Influence of Arabic on other languages

Arabic has had a great influence on other languages, especially in vocabulary. The influence of Arabic has been most profound in those countries visited by Islam or Islamic power.

Arabic loanwords have made into many languages as diverse as Amharic, Albanian, Armenian, Azerbaijani, Balochi, Bengali, Berber, Bosnian, Bulgarian, Catalan, Chaldean, Chechen, Croatian, Dagestani, English, French, Georgian, German, Greek, Gujarati, Hausa, Hebrew, Hindi, Indonesian, Italian, Kazakh, Kurdish, Kutchi, Kyrgyz, Macedonian, Malaysian, Odia, Pashto, Persian, Portuguese, Punjabi, Rohingya, Romanian, Saraiki, Serbian, Sicilian, Spanish, Sindhi, Somali, Sylheti, Swahili, Tagalog, Tigrinya, Turkish, Turkmen, Urdu, Uyghur, Uzbek, Visayan and Wolof as well as other languages in countries where these languages are spoken. Other languages such as Maltese[1] and Nubi derive from Arabic, rather than merely borrowing vocabulary. Spanish has the largest Arabic influenced vocabulary, around 8 percent, outside the Islamic world due to Muslim rule mainly in the Southern Iberia from 711 until 1492 known as Al-Andalus, however Spain's re-Christianization and resulting loss of contact with Arabic culture has led to a significant shift in both meaning and pronunciation of Spanish words of Arabic etymology.

The terms borrowed range from religious terminology (like Berber taẓallit, "prayer" < salat), academic terms (like Persian manteq, "logic"), to everyday conjunctions (like Hindi/Urdu lekin, "but"). Most Berber varieties (such as Kabyle), along with Swahili, borrow some numbers from Arabic. Most religious terms used by Muslims around the world are direct borrowings from Arabic, such as ṣalāt, 'prayer' and imām, 'prayer leader'. In languages not directly in contact with the Arab world, Arabic loanwords are often mediated by other languages rather than being transferred directly from Arabic; for example many older Arabic loanwords in Hausa were borrowed from Kanuri.

Outside the Islamic world, there are more limited borrowings from Arabic, usually to denote vegetables and other articles in commerce, such as "aubergine", "alcohol" and also some other terms like "admiral". Among European languages, these mostly were transmitted through Spanish and Turkish.


Arabic has notably influenced the Valencian variety of the Catalan language spoken in Spain south of Catalonia, more than Catalonia itself although it also left influences in Catalan. Due to almost eight centuries of Arabic dominion in the Iberian Peninsula (Al-Andalus), hundreds of words from many fields (including Arabic inventions) have been adapted into Catalan; among many are séquia ("irrigation ditch"), nòria ("waterwheel, noria"), algorfa ("loft"), magatzem ("warehouse"), alfàbia ("earthenware jar"), barnús ("bathrobe"), aladroc ("anchovy"), dacsa ("corn"), safanòria ("carrot"), carxofa ("artichoke"), albergínia ("aubergine"), xirivia ("parsnip"), alfals ("alfalfa"), albercoc ("apricot"), tramús ("lupin"), corfa ("bark, peel"), xara ("thicket"), matalaf/matalàs ("mattress"), alacrà ("scorpion"), fardatxo ("lizard") alfàb(r)ega ("basil"), etc. and expressions such as a la babalà ("randomly, to God's will") and a betzef ("abundance, plenty").


Most places of the Land of Valencia have retained their name in Arabic, such as Alicante/Alacant, Alzira, Almassora, etc. Also, a great number of places have the Arabic roots Beni, Bena and Bene, which mean "son of" or "sons of":


Like other European languages, English contains many words derived from Arabic, often through other European languages, especially Spanish. Among them is every-day vocabulary like "sugar" (sukkar), "cotton" (quṭn) or "magazine" (maḫāzin). More recognizable are words like "algebra" (al-jabr), "alcohol" (al-kuhūl), "alchemy" ("al-kimiya"), "alkali", "cypher" and "zenith" (see list of English words of Arabic origin).

