March 20 is French Language Day! Annually, the French Language is celebrated, as we explore the ways that language influences culture. On this day, multilingualism and cultural diversity are honored. French is spoken in more than 25 countries and in different dialects as well. However, the language in each country is influenced by the country’s culture. What’s even more mesmerizing is the fact that the French language was also influenced by other languages, such as Arabic! Did you know that there are some French words that are actually derived from Arabic words?
Arabic is the third influence on the French language after English and Italian, according to Professor Jean Pruvost. Many French words originate from the Arabic language. If not directly, then it was influenced through a long line of linguistic modifications. For example, the word “qahwa” influenced the English language so that, “qahwa,” became “coffee” in English and became “cafe” in French. Furthermore, there are so many French words that originate from the Arabic language or have been influenced by it!
French words that come from the Arabic words
- Amiral: the word means a ship captain or a navy officer. It’s originated from the Arabic language from the term “amir el behar/أمير البحار” meaning, “the prince of the sea.”
- Mesquin: meaning petty. It comes from the word “meskeen/مسكين” which means poor or helpless in Arabic!
- Jupe: this word means a skirt. It originates from the Arabic word, “جبة” which Egyptians changed into “jeeba”, but it’s actually “jupe” in French!
- Chiffre: it means zero in English. Chiffre originates from the Arabic word, “Sifr/صفر.”
- Sucre: the word means sugar. It was borrowed from the Italian word, “zucchero,” which means sugar. However, the Italian language got it from the Arabic, “sukkar/سكر.”
- Adobe: it means brick, which was derived from the Spanish word “adobe.” However, “adobe” was taken from the Arabic word, “Al Tub/الطوب.”
- Calife: this word means successor, or descendant in French. It’s derived from the Arabic word, “khalifa/خليفة” of the same meaning.
Those are just a couple of examples, just to scratch the surface. However, there are some French words that we’ve adopted into our lives as well. These words are mostly now in colloquial Egyptian Arabic, such as, “dosh/دوش,” from the French word, “douche.” Another example is the word “Fesha/فيشة” which is actually an electricity plug, and Egyptians turned the French word “Fiche” into “Fesha.”
It’s amazing how languages affect each other. So on this day, we celebrate the French language, and the Arabic language as well!