5 English Words That Come From Arabic Origin

1) Alchemy/Chemistry الكيمياء “al-kimiya” – The earliest meaning of this term referred to the studies of which creation of silver and gold can be synthetically made. Originally, the words had been used in early centuries AD in Greek in Alexandria, Egypt, and then entered Latin as alchimia in the 12th/13th century. At that point, the word represented the process of alchemy, and a wider range of chemical processes as well.

2) Algebra الجبر “al-jabr” – The earliest reported mathematical use of this term was found in the title of the Arabic book “Al mukhtasar fe hisab al-jabr wa al-Muqabala” which translates to “The Compendium on Calculation by Restoring and Balancing”, written by 9th century mathematician Muhammed Ibn Musa al-Khwarizmi. This book was then translated to Latin in the 12th century, and the terms “al-jabr” and “al-muqabala” as seen in the title of the book were the names of two of the crucial steps in solving an algebraic equation. Latin then borrowed the term and coined an entire study of math after it.

3) Ghoul غول , “ghoul” – Spelt almost exactly like the Arabic word is pronounced, the word ghoul first made its appearance in the Western world thanks to an Arabic to English translation of the 1001 Arabian Nights tales in 1712. The term was found in many English translations of the book in the 19th century. Being a popular subject in many Arabic folk-tales and legends, the word translated exactly to what it means today in English. The word then made its first appearance in English in the novel Vathek, an Arabian Tale, in 1786. Ghouls are a well-known part of Arabic folklore.

4) Safari سفر “safar”  Born from the Arabic word “safar” which means journey or travel, the term safari entered English in the late 19th century from Swahili.

5) Serendipity سرنديب “serendib” – Not many know that this word originally stemmed from Arabic. Originally coined into English in 1754 from the Arabic name of the island of Sri Lanka, “Serendip” ( سرنديب in Arabic), the fairy-tale setting of this island was used in the tale The Three Princes of Serendip, in which a series of serendipitous events framed around three adventurous young men inspired the word’s modern meaning in English.

 Do you know of any others? Tell us in the comments below! 

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