Shortcut to learning Arabic?

I got all excited when I started to see lists of hundreds of English words of Arabic origin listed on facebook and online.  I was thinking – ‘YAY! Instant Arabic vocabulary!’  But beware – while these words may have had an Arabic origin way back in time, they have often come into English via other languages and so are not pronounced at all similarly. This means many of them are useless to the dancer trying to learn the basics of the language.

Here is a portion of a tantalising list that is of limited use to dancers and is really mostly of use to linguists. Some words probably are close enough to translate well but how do you know which ones? You are better off just learning words you would actually use off native speakers.

“You may think you don’t speak Arabic but there are more words of Arabic origin in English than you might expect ...

adobe
alchemy
alcohol
alcove
alfalfa
algebra
algorithm
alkali
almanac
amalgam
apricot
artichoke
camel
camphor
candy
cane
cannabis
check
checkmate
cinnabar
coffee
copt
cotton
crimson
crocus
cumin
halva
harem
hashish
hookah
jar
jasmine
jerboa
jessamine
lacquer
lake
lilac
lime
lute
magazine
mahdi
marabout
marzipan
massacre
massage
mastaba
mate
minaret
mizzen
monsoon
mosque
popinjay
safari
saffron
sequin
sesame
shackle
sherbet
shrub
sofa
spinach
sugar
sultan
sultana
talc
talisman
tambourine
zero

I found a  list that looks more useful in terms of similar pronunciation from http://blogs.transparent.com/arabic/english-words-of-arabic-origin/  but unfortunately I don’t think many of these words would come up in songs!

I have this Abou El Leef album – such a funny cover!

“Some words of Arabic origin:

  1. Amber “العنبر”  (anbar)
  2. Crimson “قرمزي”  (karmazi)
  3. Elixir “إكسير” (ikseer)
  4. Carat “قيراط” (kirat)
  5. Cotton “القطن” (al-kutn)
  6. Sherbet “شربات” (sharabat)
  7. Tahini “الطحينة” (tahina)
  8. Chipher / zero “صفر” (sifr)
  9. Mask / mascara “المسكرة” (mascara)
  10. Alcohol “الكحول” (al-kohool)
  11. Hazard “زهر” (zahr)
  12. Caliber “قالب” (ka’leb)
  13. Jar “جرة” (jarra)
  14. Chemistry “الكيمياء” (al-keemya’a)

* A side note: While “magazine” is commonly used in English to describe printed publications, the origin of its Arabic equivalent “ماغازين”, (makhazeen), is obsolete. Today we use a similar word to describe a storehouse:  ”مخزن” (makhzan). Ironically, we have now adopted the English meaning of this word (magazine, as in a publication) even though its Arabic roots mean something entirely different.”

Another difficulty is that Arabic has many dialects – words are pronounced quite differently in say Lebanese compared to Egyptian.

carob beans

Never-the-less apparently carob, henna and lemon would probably be understood and thankfully the loan word thing works the other way too with words like sandwich, bank, taxi, menu being used in Egypt and people seemed to understand me when I used them their too. Abou El Leef has a song called ‘Taxi’ but I have yet to hear the words carob or sand-a-wich in any of my Arabic music!

Do you know any English words that are commonly understood in Arabic? (or songs with carob in them, LOL!) I would love to learn more.  Please comment below.

4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: Types of Arabic Collocation « Catatan Harianku
  2. Intermittante
    Jul 11, 2012 @ 19:39:21

    “A side note: While “magazine” is commonly used in English to describe printed publications, the origin of its Arabic equivalent “ماغازين”, (makhazeen), is obsolete. Today we use a similar word to describe a storehouse: ”مخزن” (makhzan).”

    In Dutch, the word “magazijn” is a storage location. It fits well with the storehouse makhzan 🙂

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