Arabic Language Blog

50 English Words of Arabic Origin Posted by on Mar 6, 2018 in Arabic Language, Vocabulary

The influence of Arabic on some European languages was due to the Arab conquest of Spain, Portugal, and parts of France. Also, for over six centuries, Arabic culture was highly prestigious which added to this linguistic influence. Hundreds of words in Spanish, French, Portuguese, and English are borrowed from Arabic. Some of these words have been slighted altered to suit these languages respective sound system, and some are still pronounced as they sound in Arabic. This post is about 50 English words that are of Arabic origin.

1) Alchemy

Alchemy is from الكِيْمِيَاء ‘chemistry, the art of transmuting metals.’

2) Alcohol

Alcohol is from الكُحُول ‘alcohol, liquid produced by fermenting sugar, starch and other substances’

3) Algebra

Algebra is from الجَبْر ‘algebra, a branch of mathematics in which letters/symbols are used to represent unknown numbers.’

4) Algorithm

Algorithm is from الخُوَارِزْمِي ‘algorithm, decimal notation of numbers, named after الخَوَارِزْمِي, a famous Arabic mathematician.’

5) Alkali

Alkali is from القَلْي ‘alkali, caustic substance that dissolves in water.’

6) Amber

Amber is from عَنْبَر ‘amber, a wax-like produced in the intestines of whales and found floating in tropical seas and used in perfume manufacture.’

7) Apricot

Apricot is from البَرْقُوق ‘apricot, an orange-yellow soft fruit, resembling a small peach.’

8) Arsenal

Arsenal is from دَار الصِّنَاعَة ‘arsenal, the store of weapons and ammunition, from دَار “house” and صِنَاعَة “industry”, the house of industry.’

9) Assassin

Assassin is from حَشَّاشِيْن ‘assassin, militant fanatics of Shiite Ismaili branch of Islam that ruled large of the Islamic State during the 12th to the 14th centuries and were used to send to assassin whoever opposed the Ismaili State.

10) Athanor

Athanor is from التَّنُّور ‘furnace used by alchemists, from الـ “the” and تَنُّوْر “baker’s oven”.’

11) Attar

Attar is from عِطْر ‘perfume, essence.’

12) Bulbul

Bulbul is from بُلْبُل ‘a songbird’

13) Cadi

Cadi is from قَاضِي ‘a judge.’

14) Caliph

Caliph is from خَلِيْفَة ‘caliph, the chief Muslim civil and religious leader.’

15) Camphor

Camphor is from كَافُوْر ‘camphor, a white crystalline substance that evaporates easily and has aromatic smell, used in insect repellents and in manufacturing celluloid.’

16) Candy

Candy is from قَنْد ‘candy, the frozen honey that is extracted from sugarcane.’

17) Carob

Carob is from خَرُّوْب ‘carob, the edible brownish-purple sweet pod of an Arabian tree from which carob juice is made and sweet powder is made and used in chocolate.’

18) Coffee

Coffee is from قَهْوَة ‘coffee, a hot drink made from roasted and ground the coffee shrub seeds.’

19) Cotton

Cotton is from قُطْن ‘cotton, a soft white fibrous substance which surrounds the seeds of the cotton plant and is used as textile and thread for sewing.’

20) Curcuma

Curcuma is from كُرْكُم ‘curcuma, a plant of a genus that includes turmeric and other species yielding spices, dyes, and medicinal products.’

21) Dragoman

Dragoman is from تُرْجُمَان ‘dragoman, an interpreter.’

22) Durra

Durra is from ذُرَة ‘durra, sorghum grains.’

23) Gazelle

Gazelle is from غَزَال ‘gazelle, a small antelope.’

24) Ghoul

Ghoul is from غُوْل ‘ghoul, an evil spirit which Arabs believe appear in different shapes that misguide them and eventually eat them, some believe it is an imaginary animal that does not exist.’

25) Giraffe

Giraffe is from زَرَافَة ‘giraffe, the tallest living animal.’

26) Harem

Harem is from حَرِيْم ‘harem, the females in the Muslim household.’

27) Hashish

Hashish is from حَشِيْش ‘hashish, cannabis’

28) Henna

Henna is from حِنَّاء ‘henna, powdered leaves of a tropical shrub, used as a reddish-brown dye color the hands and hair.’

29) Howdah

Howdah is from هَوْدَج ‘howdah, a seat with an umbrella-like cover used for riding on the back of a camel, especially for women.’

30) Jar

Jar is from جَرَّة ‘jar, a wide-mouthed cylindrical container made of pottery.’

31) Jinn

Jinn is from جِنّ ‘jinn, an intelligent spirit able to appear in human and animal form.’

32) Lemon

Lemon is from لَيْمُون ‘lemon’

33) Lute

Lute is from العُوْد ‘lute, a stringed instrument with a long neck and a rounded body with a flat front.’

34) Magazine

Magazine is مَخْزَن ‘magazine, store for arms, products, grains, and alike.’

35) Mattress

Mattress is from مَطْرَح ‘mattress, the place where a rug/mat is spread out to lie / sleep on.’

36) Minaret

Minaret is from مَنَارَة ‘minaret, a slender tower, especially that of a mosque, from the top of which calls for prayers are announced.’

37) Nadir

Nadir is from نَظِيْر ‘nadir, in astronomy the celestial sphere directly below and observer.’

38) Noria

Noria is from نَاعُوْرَة ‘a device from raising water from a stream, consisting of a chain of buckets revolving around a wheel driven by the current.’

39) Popinjay

Popinjay is from بَبَغَاء ‘popinjay, a parrot.’

40) Quintal

Quintal is from قِنْطَار ‘quintal, a unit of weight equal to 100 pounds.’

41) Saffron

Saffron is from زَعْفَرَان ‘saffron, an orange-yellow spice used for flavoring and coloring food.’

42) Sahib

Sahib is from صَاحِب ‘sahib, friend.’

43) Salep

Salep is from سَحْلَب ‘salep, a hot drink made from powder that is take from orchid and may be used as thickener in cookery.’

44) Simoom

Simoom is from سَمُوْم ‘simoom, a hot dry wind. ‘

45) Sofa

Sofa is from صُفَّة ‘sofa, a seat with an umbrella-like cover from the sun rays next to big mosques.’

46) Sugar

Sugar is from سُكَّر ‘sugar, a sweet substance extracted from sugarcane or red beet.’

47) Sumac

Sumac is from سُمَّاق ‘sumac, a small tree the fruits of which are used as a spice in Arabic food.’

48) Syrup

Syrup is from شَرَاب ‘syrup, beverage, often made of sugar and water.’

49) Tamarind

Tamarind is from تَمْر هِنْدِي ‘tamarind, tamarind pods from a tropical African tree used to make drinks.’

50) Tariff

Tariff is from تَعْرِيْف ‘tariff; to make known or to notify; a list of prices of items, wages small works, and alike.’

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About the Author: Ibnulyemen اِبْنُ اليَمَن

Marhaban! I am from Yemen. I am a language teacher. I teach English and Arabic. In this blog, I will be leading you through Arabic language learning in a sequential fashion. I will focus on Modern Standard Arabic. To learn more, you can also visit my website Ibnulyemen Arabic or my facebook page.


  1. Marvin:


  2. David:

    I believe I read somewhere that بلبل was of Persian origin!

    • Ibnulyemen:

      @David I don’t think so as the word has multiple meanings in Arabic, as verbs and nouns and all of which resemble to some degree the sound of the bulbul.