Headline, March 08 2021/ ''' '' ARABIC ROOTS *AROMA '' '''


 *AROMA '' '''

SOME WORDS USED IN GERMAN AND ENGLISH are immediately identifiable as having originated in the Arab Middle East.

Just think of harem or minaret, but others less so. German philologist and book author Andreas Unger explains a language phenomenon that goes back to the Middle Ages, reported DW.


The Arabic ''al-kuhl'' is said to be the origin for the English word alcohol [and Alkohol in German]. It derives from reference to kohl, which was a kind of powdered eyeliner made via an extraction or distillation process from a natural mineral.

In Europe, chemists referred to anything produced through an extraction process as alcohol.


A day without a cup or more of Java : imaginable for coffee lovers. Little do they know that the word coffee, or Kafee in German, comes from Italian caffe, which in turn is derived from Turkish Kahve, which goes back to the old Arabic word for ''wine'', ''qahwa''. Wine? For Muslims forbidden to drink alcoholic beverages, coffee became their stimulant - and was ever known as the ''wine of Islam''.


To sweeten your coffee, you might need a spoonful of sugar. Arabic traders brought ''sukkar'' to Europe many hundreds of years ago. They originally got the word from Sanskrit, ''sharkara'', which meant ''grit, gravel''.

The product and the word survived. It's zucchero in Italian, azucar in Spanish, Zucker in German and sucre in French.


The Arabic-speaking world seemed to have a knack for luxury and comfort : the word ''suffa'' referred to a raised platform with carpeting to sit on, a seat of honour. The furniture concept and the term cropped up in Europe and European language in the 17th century.


In Arabic, ''matrah'' was the place where you tossed cushions. It passed into Latin amatercium, and from there into Italian and other European languages. Voila, the word for a comfortable sleeping surface stuck, turning into mattress in English, Matratze in German, and matelas in French.


Newsweek, Vogue and Co : Glossy magazines also come from the Arabic. ''Makzin'' - storehouse - became magazzino in Italian, and magasin in French, which means shop. That's how the term made its way into English and German.

Magazines are in fact a depot of sorts - a place to keep stories, pictures and information on paper.


The long-necked African animal derives its English and German name the Arabic word ''zarafa'' via Italy. The ancient Romans knew the exotic animals Julius Caesar one presented in a triumphal procession in Rome.

Medieval Europeans called the mysterious animal few had actually seen ''camelopard'' a combination of camel and a leopard.

1.- So, how did Arabic words make their way into European language?

''For the most part, that happened in the Medieval era, Islamic-Arab cultures were vastly superior to European cultures in the Middle Ages, and traders as well as the invading Muslim forces in modern-day Spain and Portugal and Sicily brought with them technology, science and luxury articles - and of course the corresponding words that were then Europeanised,'' explained Unger.

2.- Is the origin of any one word particularly surprising?

''As far as I am concerned : benzene!'' Unger said.

The development of word meanings can be quirky indeed. Benzene, an important component of gasoline, was adopted into English from the German ''Benzin,'' which in turn was based on the word benzoic acid.

Originally, it was an Arabic word for a balsamic resin imported from Java - like the Aromatic frankincense.

Andreas Unger is a German linguist and author of From Algebra to Sugar, Arabic words in German, revised in a second edition in 2013, He lives in Berlin.

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