WORD LISTS

English Words Derived from Arabic

January 24, 2020
All of the English words on this lists have Arabic origins. While some, like caliph and imam, clearly come from Arabic sources, you might be surprised to discover that algebra, chemistry, and zero are also derived from Arabic. Learn these words that contribute to the richness and variety of the English language.
admiral
He spent his career in the Navy, achieving the rank of admiral and last serving in Tampa, Fla., as the commander of special operations.
afghan
Sunshine, in fact, bathed the entire afghan, and the play of warm, brilliant light in the pale-blue wool was in itself well worth beholding.
alchemy
It seemed so simple and so prodigious at the same time that overnight he lost all interest in his experiments in alchemy.
alcove
It was a small house, a lot like our apartment except for two extra rooms: a small dining room and a small alcove off the living room.
algebra
A student must become adept with numbers and other symbols, various rules of algebra and calculus to manipulate symbols, and several functions.
algorithm
“We are developing algorithms that self-learn based on bodily reactions,” he said, referring to the machine-generated code that determines the vehicle’s path.
amber
With its yellow-brown translucence, amber is beautiful on its own, but it is prized by scientists because of what is sometimes found within: flora and fauna.
arabesque
There was no decoration on the outside, no roses, no arabesques.
arsenal
Earlier this month, they unveiled new weapons technology that they said would let them develop a more advanced arsenal of ballistic missiles.
assassinate
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. fought for civil rights and economic justice during his career as a minister and social activist, eventually losing his life after being assassinated in 1968.
caliph
Later on in that century, following the death of the Prophet Muhammad, a dispute erupted over who should succeed as "khalifa", or caliph, to rule the burgeoning Islamic empire.
chemistry
Arnold works as a chemical engineer at the California Institute of Technology and won the Nobel Prize in chemistry with two other scientists for their work on the evolution of enzymes.
cipher
In a cipher, each letter in a message is replaced by another letter or a number.
decipher
Before children learn to read, they learn to decipher pictures: smiling faces, furry animals, snowflakes.
elixir
Sammy was seeking the elixir of life, “the great panacea” pursued by centuries of alchemists.
emir
The emirs of Kuwait and Qatar, the king of Bahrain and the Tunisian president were among the foreign leaders who travelled to Muscat for the ceremony at al-Alam Palace.
ghoul
One grave in every graveyard belongs to the ghouls.
imam
Amu, “uncle” in Arabic, is Mom’s brother and the imam, or prayer leader, of the mosque here in town.
minaret
At Samarra, in northern Iraq, I climbed to the top of the wondrous spiral minaret of what was once the town's Great Mosque.
nadir
All this churned the stomachs of French voters and sent his popularity plunging to a nadir from which it never recovered.
sultan
The sultan is the paramount decision-maker in Oman, and also holds the positions of prime minister, supreme commander of the armed forces, minister of defence, minister of finance and minister of foreign affairs.
zero
It uses a scale on which 100 is very clean and zero is very corrupt.

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