List of Arabic loanwords in English

List of Arabic loanwords in English

:"Star names are not included in this article. For star names, please see List of Arabic star names, List of traditional star names, and other articles listed here."

There are dozens of Arabic loanwords in English, i.e., words of English acquired directly from Arabic or indirectly, by passing from Arabic into a third language (often Spanish) and then into English.

But some of these loanwords from Arabic (a Semitic language) are not of Arabic "origin": they are loanwords in Arabic itself. Arabic acquired words from Latin, Greek, Persian, or from fellow members of the Afroasiatic language family. Within the Afro-Asiatic language family, Arabic borrowed words from the Semitic languages Hebrew, Aramaic, and Akkadian and the non-Semitic language Coptic (Ancient Egyptian).

Reliability of etymological claims

Speaking about etymological claims in general, interested persons are cautioned to examine them carefully for validity and detail. Many claimed etymologies are difficult to verify. Various dictionaries may differ among themselves on the etymology of a given word, to a minor extent or a major extent. Some etymological claims are nothing more than a speculation as to what the etymology "could possibly" be; an example of this is the claim that "monkey" derives from Arabic. Speculative claims are identified properly (as being speculative) by some dictionaries and not by other dictionaries. In cases where parts of the claimed etymology are beyond doubt, perusal of various dictionaries may reveal that the dictionaries differ among themselves on the details.

;Content and substantiation of list entriesA list of dictionaries consulted has been given. Detailed explanations have been given only for the few loanwords whose interpretation has been impacted by substantial developments in intellectual or social history. For example, the "meaning" conveyed by "alcohol" seems not to have been borrowed from Arabic, but seems rather to have arisen among European alchemists after the "word" had been borrowed. Furthermore, efforts have been made to indicate which Arabic words are themselves loanwords. But it has been deemed unnecessary to provide sources or detailed etymologies for the mere purpose of confirming that an entry is indeed an Arabic loanword, given: the ready availability of online dictionaries; the length of this list; and, the fact already mentioned that different dictionaries differ on the details of some word etymologies.

Rationale for inclusion in the list

Words not proven to be Arabic loanwords are listed below separately, following the section for the letter Z.

This list has been edited to serve the purpose of identifying words that represent some lasting influence of one culture upon another, specifically, of the Arabic speaking world upon Europe. Examples of "influence" are: the adoption by European societies of new material objects, technology, intellectual knowledge, ideas, or cultural practices from the Arabic speaking world; the adoption of new words for already possessed material objects, technology, etc. This does not describe the situation of people referring to objects or beliefs in the course of discussing foreign places or societies. For example, the fact that a speaker of English may be curious about boats, beverages, or fairy tales distinctive to Arabic speaking cultures does not make the Arabic language names of boats, beverages, or fairy tale characters loanwords in English.

This principle may be explained by examples. The word "alidade" is the name of a measuring instrument traditionally used by surveyors to determine direction. Although very few English speaking persons have been surveyors, traditionally this device was part of the craft of English speaking surveyors. Also, the name of the Islamic holy city of Mecca has come to mean "a place that is regarded as the center of an activity or interest", and is fairly widely used in this sense by educated people even when they are not Muslim and they are not referring to the city of Mecca itself. Therefore the words "alidade" and "Mecca" rate as additions to English speaking culture and/or technology. By contrast, English speaking people do not use the Arabic word "tell" meaning 'hill' and would not have occasion to use it except in the context of "this is what Arabs call a hill". Nor do English speaking people refer to fortresses as "alcazars". Spanish speaking people may, but that is a matter of Spanish speaking history or culture, and English speakers would not have occasion to use "alcazar" except to discuss Spanish history or culture. Similarly, the English language has the word "God". English speakers who have monotheistic religious belief but do not follow Islam use the word "God", not "Allah". Therefore, 'tell', 'alcazar', and 'Allah' do not rate as loanwords in English. As for star names, even astronomy enthusiasts do not know most of the star names of Arabic origin; therefore, Arabic star names are not part of any English speaking subculture, except for a handful of names that refer to the some of the most prominent stars.

