50 Words of Arabic Origin


  • ALCHEMY and CHEMISTRY (الكيميـــــــــاء.)
  • ALCOHOL (الكُحُـــــــــول.) 
  • ALGEBRA (الجبــر: More on the eponymous founder of Algebra as an independent mathematical discipline here.)
  • ALGORITHM (خوارزم: More on the eponymous founder of algorthimics here.)
  • ALKALINE (القلوي: Meaning “non-acid, basic.”) 
  • ALMANAC (المنــــــاخ: Literally meaning “climate”)
  • AVERAGE (From Old French avarie, itself from the Arabic term عوارية, meaning “damaged goods”, from عور meaning “to lose an eye.”)
  • AZIMUTH (السمــــــــت: This concept is used in several fields, such as الفلك/astronomy، هندسة الطيران/aerospace engineering، and فيزياء الكم/quantum physics.) 
  • ELIXIR (الإكسيــــــــــــــر: Something like a“syrup”—also an Arabic term, possibly borrowed from Persian.) 
  • NADIR (نظيـــــــــــــر: It is the opposite of the zenith.)
  • SODA (صـــــــــودا.)
  • ZENITH (سمت الرأس: Literally the “azimuth of the head”، it is the opposite of the “nadir.”) 
  • ZERO (same as “cipher.”)
Names of many stars and constellations: 

The name of Tim Burton’s Beetlejuice is an obvious pun on the Arabic-named star بيت الجــــــوزاء/Betelgeuse

From an Arabic-named star of a constellation to a Star of video games: Vega (the “Flamenco-styled” Street Fighter character hailing from Spain!)

(Altairالطَّائـــــــــر meaning “the bird”;Betelgeuse: بيت الجــــــوزاء, meaning “the House of the Gemini”; Denebذنب meaning “tail”; Fomalhaut: فم الحوت which means “the mouth of the Pisces”, Rigel: رِجـــــــل meaning “foot”, it stands for رجل الجبَّار, or the “foot of the Titan”, Vegaالواقع meaning “the Falling”, refers to النسر الواقع، meaning “the falling eagle”, etc.)

  • An entirely separate post is necessary to list all of the astronomical terms which are of Arabic origin.


  • ADMIRAL (أميــــــــر الرحلة, meaning commander of the fleet, or literally “of the trip”) 

    الرايس حمِّيـــــــــــدو (Rais Hamidou): A legendary Admiral who led the Algerian Navy before the invasion of his country by France

  • ADOBE (الطوب: meaning a “brick.” Next time you use an Adobe Acrobat product, you will remember that Adobe is originally Arabic!)
  • ALCOVE (القبة: meaning “the vault”, or “the dome”)
  • AMBER (عنبر: Anbar, “ambergris.”)
  • ARSENAL (Do fans of F.C. Arsenal today, including those living in the Arab world, know where the name of their favorite team came from? دار الصناعــــــــــــــــة : “manufacturing house”)
  • ASSASSIN (Just like the word MAFIA, it is of Arabic origin: It either comes from “حشَّــــــــــــــاشين“, referring to the medieval sect of the same name famous for the heavy hashish consumption by its knife-wielding members, or “العسَّاسيــــــــــــــــن“, meaning “the watchmen.”)

    It seems that the medieval Assassin sect has made quite a comeback with “Assassin’s Creed”, the historical fiction action-adventure video game series featuring the character “Desmond Miles”, a descendant of one of the leaders of the sect named “Altaïr ibn-La’Ahad” (literally “Bird Son of No One”—as mentioned above, “Altair” is the name of a constellation still identified by its Arabic name)

  • CALIBER (قـــــــالب: meaning “mold”) 
  • CANDY (from قندي, itself from Persian for “hard candy made by boiling cane sugar”)
  • CHECK (from صکّ, also from Persian meaning “letter of credit.” It would give the Chess expression “Checkmate”, from “الشيخ مات”, or “the Shaikh is dead.”)
  • CORK (القورق)
  • COFFEE (قهوة: For long snubbed by Europeans as the “wine of the infidels”—that is, many centuries before the age of Starbucks and instant coffee!)
  • COTTON (قُطْـــــــــن) 
  • GAUZE (either fromقَــــــــــزّ, meaning “silk”, or from غَــــــــزّة, “Gaza”, the Palestinian city.)
  • GUITAR (just as LUTE, العود, a musical instrument known to Europeans through the Arabic قيثارة, itself possibly borrowed from a word of Ancient Greek.)
  • HAZARD (الزّهر: “the dice”—Think of an Arabic TV series hazardly titled “The Dukes of Al-Azhar”…) 
  • LAZULI (As in “Lapis Lazuli“, لاژورد: Arabic word for a semi-precious stone famous for its intense blue color. The Arabic word is said to come from a Persian city where the stone was mined.)
  • MASCARA (Just as with the English “masquerade” and the French “mascarade“, mascara comes from the Arabic word مسخرة, an event during which people wear masks, such as carnivals.) 

    “مسخرة/Mascarades”: A 2008 prize-winning comedy by Algerian director إلياس سالم (Lyes Salem)—Not fully exempt from stereotypes and distortions, yet much preferrable to many comparable “made-for-Western-audiences” movies, such as the calamitous “turkeys” so typical served by a Merzak Alloueche (to name only him!)

  • MATTRESS (مطـــــــــــــــــــرح.)
  • MONSOON (موسم: Arabic for “season.”)
  • MUMMY (مومياء: Originally from Persian root “موم”, meaning “wax”.)
  • RACQUET (As in a “tennis racket”. Some point to an Arabic origin of Tennis. The word racket comes the Arabic word “راحـــــــة“, as in “راحـــــة اليد“, meaning the “palm of the hand.”)
  • REAM (as in a “ream of paper”, it comes from Arabic رزمة, meaning a “bundle.”) 
  • SAFARI (سفـــــــر: “travel”—As in Apple’s Safari web browser)
  • SASH (شــــــــاش.)
  • SATIN (زيتــــــــــــوني: “Olive-like”, perhaps related to modern Tsinkiang in Fukien province, southern China.) 
  • SOFA (الصُفــــــــة)
  • TALCUM (التلك)
  • SWAHILI (Comes from سواحــــــــــل: Plural of ساحــــــــــل, meaning a “coast.”)
  • ZIRCON (زرقـــــــــــــون: “golden-colored.” Zirconium is a chemical element with the symbol Zr and atomic number 40) 
    The English word TARIFF either comes from the Arabic term for “fee” (تعريـــــــــــــــفة), or “تعريـــــــــــــــف/identification”, as in “بطاقــــــــة التعريـــــــــــــــف”, meaning “Identity Card.”—After the whole media fuss regarding his birth certificate, it seems that President Obama’s real Identification Card was finally located: It says: “Nationality: Tunisian – Real name: Hussein bou’Omama – Date of Birth: Not too long ago”

  • TARIFF (تعاريـــــــــــــــف, plural of تعريـــــــــــــــفة, meaning a “fee”, or simply تعريـــــــــــــــف, as in “بطاقــــــــة التعريـــــــــــــــف“, meaning an “identity card.”) 

Finally, to close this list, it is fitting to greet everyone by saying “SO-LONG” (an English expression which, according to The Penguin Dictionary of Historical Slang, may come from the Arabic word ســـــــــــــــــــــــلام/SALAAM!)

Taken from Transparent.com