Arabic Words Have Infiltrated English

The Origin of Arabic Words in English | Superprof

English probably has the largest vocabulary of any of the world’s languages. Part of the reason for that is that English has been borrowing words from other languages for more than a thousand years. English has a Germanic base and French veneer from William the Conqueror’s conquest of England in 1066. English has busily borrowed words from Latin, Greek, German, Italian, Spanish and from many of the former colonies (especially from India).

One of the less expected borrowings are words that come from Arabic. Most of these came from Arabic into other European languages, such as ‘lemon.’ English borrowed it from the Spanish ‘limon,’ which became a Spanish word during the 800-year Muslim rule over most of Spain.

Everyone knows about alcohol, which comes from the Arabic ‘al kohl,’ originally referring to a very dark eye makeup. No one seems to know how the word transferred to distilled spirits. Note that beginning syllable ‘al.’ If a word starts with ‘al” it is often is a word originating in Arabic. Coffee is another word of Arabic origin, from Yemen, ‘qahwah.’

The bane of many students’ education is algebra. Which comes from the Arabic ‘al gebr,’ largely invented by an Arab mathematician named al-Khwarizmi, who also originated algorithms.

The numbers we use are called ‘Arabic numerals.’ These were actually invented in Hindu India, and transmitted across the Islamic world from India to Spain.

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