How Other Languages Borrowed Words From Arabic

How Other Languages Borrowed Words From Arabic

Did you know that Arabic has influenced other languages like English, Spanish, and French? Of course, one could totally understand how Arabic has had a major linguistic influence on other non-Arab Islamic countries such as Pakistan, Turkey or Iran because Arabic is the only language of the Quran, so naturally  the influence of the Arabic language has had a strong influence on the language of non-Arab countries where Islam is the main religion. Let’s take Turkey, for example. You may know that, geographically speaking, Turkey covers an area that is half on the European continent and half on the Asian continent. The national language is Turkish, but because its main religion is Islam, the Arabic language has been preserved through the Quran, thereby directly influencing the Turkish language.

So, how did Arabic expand its influence so deep into the languages of the West? Many centuries ago, the main language of politics and commerce was internationally known as Arabic. When the Islamic Empire grew into the Mediterranean region sometime between the 8th and 12th centuries, Arabic became hugely influential among other cultures.

The following are the top three languages that some words from the Arabic language has seeped into, including a few borrowed words examples:

Influence Of Arabic On English

English borrowed some words from Arabic through other European languages like Spanish. Also, words and information were transmitted by soldiers returning home from the crusades. One thing needs to be noted: the Arab world was a great global contributor to the sciences of astrology, alchemy, mathematics and medicine. Therefore, it was only natural that some of the technical terms are borrowed words in English, but not limited to only those technical terms.

Sugar in Arabic: sukkar (السكر)

Cotton in Arabic: quṭn (قطن)

Algebra in Arabic: al-jabr (الجبر)

Alcohol in Arabic: al-kuhūl (الكحول)

Cave in Arabic: kahif (كهف)

Gazelle in Arabic: ghazal (غزال)

Lemon in Arabic: limun (ليمون)

Guitar in Arabic: ghytar (غيتار)

Influence Of Arabic On Spanish

Spanish has borrowed many words from the Arabic language due to 800 years of Arab dominion in the region, and Arabic seems to have had the more of an impact on the Spanish language called Catalan than on any of the Spanish dialects spoken in the other regions in Spain. The Arabs even called the Iberian Peninsula as al-andalus, a word which exists even in present-day Spain to denote a community there where the people are known as the Andalusians.

Aubergine (albergínia) in Arabic: badhanjan (باذنجان)

Bathrobe (barnús) in Arabic: barns alhamam(برنس الحمام)

Olive (aceituna) in Arabic: zaytun (زيتون)

Waterwheel (nòria) in Arabic: naeura (ناعورة)

Artichoke (cachofa) in Arabic: kharshuf (خرشوف)

Influence of Arabic in French

At some point France colonized the region known as Maghreb, a region in the north-west area of Africa mostly consisting of the countries of Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, Libya and Mauritania. French became the second language of these colonized regions, so it was only natural that some Arabic words permeated the language. You can see the French words below that derived from Arabic:

Apricot (abricot) in Arabic: barqūq (أَلْبَرْقُوق)

Magistrate (alcade) in Arabic: al-qāḍi (القاض)

Country (colloquial French bled) in Arabic: balad (بلد)

Tariff (tariff) in Arabic: taerifa (تعريفة)

Technically speaking, any Romance language will have Arabic influences due to conquering of the European empires within the region. You can find words of Arabic even in the Romanian, Portuguese, German and Italian languages.

We at believe that the study of languages can be fascinating as you learn how they came about, how they influenced other regions and how they have evolved over time. Surely, we can all agree that the Arabic language has made great contributions to many other languages, cultures and sciences.

Gary Greer

Gary Greer was born and raised in the United States.  After an eight year stint in the U.S. Army in 1992, he attended Delaware State University to pursue his B.A. in English Communications to become a writer. Since then he has traveled the globe, living in the Europe and the Middle East, working for such prestigious organizations as the U.S. Army, NAPA Auto Parts, and AMIDEAST, and other well-known organizations, as well.  Gary came to Jordan in 2005, bringing with him a wealth of experience in the fields of Business and Education, and has since implemented and taught specialized English and Business training courses in the Business, Hospitality, Medical and Legal sectors throughout Jordan for TE Data, The Nuqul Group, The Ministry of Justice, The Ministry of Information and Communication Technology, UNRWA, and the Mövenpick and Kempinski Hotels, among others. Along with teaching, he has also pursued his dream of becoming a writer and has written and done the voice-over narration of two travel documentaries about Jordan for Seven Stars television worked as an editor for Family Flavours magazine and acted in television advertisements for USAID. He now works as a content writer for

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