English Words from Arabic

As with the list of Amerindian words, this list isn't exhaustive-- the OED has over 900 words; but the others are obscure (words like enam, sulham, zibib). I've omitted speculative and less likely derivations, and also words borrowed in ancient times from some unspecified Semitic language (e.g. cumin, myrrh, sesame). I've also omitted Arabic place names, but included a few astronomical names.

After a second hyphen I give (if possible) the further derivation (Greek, Persian, etc.), or the verbal root (glossed as an infinitive; but the citation form of Arabic roots is actually the 3sg past).

Some words are borrowed directly from Arabic; but most of these words have taken the scenic route, through Spanish, Italian, and/or French; or through Turkish, Persian, or Urdu; or through Hebrew or Latin. This produces a good deal of phonological deformation; as does the dialect variation within Arabic.

The transliteration is an adaptation to html, while we're waiting for the Unicode revolution... the bolding and commas represent emphatic consonants; h' and ` are the pharyngeal approximants; ' is the glottal stop; : represents length.

--M.R.


admiral - ami:r-al-bahr 'ruler of the seas' (and other similar expressions) - amara command
adobe - al-toba 'the brick'
albacore - al-bukr 'the young camel'
alchemy - al-ki:mi:a: - from Greek
alcohol - al-koh''l 'the kohl'
alcove - al-qobbah 'vault' - qubba vault
alembic - al-ambi:q 'the still' - from Greek
alfalfa - alfas,fas,ah 'fodder'
algebra - al-jebr 'reintegration' - jabara reunite
Algol - al-ghu:l 'the ghoul'
algorithm - al-Khowarazmi 'the (man) of Khiva'
alkali - al-qaliy 'calx' - qalay fry, roast
Allah - `allah, from contraction of al-ilah 'the god'
Almagest - al-majisti - from Greek
almanac - (Andalucian Arabic) al-mana:kh, of uncertain origin
amber - `anbar 'ambergris'
antimony - al-íthmid 'antimony trisulphide' - perhaps from Greek
apricot - al-burquq - from Greek
Arab - `arab
arsenal - dar as,s,ina`ah 'house of making', i.e. 'factory' - s,ana`a make
artichoke - al-kharshu:f
assagai - az-zaghayah - from Berber
assassin - h'ashsha:shi:n 'hashish eaters', from the Isma`ili sectarians
attar - `itr 'aroma'
ayatollah - 'ayatu-llah 'miraculous sign of God'
azimuth - as-sumut 'the paths'; see also zenith
azure - al-lazward 'lapis lazuli' - from Persian

barbican - (possibly) bâb-al-baqara 'gate with holes'
berdache - (possibly) bardaj 'slave'
Betelgeuse - bi:t al-jauza:' 'shoulder of the Giant'
bezoar - bazahr - from Persian
bint - bint 'daughter
bled - balad 'vast open country'
borax - bu:raq - from Persian
burka - burqa`
burnouse - burnus

caliber - qali:b 'mold, last' -
calico - Qaliqu:t 'Calicut', city in India
caliph - khali:fah 'successor' - khalafa 'succeed'
camise - qami:s 'shirt' - from Latin
camphor - ka:fu:r - from Malay
candy - short for 'sugar candy', from sugar + qandi 'candied', from qand 'cane sugar' - from a Dravidian language
carat - qi:ra:t 'small weight' - from Greek
caraway - alkarawya: - probably from Greek
carafe - gharra:f - gharafa 'dip'
carmine - qirmazi: 'crimson'
carob - kharrubah
cassock - kaza:ghand 'padded jacket' - from Persian
check - sha:h 'king' - from Persian
checkmate - sha:h ma:t 'the king is dead'
chemistry - see alchemy
chess - from Old French eschecs, plural of check
cipher
- s,ifr 'empty'
civet - zaba:d
coffee - qahwah
Copt - quft - from Greek
cork - qu:rq
cotton - qutn
couscous - kuskus - kaskasa pound, bruise
crimson - qirmazi:, related to the qirmiz, the insect that provided the dye

Deneb - danab al-jaja:ja 'tail of the hen'
dhow - da:w
dinar - di:na:r - from Greek
dirham - dirham - from Greek
dragoman - tarjuma:n - tarjama interpret
drub - daraba 'beat'
dura mater - Latin calque on umm al-ghali:dah 'hard mother'

efreet - 'ifri:t 'monster'
El Cid - al-Sayyid 'the lord'
elixir - al-iksi:r 'philosopher's stone' - from Greek
emir - ami:r - amara command

fakir - faqi:r 'poor man' - faqura be poor
fardel - fardah 'load'
Farsi - Fa:rs 'Pars', a province of Iran - from Persian
fatwa - fetwa - fata: instruct by a legal decision
fedayeen - fida:'iyi:n 'commandos' - fida:` redemption
felafel - fala:fil
fellah - fella:h' 'husbandman' - falah'a till
felucca - fulk 'ship' - falaka be round
Fomalhaut - fum u'l-haut 'mouth of the fish'

garble - gharbala 'sift' - perhaps from Latin
gazelle - ghaza:l
genie - jinni: 'spirit'
gerbil - yarbu:`
ghoul - ghu:l 'demon' - gha:la take suddenly
giraffe - zara:fa

hadith
- h'adi:t 'tradition'
haj - h'ajj 'pilgrimage' - h'ajja go on a pilgrimage
halal - h'ala:l 'lawful'
halvah - h'alwa:
harem - h'aram 'prohibited, set apart' - h'arama prohibit
hashish - h'ashi:sh 'dried herbs, hemp'
hazard - yásara 'play at dice'
hegira - hijrah 'departure' - hajara separate, go
henna - h'enna:`
Hezbollah - H'izbulla:h 'party of God'
hookah - h'uqqah 'water bottle (through which smoke is drawn)'
houri - h'u:r al-`ayu:n 'with eyes like gazelles' - h'awura have eyes like gazelles

imam - ima:m 'leader' - amma precede
Islam - isla:m 'submission' - aslama submit oneself

jar - jarrah 'large earthen vase'
jasmine - ya:smi:n - from Persian
jinn - jinn 'spirits', plural of genie
julep
- jula:b 'rose water' - from Persian

