10 English words borrowed from Arabic

The Muslim world has given birth to many thinkers and many inventions – among them the three-course meal, alcohol and coffee. The best coffee bean is still known as Arabica, but it’s come a long way from the Muslim mystics who treasured it centuries ago, to the chains that line our high streets.

  1. The word cheque comes from the Arabic wordsaqq, and reflects the sophistication of finance in Arab countries in the early middle ages
  2. The word algorithm is derived from the name of Abū Abdallah Muḥammad ibn Musa al-Khwarizmi whose name (al-Khwarizmi) is, in Latin, Algoritmi
  3. Cipher comes from Arabic sifr, meaning “zero, naught, nothing”
  4. The word for cotton derives from the Arabic qutn
  5. Ghoul is an Arabic word for “a desert demon which can appear in different forms and shapes; an ogre or cannibal”
  6. The English magazine is a word borrowed from the Arabic makhzan, meaning “storehouse”
  7. Nadir has its origin in Arabic nazir, indicating “opposite, facing, parallel”
  8. Tamarind refers to Arabic tamr hindi, literally meaning “Indian date”
  9. The word safari has its root in the Arabic wordsafar, which means “journey”
  10. Tariff comes from Arabic ta’rif, which means “notification” or “definition”
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