For explanations of words pertaining to Arabic speaking cultures, Islamic practices, or Middle Eastern geography, and for words which are loanwords in languages other than English, consult articles addressing those topics.

Phonetic transcriptions

As for phonetic transcriptions, three symbols from the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA), [ʕ, x, γ] have been consistently applied.
* [ʕ] is found in [ʕarab] 'Arab'. Traditionally, it is spelled with a single opening quote mark, but computer keyboards do not distinguish between opening and closing quote marks.
* [x] is like 'ch' in German, and it is usually spelled 'kh' in spelling Arabic words.
* [γ] (lower case Greek gamma) represents the voiced counterpart of [x] .

Other transcriptions use non-IPA symbols which are standard in the literature on Arabic grammar and literature. The numeral '7' denotes the glottal stop as in the middle sound of the English interjection, "uh-oh". When an entire word is spelled in IPA, it is enclosed in square brackets per IPA standard.

Loanwords listed in alphabetical order


;admiral : أميرالبحار, "amīr al-bihār" commander of the seas;adobe : الطوب "aṭ-ṭūb", the bricks;albacore : الباكورة "al-bakūra", perhaps from "bakūr", premature;albatross (or algatross) : الغطاس "al-γaṭṭās" (or "al-ghaṭṭās"), the diver;alchemy : الكيمياء "al-alkīmiyā7", from Greek "khēmia, khēmeia", art of transmuting metals [ [ AskOxford: alchemy ] ] ;alcohol : الغول - الكحول in the literature of late European alchemy, the quintessence of an earthly substance. See kohl in this list. The idea of "quintessences of earthly substances" and the use of "alcohol" to denote quintessences are developments in European alchemy in the 14th century. From the 1500s on, the denotation of "alcohol" narrowed down to "quintessence of wine" or "spirit of wine", i.e., ethanol, CH3CH2OH, as the term "alcool vini" (quintessence of wine) got shortened to "alcool" or "alcohol". The term "alco(h)ol vini" supplanted the original "quinta essentia vini", 'fifth essence of wine'. [Ball, chapter 9] [Priesner and Figala, entry on "Alkohol"] ;alcove : قبة - طاقة "al-qubba", the vault ;alembic : الإنبيق "al-anbiq", still (the distillation device), from Greek "ambix", stem "ambik-", cup;algebra : الجبر "al-jabr", the restoring of missing parts. This word is reported to have entered Middle English in the sense of 'the setting of broken bones'. The modern mathematical sense comes from the title of a book, "al-kitāb al-muxtaṣar fī ḥisāb al-jabr wa-l-muqābala", "The Compendious Book on Calculation by Completion and Balancing", by the 9th-century Muslim mathematician Muḥammad ibn Mūsa al-Xwārizmī. The appellation al-xwārizmī means literally "the Khwārizmian", referring to Khwārizm, now Khiva, in Uzbekistan. Another legacy of this mathematician is that his appellation gave rise to the word algorithm الخوارزمية.;algorism: [] see algorithm in this list.;algorithm or algorism : "al-xwārizmī", the Khwārizmian. Appellation of the Persian scientist, Muḥammad ibn Mūsa al-Xwārizmī, who wrote the first book on algebra. See algebra in this list.;alidade :عضادة , عِضَادة . A surveying instrument. ;alizarin: from "al-ʕaṣārah", the juice. A dye. العصارة;alkali : القلي from "qalā", to fry, to roast. 'Alkali' originally meant a saline substance derived from the ashes of plants. ;almanac : المناخ"al-manāx" (or "al-manākh"), "the climate", possibly from Greek "almenichiakon", calendar;alfalfa: "al-fisfisa", fresh fodder [] ;alkanet: From the Arabic word الحنة '"al-hinna'"=the henna. [] ;amalgam: الملغم "al-malgham". [] ;amber: "amber/anbar", yellow [] ;aniline : نيلة - صبغ النيل "al-nili", from Persian and Sanskrit;apricot: "al-birquq" ;arsenal : دار الصناعة "dār aṣ-ṣināʕa", house of manufacturing;artichoke : الخرشوف "al-xurshūf" or from "ardi chawki" meaning 'land thorn';assassin : from حشاشين "ḥashshāshīn", those who use hashish (cannabis resin).;attar: from عطر "itr/utur", perfume,aroma. [] ;aubergine : from الباذنجان "al-bādhinjān", from Persian "bâdinjân" ultimately from the Sanskrit "vatin gana".;azimuth : السموت "as-sumūt", the paths