A more indirect form of influence is the use of certain Latinate words in an unclassical sense, derived from their use in Latin translations of medieval Arabic philosophical works (e.g. those of Averroes), which entered the scholastic vocabulary and later came into normal use in modern languages. Examples are "information" to mean the imparting or acquisition of knowledge (Arabic taṣawwur, mental impression or representation, from a root meaning "form") and "intention" (Arabic mac, meaning). These words may almost be regarded as calques.


French is widely spoken as a second language in France's former colonies in the Maghreb. Therefore, the list of words that are used or incorporated into the French spoken in this region (as a result of code-switching, convenience or lack of an equivalent term in standard French) is potentially endless. Such arabisms, are accepted within the local context but would not normally be known by non-maghrebi French speakers.

Arabic-derived words have entered standard or metropolitan French from two main sources. As is the case for many other European languages, one principal source was Spanish. The other was directly from Maghrebi Arabic as a result of the occupation and colonisation of the Maghreb, particularly Algeria, in the 19th and 20th centuries. Examples of the latter include 'bled', a slang term for place of origin, following this word's usage in the Maghreb, as opposed to the Standard Arabic balad, 'country', along with the Maghrebi term 'kif kif' and 'tabeeb', a slang term for 'doctor'. A small number of Arabic terms have entered mainstream French as a result of immigration from North Africa which began after the independence of Algeria. Other slang terms such as "niquer" (to have sex) were taken from Oriental Arabic during Napoleon's occupation of Egypt.


Dozens of Arabic words occur in Interlingua, frequently because their co-occurrence in such languages as English, French, Italian, Spanish, and Portuguese can be used to verify their internationality. Many of these words entered Interlingua's vocabulary through Spanish. Arabic words in Interlingua include "algebra", "alcohol", "cifra" (cypher), "magazin", "sucro" (sugar), "zenit", and "zero".


There are far fewer Arabic loanwords in Javanese than Sanskrit loanwords, and they are usually concerned with Islamic religion. Nevertheless, some words have entered the basic vocabulary, such as pikir ("to think", from the Arabic fikr), badan ("body"), mripat ("eye", thought to be derived from the Arabic ma'rifah, meaning "knowledge" or "vision"). However, these Arabic words typically have native Austronesian or Sanskrit alternatives: pikir = galih, idhĕp (Austronesian) and manah, cipta, or cita (from Sanskrit); badan = awak (Austronesian) and slira, sarira, or angga (from Sanskrit); and mripat = mata (Austronesian and Tagalog [Philippines]) and soca or netra (from Sanskrit).


In Indonesian and Malaysian Malay, the loanwords from Arabic are mainly concerned with religion, in particular with Islam, but to a lesser extent Christianity. Words of Arabic origin include dunia (from Arabic: دنيا dunya = the present world), Sabtu (from Arabic: السبت as-sabt = Saturday), khabar or kabar (خبر ḵabar = news), selamat/salam (سلام salām = a greeting), Jumaat or Jumat (الجمعة al-jumʿa = Friday), ijazah (إجازة ijāza = vacation), kitab (كتاب kitāb = book), tertib (ترتيب tartīb = orderly) and kamus (قاموس qāmūs = dictionary).

Christian usage

Ilah (Arabic: إله) is the word for God even in Christian Bible translations.

Many early Bible translators, when they came across some unusual Hebrew words or proper names, used the Arabic cognates. In the newer translations this practice is discontinued. They now turn to Greek names or use the original Hebrew Word. For example, the name Jesus was initially translated as 'Isa (Arabic: عيسى), but is now spelt as Yesus. Several ecclesiastical terms derived from Arabic still exist in Indonesian and Malaysian clerical use.

The Malay word for bishop is uskup (from Arabic: اسقف usquf = bishop, ultimately from Ancient Greek episkopos[2]). This in turn makes the derived term for "archbishop" uskup agung (literally great bishop), which is combining the Arabic word with an Old Javanese word. The term imam (from Arabic: امام imām = leader, prayer leader) is used to translate a Catholic priest, beside its more common association with an Islamic prayer leader. Some Protestant denominations refer to their congregation as jemaat (from Arabic: جماعة jamā'a = group, community). Even the name of the Bible in Indonesian translation is Alkitab (from Arabic: كتاب kitāb = book), which literally means "the Book".


