10 English Words That Are Surprisingly of Arabic Origin

The Arabic language is one of the richest languages in the world. It’s the second hardest language to learn. Actually, there are over 300 million Arabic speakers around the world. Even though the English language is the most dominant language in the world when you count native and non-native speakers, there are many English words that are derived from the Arabic language! Here are 10 English words that originally come from the Arabic language.


The words alchemy and chemistry both are derived from the Arabic language. The Arabic word is al-khemia. The science of alchemy was born in ancient Egypt, with mummification and the aspiration for endless life, which resulted in the Greek word: Khemia. Then when Arabs occupied Egypt in the 7th century, they added “al-” to the word Khemia, which means “the”, and the science itself that Egyptians invented was named Al-Khemia. Years later, the English language acquired a version of the word.


This word has an unusual history. There’s a beauty cosmetic in the Arab world extracted from a mineral, called al-kuhl, which is like eyeliner. Because it’s extracted, European chemists referred to anything that’s extracted as alcohol, which is what you get from distilling wine.


The word for the aromatic substance used in perfume, amber is derived from the Arabic word “anbar.” It was introduced to the West at the time of the Crusades.

Via Mindat


The beans were discovered in Eastern Africa and it was called “qahwah” by the Arabs. It then got introduced to Turkey as “kahve,” then to the Italians as “caffè,” and finally to Britain as “coffee.”


Egypt is famous for producing the best cotton in the world. The white plant is called “qutn.” Hence, the English language’s word is cotton!


The word giraffe comes from the French word “girafe.” The French word comes from the Arabic word “Zarafa.”


The Arabic word for lemon is “laimun.” The French got inspired by the Arabic language and called it “lymon,” which then made it to the West as Lemon.


Egyptians were some of the earliest groups of people to invent embalming and named an embalmed body in Arabic”mumiyah”, borrowing the Persian word for was “mum”. Hence the word mummy!


The Arabic word for journey is “safar,” which was then adopted to name a journey or expedition safari.


The original Arabic word for spinach is “sabanekh”, similarly thought to have Persian origins. The plant was abundant in Greece, but was introduced to Spain by the Arabs and then across the world. The Arab word was tweaked to become spinach and became part of the English language.

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