;barding (archaic term for horse armour): "bardaʿah", packsaddle -any of various pieces of defensive armor for a horse covering, from Persian. ;benzoin : لبان جاوي "labān jāwī", "frankincense of Java". Benzoin is an organic chemical solvent extracted from a resin of an Asian tree.;bezoar: "bazahr", from Persian. ;bonito: "bainīth". ;burnous/burnoose : برنوس "burnūs", from Latin "byrrhus";borax: بورق buraq, from Persian.


;caliber : قالب "qâlib", 'mould', possibly from Greek. [ Online Etymology Dictionary ] ] ;camphor: كافور "kafur". [] ;candy: قند qandi, possibly a loanword. ;carat: "qirat", from Greek;caraway : كراوية "karāwiya";carmine : ultimately from Sanskrit "krmi-ja". See 'kermes' below.;carob : خرّوب "xarrūb", (1) locust; (2) carob bean;carrack : "qarāqīr" plural of "qurqur";checkmate : "sheikh māt", [] ;chemistry : see alchemy in this list;cipher : صفر "ṣifr", zero;civet: zaba’d [] ;coffee : قهوة "qahwa", itself possibly from Kefa, Ethiopia, where the plant originated.;cotton : قُطْن "quṭn";cover : "kufr";curcuma: From Arabic word " kurkum "=saffron, turmeric. []


;divan:ديوان "dīwān", from Persian. ;dragoman : ترجمان "tarjumān", from Aramaic "turgemānā", in turn from Akkadian.Collins English Dictionary (1979)]


;elixir : الإكسير "al-'iksīr", (1) philosopher's stone; (2) medicinal potion. From Greek "xērion", powder for drying wounds;emir : أمير, "amīr".


;fustic : الفسطيط أو الفستيق "fosṭeeṭ", ultimately from Greek πιστακη "pistakē", pistachio tree


;garble : "γarbala", sift; ultimately from Latin "cribellum", sieve;gauze : "qazz", in turn from Persian kazh (كژ) "raw silk".;gazelle : غزال "ghazāl";genie : جني,"jinny" ;gerbil : See jerboa in this list; the word "gerbil" is a European created diminutive of "jerboa", but the words refer to distinct species.;ghoul : غول "ghūl";giraffe : زرافة "zarāfa" [W. Montgomery Watt. The Influence of Islam on Medieval Europe. Edinburgh University Press. 1972]


;harem :حريم "ḥarīm", forbidden thing or place;hashish : حشيش "ḥashīsh", Cannabis;hazard : الزهر "az-zahr", chance, name of the pieces used in the game of 'nard,' or 'tawola.' It can also represent a type of flower.;henna : حنة "ḥinna"


;jar : جرة "jarrah", large earthen vase;jasmine: from French. jasmin, , from Arabic yas(a)min. [] ;jerboa : جربوع "jarbūʕ". See also gerbil in this list.


;kermes : قرمز "qirmiz" perhaps ultimately from Sanskrit "krmi-ja", worm-produced;kohl : الكحل "al-kuḥl", kohl. Powdered stibnite, used for millennia to decorate the eyes and as an eye medicine. (Stibnite is an ore of the element antimony.)


;lacquer: "lakk". ;lilac: from Arabic lilak, from Pers. lilak, variant of nilak "bluish," from nil "indigo" [] ;lime: Arabic limah "citrus fruit," a back-formation or a collective noun from limun "lemon" [] ;loofah : from the Egyptian Arabic word lūfa.;lute : العود "al-ʕūd", "the oud", a forerunner of the guitar.