The Arab conquest of Iran lasted for two centuries, from the 7th to the 9th CE. Arabic gradually replaced Middle Persian as an official language and Arabic became the language of the Persian intellectuals during Golden Age of Islam. During this period, many Arabic words were imported into the Persian language, and a number of Persian words found their way into Arabic. Persian words of Arabic origin especially include Islamic terms. Arabic has had an extensive influence on the Persian lexicon, but it has not greatly affected the structure of the language. Although a considerable portion of the lexicon is derived from Arabic roots, including some of the Arabic plural patterns, the morphological process used to obtain these lexical elements has not been imported into Persian and is not productive in the language.

These Arabic words have been imported and lexicalized in Persian. So, for instance, the Arabic plural form for ketāb (كتاب) ["book"] is kotob (كتب) obtained by the root derivation system. In Persian, the plural for the lexical word ketâb is obtained by simply adding the Persian plural morpheme : ketāb+hāketābhā (كتاب‌ها). Also, any new Persian words can only be pluralized by the addition of this plural morpheme since the Arabic root system is not a productive process in Persian. In addition, since the plurals formed by the Arabic morphological system constitute only a small portion of the Persian vocabulary (about 5% in the Shiraz corpus), it is not necessary to include them in the morphology; they are instead listed in the dictionary as irregular forms.

In fact, among Iranians there have been sporadic efforts as far back as the Safavid Empire to revive Persian and diminish the use of Arabic loanwords in their language. Both Pahlavi Shahs supported such efforts in the 20th century by creating the academy of Persian Language and Literature. In 1934, Reza Shah ordered to rebuild tomb of Ferdowsi, who is regarded as the savior of Persian language, and set up a ceremony in Mashhad, celebrating a thousand years of Persian literature since the time of Ferdowsi, titled Ferdowsi Millenary Celebration (Persian: جشن هزاره فردوسی‎).

Academy of Persian language and literature after the Iranian revolution continued its striving to protect the integrity of the Persian language. However, the attention of the academy has been turned towards the persistent infiltration of Persian, like many other languages, with English words, as a result of the globalization process. Since the 1980s, the academy constantly campaigns for the use of the Persian equivalents of these new English loanwords. It also has the task of linguistically deriving such words from existing Persian roots if no such equivalents exist, and actively promoting the adoption of these new coinages instead of their English equivalents in the daily lives of the Persian-speaking people in Iran, Afghanistan and Tajikistan.


Between the 9th century and up to 1249[3] when the Arabs were expelled from the Algarve, Portuguese acquired words (between 400 and 600 estimate[4]) from Arabic by influence of Moorish Iberia. Although the native population spoke the Lusitanian-Mozarabic, they kept some Mozarabic-derived words. These are often recognizable by the initial Arabic article a(l)-, and include common words such as aldeia "village" from الضيعة aḍ-ḍīcah, alface "lettuce" from الخس al-khass, armazém "warehouse" from المخزن al-makhzan, and azeite "olive oil" from الزيت az-zayt. From Arabic came also the grammatically peculiar word oxalá "God willing". The frequency of Arabic toponyms increases as one travels south in the country.


In AD 535, Emperor Justinian I made Sicily a Byzantine province, and for the second time in Sicilian history, the Greek language became a familiar sound across the island (Hull, 1989). As the power of the Byzantine Empire waned, Sicily was progressively conquered by Arab Muslims , from the mid 9th to mid 10th centuries. The Arabic language influence is noticeable in around 800 Sicilian words, many of which relate to agriculture and related activities (Hull and Ruffino).

