spoken on the Arabian Peninsula, in much of the Middle East and in North Africa.

The Arabic for "the" is AL so many words from this language begin with these two letters. Sometimes the L is silent (as in "admiral" or "arsenal").

The Arabic Caliphates (kingdoms) between 800AD to 1400AD had many great alchemists so several chemical terms are included ("alcohol", "elixir"). There were also mathematicians and astronomers giving words like "algebra", "zero" and "zenith" as well as countless star names ("Betelgeux"). Many classical Greek books were translated into Arabic and, in this way, new scientific terms were introduced which have come into English.

In addition, there are several words for animals ("gazelle", "giraffe"), administration ("sheriff", "tariff"), foods and drinks ("sherbet", "coffee"), military terms ("calibre", "arsenal") and much more.

A large number of words refer to the Islamic religion which was developed in the Arabian Peninsula ("mosque", "Quran").

admiral ruler of the seas  
albatross   A large seabird.
alchemy   One of the many chemical words from Arabic.
alcohol essence A chemical used in drinks and as a solvent.
alcove recess for a bed  
alfalfa fodder  
algebra reunion of broken parts One of many mathematical terms from Arabic.
Allah the God The word for God, also used by Muslims.
almanac   A book of astronomical data.
amber   From a tree.
aniline   An organic chemical solvent.
antimony   A semi-metalic chemical element.
arsenal factory  
artichoke   Edible plant.
assassin   From the same root as 'Hashish' as assassins were often given this drug before being sent out to kill political enemies.
average equitable distribution of losses due to damaged goods  
ayatollah miracle of God  
azimuth   Direction in the sky measured clockwise from North.
benzene from Java An organic chemical solvent from a resin in an Asian tree
Betelgeux armpit of the mighty one A bright star in Orion.
calibre mould for casting metal  
caliph successor A Muslim ruler.
caramel ball of sweet salt A milky sweet.
carat weight of four grains  
caraway   Plant with seeds used in cookery.
cheque letter of credit From 'shakk'; allowed money to be withdrawn from banks in different cities.
cipher empty From the same root as 'zero'.
coffee   First used in Yemen.
cork bark  
cotton   Borrowed into Spanish as 'Alcodon'; the AL was dropped when it passed into English.
drub beat In English a 'drubbing' can mean 'a good beating' in a sporting contest.
emir command An Arab king.
fakir poor man  
fez   A red hat named after its city of origin in Morocco.
gazelle   A type of antelope.
genie spirit From 'Jinn', spirits that inhabit the world - they are frequently mentioned in the Muslim holy book, the Quran.
gerbil   A small rodent.
giraffe   Long necked antelope.
goul   From the same root as the star, Algol, known as 'the demon star' because it varies its brightness every few days.
halal lawful Applies to food that is fit for a Muslim to to eat.
harem set apart The womens quarter in an Arab palace.
hashish   From the same root as 'assassin'.
henna   A dark red dye.
Islam submission Islam is the name of the religion.
jar earthenware vase  
kismet fate  
loofah   The name of the simple plant-like animal used as a sponge.
lute   The fore-runner of the guitar.
magazine storehouse  
marzipan   Paste of almonds and sugar used in cakes.
mask buffoon  
mattress mat, cushion  
minaret   The tower of a mosque from where prayers are called.
mirror   Looking glass.
mohair goats' hair cloth  
monkey   A primate with a tail.
monsoon season  
mosque   Place of worship for Muslims.
Muslim one who submits A follower of Islam.
myrrh   A sweet perfume from Yemen.
nadir   The point directly below one's feet.
Quran recitation The Islamic holy book - also spelt 'Koran'.
racket palm of hand As used for ball games.
ream bundle  
safari journey  
saffron   Orange colouring for food.
Sahara desert  
sahib friend Still used in Indian English.
satin   Named after its city of origin in China.
sequin coin  
sheikh old man An honorific title.
sherbet drink From the same root as 'syrup'.
sheriff noble  
soda headache From a plant used as a headache remedy.
sultan   An Arab king.
syrup drink From the same root as 'sherbet'.
tabby   From a district in Baghdad where striped cloth was made.
tahini flour  
Taliban student A political and religious movement in Afghanistan.
tamarind Indian date  
tariff notify List of duties to be paid on imported or exported goods.
wadi dry river Common in place names (eg. Wadi Rum in Jordan).
yashmak veil  
zenith pass over the head  
zero empty From the same root as 'cipher'.
zircon   A mineral from which the metal zirconium is extracted.

[Borrowed Words (Anglo-Saxon)] [Borrowed Words (Aramaic)]

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