;macrame : "miqrama", embroidered veil;magazine : "maxāzin", (or "makhāzin"), storehouses, ;mascara : uncertain origin; possibly from "maskhara" "buffoon" or from an unknown language. In modern Arabic "maskhara" means "to ridicule";massage : uncertain whether ultimately from either Arabic "massa", to stroke, or from Latin "massa", dough;mattress : مطرح "matrah", (1) spot where something is thrown down; (2) mat, cushion;mocha : مخا "al-muxā" (or "al-mukhā"), city of Mocha, Yemen;mohair : مخير "muxayyar", having the choice;monsoon : موسم "mawsim", season;mummy : موميا "mūmiyyā", embalmed corpse (ultimately from Persian). ;muslin : derived from the name of the Iraqi city of Mosul, where cotton fabric was manufactured


;nadir : نظير "naẓīr", parallel or counterpart;nucha (anatomical term for 'nape of the neck') : نخاع ، منخع , nape of the neck. Via Medieval Latin, from Arabic nuḫā', marrow, spinal cord. [ [ nucha - Definitions from ] ] ;nunation : from the Arabic name of the 'n' sound. Medical term: overly frequent or abnormal use (as in stammering) of the sound of the letter "n".


;orange: From Arabic word "naranj", from Sanskrit via Persian.


;popinjay : ببفا "babaγā" Parrot.


;qat / khat : قات "kat" The plant "Catha edulis".


;racquet or 'racket' : راحة "rāḥah", palm of the hand;realgar : "rahj al-ghar", a mineral;ream (quantity of sheets of paper) : رزمة "rizma", bale, bundle;roc: "rukhkh", possibly from Persian.

;safari: from Swahili "safari", journey, in turn from Arabic "safar". [] ;safflower: "aṣfar", yellow. ;saffron :زعفران "zaʕfarān" (or "za9farān"), species of crocus plant bearing orange stigmas and purple flowers. ;sash : شاش "shāsh", wrap of muslin. See muslin in this list.;satan : "şeytan", evil. in turn from Arabic "şeytan";sequin : "sikka", die, coin;sherbet, sorbet, shrub, syrup : شراب "sharāb", a drink;soda : perhaps from "suwwāda", "suwayd", or "suwayda", a species of plant ;sofa : "ṣuffa", stone ledge;sugar: "sukkar", sugar, ultimately from Sanskrit [] ;sumac: "summāq", from Aramaic.


;tabby (fabric) : عتابي "ʕattābī (9attābī)", deriv. of (al-)ʕattābiyya, quarter of Baghdad where watered silk was first made, named after a prince, ʕattāb;tahini : طحين "ṭaḥīn", flour, which derives from the Arabic verb for "grind" ;talc : طلق "ṭalq", from Persian. ;tamarind : تمر هندي "tamr-hindī", date of India ;tare : "tarḥa", a discard (something discarded);tariff : تعريفة "taʕrīfa" (or "ta9rīfa"), act of making known; notification;tazza : طشت "ṭašt", round, shallow, drinking cup made of metal. [ Amer. Heritage Dict.] ;typhoon: a blend of Arabic Ṭūfān (ultimately from Greek) and the completely independent Cantonese word 'Taaîfung'. [ Amer. Heritage Dict.]


;zenith : سمت الرأس "samt ar-ra's", zenith, vertex;zero : صفر "sifr", cipher, zero.

Words not proven to be Arabic loanwords

;average : عوارية (بضاعة اصابها عطب في البحر) - متوسط of disputed origin; possibly from "ʕawārīya", damaged merchandise, or from Italian "avere" or French "avoir", property, from Latin "habere", to have; [ monkey] ;barbican or Barbacan: Outer fortification of a city or castle, perhaps from Arabic or Persian ‘ bab-khanah =gate-house". [] , [] ;caramel : possibly from Arabic, more likely from Latin "cannamellis", burnt honey;date: دقل - بلح Possibly from Arabic daqal "date palm". [] ;drub;gala: perhaps from Arabic "khil'a", fine garment given as a presentation. [] ;Mulatto: disputed etymology either from Spanish or Arabic. ;risk: possibly from Arabic "rizq", but also argued to be from Greek [] .;satin : probably from Arabic "zaytūnī", of Zaytun;scarlet: "siqillat", fine cloth. ". [] ;talisman: a blend of the Arabic loan from Greek and the Greek itself [] ;tobacco: from Arabic tabbaq". [] ;toque: kind of round hat, possibly from Arabic taqa. ;traffic: "tafriq", distribution. This is one scholar's published "suggestion".


