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Friday, March 11, 2005

Checkmate or Shah mat?

Many of us may not be aware that we use numerous words in English that actually originate from Arabic. Here are a few examples of words with interesting origins:

Checkmate: from Shah mat "the king is dead", from the Persian shah for "king" and the Arabic mat for "died"

Assassin (which means Murderer, generally somewhat professional; esp. one who murders a prominent figure): During the time of the Crusades the members of a certain secret Muslim sect engaged people to terrorize their Christian enemies by performing murders as a religious duty. These acts were carried out under the influence of hashish, and so the killers became known as hashshashin, meaning eaters or smokers of hashish. Hashshashin evolved into the word assassin.

Algebra: from al-jabr (literally "repairing")

Mocha (as in coffee): from al-mukhaa, a port in Yemen, noted for its export of the coffee to which it gave its name.

Gibraltar: from Jibal Tarique, the "mountain of Tarique" after the general who led the Muslim conquest of Spain.

Tariff: from ta`riifa "notification, price list"

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Interesting observation!

Also interesting is the number of words in Spanish that have originated from Arabic (for obvious historical reasons):
-Azucar for al-sukkar or sugar,
-Almohada for al-mukhadda or pillow,
-Aceite for al-zeit or oil,
-Algodon for al-coton or cotton...

and the list grows bigger

Great blog! keep it up!

Yes, I've heard abou the hashashin thing I guess that the name of their leader was Sinan, but as I understood they were an ethinic group.

As an aside.. I was surprised to hear the name Janine (like the pal. city) quite often around here..

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