Sicilian words of Arabic origin include azzizzari (to embellish, from cazīz; precious, beautiful), cafisu (measure for liquids, from qafiz), gèbbia (artificial pond, from gabiya), giuggiulena (sesame seed, from giulgiulan, ràisi (leader, from ra'īs), saia (canal, from saqiya), and zibbibbu (a type of grape, from zabib). (Giarrizzo)


The Spanish language has been influenced by Arabic as a result of the long Islamic presence within the Iberian Peninsula, beginning with the Islamic conquest in 711-718 AD until the conquest of the last Islamic kingdom in 1492 AD. Modern day Spanish, also called Castilian, gradually evolved from Vulgar Latin centuries after the Muslim conquest and was thus influenced by Arabic from its inception. Arabic influence increased when the expanding Kingdom of Castile spread southward, conquering territory from Muslim kingdoms during the Christian Reconquista. The Mozarabs, that had lived under Muslim rulers and had spoken their own varieties of Arabic-influenced romance (known today by scholars as the Mozarabic languages), probably had a formative influence on the language and indirectly contributed Arabic vocabulary. The presence of Mozarabic refugees can explain the presence of Arabic toponyms in areas of Northern Spain where Islamic rule was shorter. The only Iberian Muslim kingdom in which Arabic was the sole language at all levels of society was the Kingdom of Granada in the time of the Nasrid dynasty.

In many cases, both Arabic and Latin derived words are used interchangeably by Spanish speakers. For example, aceituna and oliva (olive), alacrán and escorpión (scorpion), jaqueca and migraña (headache) or alcancía and hucha (piggy bank). The influence of Arabic, whether directly or through Mozarabic, is more noticeable in the Spanish dialects of southern Spain, where the Arabic influence was heavier and of a much longer duration. The same difference also exists between Catalan and Valencian and in some cases, between Galician and Portuguese.

The Arabic influence can be seen in hundreds of toponyms but with a few minor exceptions, its influence on Spanish is primarily lexical. It is estimated that there are over two thousand Arabic loanwords and three thousand derivatives in the Spanish dictionary, making it 8% of the Spanish language. In the Middle Ages, Spanish was the main route by which Arabic words entered other West European languages. The majority of these words are nouns, with a more limited number of verbs, adjectives, adverbs and one preposition. Everyday Arabic loanwords include rincón (corner, from rukkan), aceite (oil, from az-zayt), and alcalde (mayor, from al-qādī), ahorrar (to save, from hurr), tarea (task, from tariha) and hasta (until, from hatta).


Following the adoption of Islam c. 950 by the Kara-Khanid Khanate and the Seljuq Turks, regarded as the cultural ancestors of the Ottomans, the administrative and literary languages of these states acquired a large collection of loanwords from Arabic (usually by way of Persian), as well as non-Arabic Persian words: a leading example of a Perso-Arabic influenced Turkic language was Chagatai, which remained the literary language of Central Asia until Soviet times. During the course of over six hundred years of the Ottoman Empire (c. 1299–1922), the literary and official language of the empire was a mixture of Turkish, Persian and Arabic, which differed considerably from the everyday spoken Turkish of the time, and is termed Ottoman Turkish.

After the foundation of the Republic of Turkey, and following the script reform, the Turkish Language Association (TDK) was established under the patronage of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk in 1932, with the aim of conducting research on Turkish. One of the tasks of the newly established association was to initiate a language reform to replace loanwords of Arabic and Persian origin with Turkish equivalents.[5] By banning the usage of replaced loanwords in the press, the association succeeded in removing several hundred foreign words from the language, thus diminishing but by no means erasing the Arabic influence on Turkish.

See also


  1. ^ Maltese language - Britannica Online Encyclopedia
  2. ^ "bishop | Origin and meaning of bishop by Online Etymology Dictionary". www.etymonline.com. Retrieved 2020-11-19.
  3. ^ http://ler.letras.up.pt/uploads/ficheiros/6410.pdf
  4. ^ Infopédia. "Influência Árabe na Evolução da Língua Nacional - Infopédia". Infopédia - Dicionários Porto Editora (in Portuguese). Retrieved 2020-11-19.
  5. ^ See Lewis (2002) for a thorough treatment of the Turkish language reform.

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