*Ball, Philip. 2006. The Devil's Doctor: Paracelsus And The World Of Renaissance Magic And Science. 1st American edition. New York: Farrar, Strauss and Giroux. 436 p.
* [ Concise Oxford English Dictionary (OED). 2004. Oxford Press]
* []
*Madina, Maan Z. 1973. Arabic-English Dictionary of the Modern Literary Language. Pocket Books.
* [ Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary (MWCD) Online]
*Priesner, Claus and Figala, Karin. 1998. Alchemie. Lexikon einer hermetischen Wissenschaft. München: C.H. Beck. 412 p.
*Salloum, Habeeb and Peters, James. 1996. Arabic Contributions to the English Language. Beirut: Librairie du Liban.
*Wehr, Hans. 1979. A Dictionary of Modern Written Arabic (Arabic-English), 4th ed. Edited by J Milton Cowan. Wiesbaden: Otto Harrassowitz.

ee also

*Arabic influence on the Spanish language
*Influence of Arabic on other languages
*List of Arabic Star Names
*List of French words of Arabic origin
*List of Islamic terms in Arabic
*List of Portuguese words of Arabic origin
*List of traditional star names

External links

* [ AskOxford: the free online dictionary resource from Oxford University Press]
* [ Online Etymology Dictionary:]

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • List of replaced loanwords in Turkish — This selective list of replaced loanwords in Turkish includes Ottoman Turkish loanwords mostly of Arabic and Persian, but also French, Greek, and Italian origin which were replaced with their Turkish counterparts suggested by the Turkish Language …   Wikipedia

  • List of Tagalog loanwords — The Tagalog language, due to its history of connections with the rest of Asia, and the influence of European colonization, has developed a unique vocabulary since its inception from its Austronesian roots. The influence of the Sanskrit, Arabic,… …   Wikipedia

  • Arabic language — Arabic redirects here. For other uses, see Arabic (disambiguation). For the literary standard, see Modern Standard Arabic. For vernaculars, see varieties of Arabic. For others, see Arabic languages. Arabic العربية/عربي/عربى al ʿarabiyyah/ʿarabī …   Wikipedia

  • Arabic influence on the Spanish language — has been significant, due to the Islamic presence in the Iberian peninsula between 711 and 1492 A.D. (see Al Andalus). Modern day Spanish language (also called castellano in Spanish) first appeared in the small Christian Kingdom of Castile in… …   Wikipedia

  • List of Portuguese words of Arabic origin — NOTOC A*Açafate ( assafat ) *Açafrão ( azzafaran ) *Acéquia ( assekyah ) *Achaque ( ashshaka ) *Acicate ( ashshukat ) *Açoite ( assaut ) *Açorda ( athurda ) *Açoteia ( assutaiha ) *Açougue ( assok ) *Açucena ( assusana ) *Açude ( assudd ) *Açúcar …   Wikipedia

  • English language — English Pronunciation /ˈ …   Wikipedia

  • English plural — English grammar series English grammar Contraction Disputes in English grammar English compound English honorifics English personal pronouns English plural English relative clauses English verbs English irregular verbs En …   Wikipedia

  • List of digraphs in Latin alphabets — This is a list of digraphs used in various Latin alphabets. (See also List of Cyrillic digraphs.) Capitalization involves only the first letter (ch – Ch) unless otherwise stated (ij – IJ). Letters with diacritics are arranged in alphabetic order… …   Wikipedia

  • List of English words of Turkic origin — This is a list of words that have entered into the English language from the Turkic languages. Many of them came via traders and soldiers from and in the Ottoman Empire. There are some Turkic words as well, most of them entered English via the… …   Wikipedia

  • List of English words of Chinese origin — Words of Chinese origin have entered the English language and many European languages. Most of these were loanwords from Chinese itself, a term covering those members of the Chinese branch of the Sino Tibetan language family. However, Chinese… …   Wikipedia

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.