Arabic Language Blog

Arabic in the Sky: Top 200+ Astronomical Words of Arabic Origin Posted by on Feb 22, 2012 in Arabic Language, Culture, Vocabulary

In fact, most of the astronomical terms referring to stars today come from Arabic, while others are Greek, and some remain of origin unknown. Some of the very old star names originated with people who dwelled in شبه الجزيـــــــــرة العربيــــــــة (the Arabian Peninsula) several thousand years ago. But then, with the spread of Islam, many stars were assigned names in Arabic, mainly as a result of the science movement initiated by institutions such as بَيْتُ الحِكْمَــــــــــــــةِ (The House of Wisdom), which took upon themselves the daunting task of developing further th pre-existing works of Indian and Greek astronomers. That is how, for example, Ptolemy‘s book المجسطي (Almagest) could reach Europe in the 12th century only thanks to its Arabic translation.

On today’s topic, “Arabic in the Sky”: The page of Robert Lebling -where the main picture is taken from- is strongly *مُوصَـــــــــــــــــــى بِه* (recommended)

Muslim astronomers adopted some of Ptolemy’s names, and added many more in what is known as “Zij” books, most prominent of which is “The Book of Fixed Stars” by Persian astronomer عبدالرحمن صُــــــــــوفي (Abd al-Rahman al-Sufi), known to Europeans as “Azophi.” The Europeans of the Renaissance would in turn translate these Arabic terms into Latin, which explains why they can sometimes sound pretty funny to some people!  

  • Achernar Akhir an-Nahr End of the river “Another River” اخر النهر
  • Acrab Al-‘Aqrab The Scorpion عقرب
  • Acubens Az-Zubana The claw الزبانى
  • Adhafera Ad-Dafirah The curl “Plexus” الضفيره
  • Adhara Al-‘Adhara The maidens “Virgins” العذارى
  • Adib Al-dhi’b The Wolf الذئب
  • Adhil Al-Dhayl The Tail الذيل
  • Ain ‘Ain “(Bull’s) Eye” عين
  • Albali Al-Bali’ The Swallower البالع
  • Alchibah Al-Khiba’ The Tent الخباء
  • Aldebaran Al-Dabaran “The follower” of the Pleiades الدبران
  • Alderamin Adh-Dhira’ al-Yamin The right arm الذراع الايمن
  • Alfirk Al-Firq The flock “Difference” الفرق
  • Algedi Al-Jady The Capricorn الجدي
  • Algenib Al-Janb The flank Side الجنب
  • Algieba Al-Jabhah “The Forehead” of the Lion “Front” الجبهة
  • Algebar Al-Jabbar The Titan, or The Giant الجبّار 
  • Algol Al-Ghul The Ghoul رأس الغول
  • Algorab Al-Ghurab The Crow الغراب
  • Alhena Al-Han’ah The Mark of the Brand الهنعه
  • Alioth Al-Jawn The Black Horse “John” الجون
  • Alkaid Al-Qa’id “The leader” of the mourning maidens “Commander” القائد
  • Alkes Al-Ka’s The cup الكأس
  • Almak ‘Anaq al-Ard The “Hugger of the Ground” عناق الأرض
  • Almeisan Al-Maisan The Shining one “Libration” الميسان
  • Alnair An-Nayyir The Bright one “Yoke” النّيّر
  • Alnilam An-Nidham The String of pearls “Systems” النّظم
  • Alnitak An-Nitaq The Belt “Scale” النطاق
  • Alnasl Al-nasl The Arrowhead “Blade” النصل
  • Alphard Al-Fard The Solitary one “Individual” الفرد
  • Alphecca Al-Fakkah “The broken” ring of stars “Humorous” الفكه, as in the Arabic word for “humor”: فُكـــــــــاهة
  • Alpheratz Surrat al-Faras The Navel of the Stallion “Navel Persians” سرة الفرس
  • Alrescha Al-Risha’ The Ropes الرشاء
  • Alsafi Al-Athafi The tripods for Cooking on Sigma “Andiron” الأثافي
  • Alsuhail Suhail سهيل
  • Altair Al-Nasr At-Ta’ir “The flying (Eagle)” النّسر الطّائر
  • Altais At-Tais The Great Serpent “Goat” التيس
  • Alterf At-Tarf “The Glance” of the Lion الطرف
  • Aludra Al-‘Udhrah The Maidenhead العذره
  • Alula Australis Al-Qafzah al-Ula “the first leap” القفزة الأولى
  • Alula Borealis Al-Qafzah al-Ula “the first leap” القفزة الأولى
  • Alya Al-Alyah The Mechanism الألية
  • Angetenar ‘Arjat an-Nahr Curve of the river “Winding River” عرجة النهر
  • Ankaa Al-‘Anka’ Phoenix العنقاء
  • Arkab Al-‘Urqub The heel-tendon “Achilles” العرقوب—The name عرقوب is also famous (or rather infamous) for the expression “مواعيد عرقوب“: a person who’s either always late at an appointment or just stands people up! (notice also that its root is an anagram of the word عقرب, meaning “Scorpion”)
  • Arneb Al-Arnab The Hare, or “the Bunny” الأرنب
  • Arrakis Ar-Raqis The Dancer الراقص
  • Atik Al-‘Atiq “The shoulder” of the Pleiades “Responsibility Chandelier” عاتق الثّريّا
  • Auva Al-‘Awwa’ The barker “Howl” العوّاء
  • Azha Al-Udhi The hatching-place اشيانة
  • Baham Al-Biham The livestock سعد البهام
  • Baten Kaitos Batn Qaytus Belly of Cetus بطن قيطس
  • Beid Al-Baid The Eggs بيض
  • Benetnash Banat Na’sh Daughters of the Bier بنات النعش
  • Betelgeuse Yad al-Jauza’ Hand of Gemini يد الجوزاء
  • Botein Al-Butayn The little belly بطين 
  • Caph Al-Kaff “The palm” of the Pleiades الكــف الخضيب
  • Celbalrai Kalb ar-Ra’i The Shepherd’s Dog كلب الراعي
  • Chort Al-Kharat The Rib الخرت
  • Cursa Al-Kursi The Chair الكرسي
  • Dabih Sa’d adh-dhabih The Lucky Star of “the Slaughterer” سّعد الذّابح
  • Deneb Dhanab ad-Dajajah Tail of the fowl ذنب الدجاجة
  • Deneb Dulfim Dhanab ad-Dulfin Tail of the Dolphin ذنب الدّلفين
  • Deneb Algedi Dhanab al-Jady Tail of the Capricorne ذنب الجدي
  • Deneb Kaitos Dhanab Qaytus Tail of Cetus ذنب قيطس
  • Denebola Dhanab al-Asad Tail of the Lion ذنب الاسد
  • Diphda Ad-Difda’ Al-awwal The First Frog الضّفدع الأوّل
  • Dubhe Kahil Ad-Dubb The back of the bear كاهل الدّب
  • Dziban Adh-Dhi’ban The Two Wolves الذئبان
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  1. Peter:

    Hi, could you tell me if there is an Arabic term to which the Latinized form “dargenem” might respond? It occurs in a Renaissance text i’m translating, and according to the author it’s used by Ali ibn Ridwan in his commentary on the Centiloquium (which according to Wikipedia was written not by him but by Ahmad ibn al-Daya).


  2. Peter:

    Dargenem might also be the title of a different work of astronomy.

  3. Peter:

    Also, I wonder if the first word is meant to be darj in the sense of “degree”.