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8 English Words You Didn’t Know Are Actually Arabic

8 English Words You Didn't Know Are Actually Arabic

Arabic, usually associated with North Africa and the Middle East is a language, thus a culture, that seems so exotic and distant to the wide population of the world. When I hear Arabic in any context, I think of vivid colors, heat, palms, deserts, hijab, but never did I really think of something specific, of the language per se.

A Quick Introductory

It is the official language of the 22 countries which form the Arab League from Southwest Asia to Northwest Africa. Qur’an, the Holy Book of Islam, was revealed in Arabic; therefore the language is also the liturgical language of over a billion Muslims around the world. The official language of the Arab countries is the Classical Arabic or Fus-ha and is the language in which the Qur’an is written and is considered to be the base of the syntactic and grammatical norms of the Arabic language. But afterwards MSA (Modern Standard Arabic) appeared as an easier version of the Classical Arabic and is now the official language of the Arab world.

The reason they need an official language is because a person from Tunisia will have a hard time understanding a local from Iraq and vice versa, even though both individuals are speaking a particular form of Arabic dialect. The MSA is spoken by television presenters and politicians, used in the newspapers and literature, as well as used when foreigners learn Arabic as a foreign language.

As you go through these lesser known facts about the Arabic language, I believe you will start to get a hold of the Culture itself as well. Think of it as an introduction to basic Arabic language and its delicacy.


The word Arab, itself, means nomad. This is due to the fact that the Arabic language originates from tribes in the desert regions of the Arabian Peninsula who changed places of living a lot.

Vocabulary Connection to English

Origins of some English words come from the Arabic, for instance:

  • قطن [koton], cotton
  • سكر [succar], sugar
  • غزال [ghazal], gazelle
  • قيثارة [qithara], guitar
  • الكحول [alcoo’hool], alcohol
  • صحراء [sahra’a], Sahara
  • قيراط [qeerat], carat
  • ليمون [laymoon], lemon


With Mathematics Too

In math, the letter ‘x’ which in Algebra represents an unknown number, comes from the Arabic word “shay” or “thing” in English. It eventually became translated to ‘xay’ in Spain thus its final abbreviation ‘x’.

Strange Punctuation

Although is uses the same punctuation marks, some of the symbols are inverted, such as the comma (،), or reversed, for instance, the question mark (؟). As far as the writing goes, people write from right to left, however, the numbers are written from left to right. Wait, what?

Arabic – Full of Love

They have astonishing 11 words they use for Love, each one representing a different stage of falling in love. “Hubb” is the most common word used for “love”. It shares the same root as the word “seed”, which has the potential to grow into something wonderful. (Wonderful, isn’t it?)

The Humoristic Side of The Culture

Most Arabic jokes revolve around social issues, such as nagging wives, political issues, and elections, stingy neighbors, etc. The most common target of jokes throughout the Middle East is the Ruler, President, King, Prince or Sheikh of the country who just won’t leave office, even though he’s too old to rule:

They asked the President: aren’t you going to bid farewell to the people?

The President replied: Gosh! I didn’t know the people were going away!

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