Definition of Arabic in English:

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Pronunciation: /ˈarəbɪk/


[mass noun]
The Semitic language of the Arabs, spoken by some 150 million people throughout the Middle East and North Africa.
Example sentences
  • Dressed in a white forensic suit, he spoke in Arabic through an interpreter to confirm his name.
  • Now he speaks Arabic, understands some grammar and recites and memorizes surahs of Quran.
  • The dialects of spoken Arabic in the Middle East differ a lot as you move from region to region.


Relating to the literature or language of Arab people: Arabic literature a fluent Arabic-speaker
More example sentences
  • The influence of what was produced in that hundred years has left its imprint on Arabic poetry and literature for all times.
  • To an Arab, her bad Arabic accent, probably would have sounded like an English person trying to sound like an Arab.
  • He spoke about teaching of Arabic language and literature.

Arabic is written from right to left in a cursive script of twenty-eight consonants, the vowels being indicated by additional signs. The classical or literary language is based largely on that of the Koran; colloquial Arabic has many dialects. The script has been adapted for various languages, including Persian, Urdu, Malay, and (formerly) Turkish.



(also Arabicisation) noun
Example sentences
  • The M.A. degree by courses is awarded in the following specializations: Arabic Language, English Language, Translation and Arabicization and Diplomatic Studies.
  • The word ‘Jerusalem’ does not appear in the Qur'an but the city is referred to as Iliya ’, an Arabicisation of its Roman name, Aelia, and as Bayt al-maqdis’ (the holy house ’).
  • Fars (under Arabicisation P becomes F) and Persia are virtually interchangeable, much in the same way Holland (the major province) and Netherlands (the nation) are.


(also Arabicise) verb
Example sentences
  • This influx appears to have been made easy by the Christians who lived in Moorish territories: they were known as mozárabes, from Arabic musta'rib, Arabicized.
  • Some Maghreb writers lack fluency in Arabic, while others Arabicize French in their writings, creating a Maghrebian French word order resembling Arabic syntax.
  • Moors reacted to this change by increasing pressure to Arabicize many aspects of Mauritanian life, such as law and language.


Middle English: via Latin arabicus from Greek arabikos, from Araps, Arab- 'Arab', from the Arabic (see Arab).

  • Who put the sugar in your coffee?

    While much of the Western world was in the Dark Ages, Arabic culture was making enormous contributions to art, philosophy, science, and medicine. From medieval times merchants brought Arabic words to the West along with new goods and materials, including those household staples coffee and sugar.

    COFFEE derives from Arabic qahwa, although the word entered English in the late 16th century via Turkish kahveh. Muslims had taken wild plants from Ethiopia and cultivated them in Arabia, from where the drink spread throughout the Arabic world and Turkey, becoming particularly popular in the international metropolis of Constantinople. The word sugar has been in English much longer than coffee, coming in the 13th century by way of Old French and Italian from Arabic sukkar. Candy, the North American term for ‘sweets’, is another Arabic word, from qandī ‘candied’, or clarified and crystallised by repeated boiling.

    Another important commodity was cotton, or in Arabic qutn, known in Britain by the 14th century. More exotic were mohair, which in Arabic was mukayyar, literally ‘choice, select’, and saffron, or za'faran. A sequin was originally a Venetian gold coin whose name came from Arabic sikka, ‘a die for making coins’. Trade often involves customs and tariffs, so it is no surprise that the word tariff itself is from Arabic.

    In Arabic al- means ‘the’, which is reflected in the spellings of albatross, alcohol, alcove, and algebra, and also in many proper names. Al-Qaeda means literally ‘the base’—a reference to the training camp or base in Afghanistan used by the mujahideen, or guerrillas fighting the Russian occupiers, from which the terrorist group developed.

    Islam and Muslim are both from the same word, aslama, meaning ‘to submit, surrender’, or ‘to submit to Allah or God’, and both were first recorded in English in the early 17th century. An ayatollah is a Shiite religious leader in Iran. The word has been used since around 1950 in English, and many people only became aware of it when Ayatollah Khomeini (1900–1989) led the Iranian revolution in 1979. A much more established word in English is imam, the leader of prayers in a mosque, known since the 17th century. The word's root is amma ‘to lead the way’.

    Fatwa was in use in English as early as the 17th century, but it was an obscure and unfamiliar word until 1989, when it suddenly gained new and widespread currency. In this year Ayatollah Khomeini issued a fatwa sentencing the British writer Salman Rushdie (b.1947) to death for publishing The Satanic Verses, a novel regarded by many Muslims as blasphemous. Fatwa is a generic term for any legal decision made by an Islamic religious authority, but, because of the particular way in which the English-speaking world became familiar with it, the term is sometimes wrongly thought to refer to a death sentence.

    Another word often misunderstood by non-Muslims in the West is jihad. It is generally taken to mean ‘war by Muslims against non-believers’, yet this is only a small part of the word's meaning. In Arabic jihād literally means ‘effort’, and expresses the idea of struggle on behalf of God and Islam, of which war is but one small part. The concept is sometimes divided into lesser jihad, or struggle against unbelievers or oppressors, and greater jihad, a person's spiritual struggle against sin.

    See also elixir, giraffe, lemon, orange, sofa, zero

Words that rhyme with Arabic


For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: Arab¦ic

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