Kaaba - ka`bah 'square house'
kabob - kaba:b - from Persian
kaffir - ka:fir 'infidel' - kafara conceal, deny
keffiyeh - kaffi:yah
khamsin - khamsi:n 'fifty (days)'
kismet - qisma 'portion, lot' - qasama divide
kohl - koh''l 'kohl' - kah'ala stain, paint
Koran - qura:n 'recitation' - qara`a read

lilac - li:la:k - from Persian
lemon - laymu:n - from Persian
lime - li:mah 'citrus fruit'
loofah - lu:fah a plant whose pods were used as sponges
lute - al-`u:d

macramé - miqramah 'striped cloth'
magazine - makha:zin 'storehouses' - khazana store
Mahdi - mahdi:y 'one who is guided aright' - hada: lead
majlis - majlis 'council'
mancala - mank.ala - nak.ala move
marzipan - mawthaba:n 'coin featuring a seated figure'
mask - perhaps maskhara 'buffoon' - sakhira ridicule
mattress - matrah 'place where something is thrown, mat, cushion' - tarah'a throw
minaret - mana:rah - na:r fire
mohair - mukhayyar 'choice (goats'-hair cloth)' - khayyara select
monsoon - mausim 'season' - wasama mark
mosque - masgid - sagada worship
Mozarabic - musta`rib 'would-be Arab'
muezzin
- mu'adhdhin 'criers' - adhana proclaim
mufti - mufti: 'one who gives a fatwa'
mujahedeen - muja:hidi:n 'figher in a jihad'
mullah - mawla: 'master'
mummy - mu:miya: 'embalmed body' - mu:m '(embalming) wax'
Muslim - muslim 'submitter' - aslama submit oneself
muslin - Maus,il 'Mosul'

nadir - nadi:r as-samt 'opposite the zenith'
natron - natru:n - from Greek
nizam - nidam 'government'

orange - na:ranj - from Sanskrit
ottoman - `uthma:n, a proper name

pia mater - Latin calque on umm raqi:qah 'tender mother'
popinjay - babagha:
Primum Mobile - Latin calque on al-muh' arrik al-awwal 'the first mover'

racket - râh'et 'palm of the hand' Ramadan - Ramada:n meaning perhaps 'the hot month' - ramata be heated
realgar - rehj al-gha:r 'powder of the cave'
ream - rizmah 'bundle'
rebec - reba:b
Rigel - rijl 'foot (of Orion)'
roc - rukh
rook - rukh - from Persian
Rubaiyyat - ruba:`i:yah 'quatrain'

safari - safari:y 'journey' - safara travel
saffron - za`fara:n
Sahara - çah'ra: 'desert'
sahib - ça:h'ib 'friend'
salaam - as-sala:m `alaikum 'peace be on you'
saluki - salu:k.i: 'from Saluk'
Saracen - sharqi:yi:n 'easterners' - sha:raqa rise
sash - sha:sh 'muslin'
satin - probably zaytu:ni: 'of Zaytu:n' (a city in China)
scarlet - siqilla:t '(cloth) adorned with images' - from Latin
sequin - sikkah 'die for coinmaking'
Sharia - shari:`a
sheikh - shaikh 'old man' - sha:kha grow old
sherbet - sharbah - shariba drink
Shiite - shiya`i:y, from shiya:` 'following, sect' - sha`a follow
shrub [drink] - shurb 'a drink' - shariba drink
sine - Latin sinus, mistranslation of jayb 'chord of an arc, sine', through confusion with jayb 'fold of a garment'
sirocco - sharq 'east (wind)' - sha:raqa rise
sofa - s,uffah 'raised dais with cushions'
souk - su:k. 'marketplace'
spinach - isfa:na:kh
Sufi - çu:fi: 'man of wool'
sugar - sukkar - from Sanskrit
sultan - sulta:n 'sovereign'
sumac - summa:q
Sunni - sunni: 'lawful', from sunna:h 'rule, course'
sura - su:rah
syrup - shara:b 'beverage' - shariba drink

tabbouleh - tabbu:la
tabby - `atta:biy, a neighborhood in Baghdad where taffeta was made
tahini - - tah'ana crush
Taliban - talib 'student' - talaba study
talisman - tilsam - from Greek
tamarind - tamr-hindi: 'date of India'
tambourine - a small tambour, from tanbu:r - from Persian
tandoori - tannu:r 'oven'
tarboosh - tarbu:sh
tare [weight] - tarh'ah 'rejected' - tarah'a reject
tariff - ta`ri:f 'notification' - `arafa notify
tarragon - tarkhu:n - possibly from Greek
tell [mound] - tall 'hillock'

ujamaa - jama:` 'community'
ulema - `ulima: 'the learned ones' - `alama know

Vega - al-nasr al-wa:qi` 'the falling vulture'
vizier - wazi:r 'porter, public servant' - wazara carry

wadi - wa:di:
Waqf - waqf 'religious foundation'
wisdom tooth - from a Latin calque on adra:su 'l h'ikmi - calqued from Greek

zenith - samt 'path'
zero - s,ifr 'empty'