English words of Arabic origin

English words of Arabic origin

Its influence on Spanish is perhaps better known, but Arabic, largely due to the Islamic Golden Age (8th to 13th century), has also penetrated the English language. Indeed, even today there are several English words of Arabic origin commonly used, five examples of which are listed below:


5 English Words of Arabic Origin 


  • Alcohol

The term comes from the Arabic word al-kuhl (the kohl), a form of eyeliner. As this cosmetic was made via an extraction process from a mineral, European chemists began to refer to anything involving extraction / distillation as alcohol. Therefore, although much of the Arabic-speaking world remains alcohol-free, the Arabic language can claim responsibility for naming one of the West’s favourite forms of consumption.


  • Arsenal

Today, London-based Arsenal Football Club enjoys worldwide popularity, but few of its followers would realize that its moniker comes from the Arabic term dār al-sināʿa, which literally means “house of manufacturing”, a convenient description when one considers how many raw talents its manager Arsene Wenger has turned into the final article over the past 20 years or so.


  • Coffee

Nowadays you don’t have to walk far for an overpriced cappuccino, but the name for coffee may have travelled further than you might imagine. Arabia originally got its coffee from eastern Africa and called it qahwah; this was then shuttled to Turkey where it was dubbed kahve before being embraced by the Italians who called it caffè. By the time this workplace-necessity reached Britain, it came to be known as coffee.


  • Sofa

The Arabic word suffa refers to a raised, carpeted platform on which people sat. The word passed through the Turkish language before resting in English as sofa, a term which sits well today with English-speakers.


  • And finally…

The English names of the splendorous produce listed below are derived from Arabic extraction…

Apricot, artichoke, aubergine, candy, lemon, orange, spinach, sugar, sultana, tangerine, and tuna – to name but a few.


Further English words of Arabic origins can be found here.






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