Arabic influence on the Spanish language.
Arabic influence on the Spanish language has been significant due to the Islamic presence in the Iberian peninsula between 711 and 1492 A.D. (see Al-Andalus).
Modern day Spanish language (also called castellano in Spanish) first appeared in the small Christian Kingdom of Castile in northern Spain during this period of Islamic domination over most of the Iberian Peninsula. As a result, the language was influenced by Andalusi Arabic practically from its inception. The Arabic influence on the language increased as the Kingdom of Castile seized land from Muslim rulers, where Castilian had never been spoken. It also absorbed Arabic influence from the Latin and Arabic speaking arabized Christians (Mozarabs) who emigrated northwards from Al Andalus during times of sectarian violence, which intensified as a result of the Almoravid conquest in the 12th century. Although the degree to which Arabic percolated the peninsula varied enormously from one area to another and is the subject of academic dispute, it is generally agreed that Arabic was used among the local elites and local Arabic-influenced Romance dialects, known as Mozarabic, which were the prevalent vernacular language in most areas. Only the small southern kingdom of Granada, in the time of the Nasrid dynasty, which had had a large influx of Moors as the reconquista advanced, was totally arabized.
Most of the Arabic influence upon Spanish came through the arabized Latin dialects that were spoken in areas under Muslim rule, known today by scholars as Mozarabic. This resulted in Spanish often having both Latin and Arabic derived words with the same meaning. For example, aceituna and oliva (olive), alacrán and escorpión (scorpion), jaqueca and migraña (migraine) or alcancía and hucha (piggy bank). The imprint of Mozarabic and Arabic is evidently more noticeable in the southern dialects of Peninsular Spanish than in the northern ones.
A small number of words were also borrowed from Moroccan Arabic principally as a result of Spain's protectorate over Spanish Morocco in the 19th and 20th centuries.
Great Mosque of Códoba in Córdoba, Spain.
1. ababol: Poppy. In Aragon, Navarre, Albacete and Murcia. From Andalusian Arabic Happapáwr, a fusion of the Arabic word Hab (??) "seed" and the Latin pap?ver.
2. abacero: owner of an abacería, small food shop. From Andalusi Arabic *?a?b azzád (???? ?????) "owner of supplies."
3. abadí: descendant/lineage of Mohammed ben Abad, founder of the Taifa Kingdom of Seville in the 11th century AD. From Andalusi Arabic 'abb?d? (??????).
4. abalorio: cheap jewellery or jewellery beads. From Andalusi Arabic al ballúri ?????? (made of) glass From Classical Arabic: billawr. Ultimately from Greek ????????, "beryl"
5. abarraz: stavesacre (Delphinium staphisagria), a medicinal plant. From Andalusi Arabic ?ább arrás (?? ?????) "head seeds."
6. abasí: pertaining to the Abbasid dynasty, which overthrew the Umayyads in the 8th century.
7. abelmosco: musk seeds, an aromatic plant. From Andalusi Arabic ?abb al musk (?? ?????)
?ayn ? (also gh) /?/ (sometimes /?/ in loanwords)[a] ??? ???? ???
The sound you mention /?/ is pronounced for the letter G, except after a pause, "l", "m" or "n", but although I can't remember right now (I'll check later), I don't think it is due to Arabic influence, because the sound also exists in Portuguese, Catalan, Asturian, and some dialects of Italian, as well as in other Indo-European languages like Dutch, Greek, Persian, Polish, Irish...
The Arabic-based Spanish word that I hear the most often is 'Ojala', hopefully, which I think comes from the Arabic 'Inshallah' literally 'God willing'. When my Spanish teacher first taught us this word and told us what it meant, 3 Pakistani students stood up and wrote 'Inshallah' under it on the board and that's when she smiled and gave us an impromptu lesson on more Arabic-based words in Spanish.
Many Spanish words that begin with the letters "al" are from Arabic..such as "almohada" for pillow and "alfombra" for rug. I don't know if the Arabs brought the art of rug making to Spain, but I wouldn't be surprised if they did considering the Spanish word is from Arabic.
Barcelonas main thoroughfare, La Rambla, which plunges down through the city to the harbour, and Granadas square, Plaza Bibarrambla, have the same Arabic origin in the word rambla which in Arabic means strand or riverside. The avenue was once a stream, and the plaza once had a gate - bib or bab which faced Granadas river. Its name would be in English Strand Gate Square.
Granadas old casbah, El Albaicín, was once thought to have a purely Arabic name, but it is now believed that its origins are Roman, and Latin. In the Reconquest, when the Christian knights took the Muslim city of Baeza, the inhabitants fled south to Granada and settled on the hill, in a place which became known as al-Bayazin - "the place of the people of Baeza". But the name Baeza was only the arabization of the earlier, Roman Beatia.
In our times, Andalucia is the region which stretches across southern Spain, but the Moors called al-Andalus the entire peninsula including Portugal, even before they invaded it. As the Roman empire collapsed, barbarian tribes swept through the old colony of Hispania, one of which, the Vandals, crossed the Straits of Gibraltar and reached Carthage. They were so ferocious that the terrified North Africans called the land from whence they had come land of the vandals. But instead of saying al-Vandalus, they dropped the v. The Spaniards later hispanized the name al-Andalus to Andalucía, by which they meant the southern part of Spain which was still in Moorish hands in the 12th century.
. The name of Granada does not mean pomegranate, even though it is homonymous with the Spanish word for that oriental fruit. It is thought to come from an ancient, but unknown word for fortress, which the Romans Latinized as Garnatum. The Arabs pronounced it Garnata and it entered Castilian as Granada.
And the name of Córdoba is neither Latin nor Arabic in origin, but Phoenician. The Carthaginians founded the port on the highest navigable reach of the Guadalquivir and named it for one of their generals, Doubs. The prefix for city in their Phoenician tongue was Kart-, as in the name Carthage itself new city. The Spanish port became Kart-Doubs, which after being Latinized and then Arabized came down to us as Córdoba, with the accent still on the first syllable the part of the name that meant city.
Algebra is Arabic for the reduction and came into European languages as part of the title of an Arab mathematical treatise. Alcohol comes from the Arabic al-kuhul, although the Arabs did not invent the still, as is often said. Avería, which in Spanish means breakdown or defect, with relation to machines, comes from the Arabic awarriyah, defective merchandise, the root of which, áwar, when applied to humans, means one-eyed. Baño, Spanish for bath, comes originally from the Latin balneum, but after transiting through Arabic as banyo, pronounced in exactly the same way but with a slightly more specific meaning, bathtub.
A pig, in colloquial Spanish, as opposed to the Latin-derived puerco, is called a marrano, which is also an adjective for dirty piggish person. Marrano is an Arabic-origin word coming from haram, best known to us in its English form harem. A harem, in Arabic haram, with the accent on the second syllable, is a place forbidden to intruders, which suggests that it is much less permissive than is often assumed. It is the direct opposite of halal, which means sacred, pure. Indeed, anything that is wrong, unjust or unlawful can be described as haram.
The Jews of medieval Spain commonly spoke Arabic, and they used a form of this word to label those brethren who to escape persecution converted to Christianity, contemptuously calling them marranos. This new word came to mean, in Spanish, anything foul or disgusting, and so made its way to the common pig.
When Spaniards bid one another farewell and say Hasta mañana they are, quite unconsciously as with most of these words, using the Arabic hattá which still means what it did in the Middle Ages when it entered Spanish until. Even so, hattá was not an Arabic original, but a compression of the Latin words ad ista to this, which, according to the dictionary of the Royal Spanish Academy, expressed the same idea of up to.
Not all the words peculiar to Spanish culture have Arabic roots, though. Siesta comes from the Latin for sixth hour of the day, sexta, which would have been several hours earlier than the Andalucian after-lunch nap.
The formal second person pronoun, usted, has an even more curious origin. It was originally Vuestra Merced, Your Mercy, similar to Your Grace. In writing, this was abbreviated to Vd. (a form still used) but because it was impossible to utter a word composed of two consonants, those who refused to say it aloud in its full form devised the oddity usted, which later took its place.
And paella is really the word for the flat pan and not the rice cooked in it, in Catalonian, patella, which Castilians adopted without the t and vocalizing the double l.
Likewise, the suffix ez at the end of Spanish names has older-than-Arabic roots. For the Visigoths, Sanchez was the son of Sancho, Rodriguez the son of Rodrigo, Vasquez the son of Vasco.
More than a source culture, the Arabs acted as a bridgehead between Asia and Europe, carrying with their caravans, from as far away as Indonesia, plants, inventions and words. The numbers we use and call Arabic because the Arabs imported them although no longer use them themselves - are in fact Indian. The eggplant comes from the Persian batinjan, which the Arabs transformed to badinjanah and passed into Spanish as berenjena, and into French, with the article still in place but transformed from al- to au-, as aubergine.
The Arabs took many words from Latin and Greek before surreptitiously returning them to Europe, via Spain, in an exotic form. Tuna fish in Spanish is atún, from al-tun in Arabic, which in turn comes from the Latin thunnus. As in azúcar, only the a of the article survived the hispanizing process. But the Spanish word for admiral, almirante, comes from the Arabic emir, leader, and it was hispanized with the article intact.
When the Arabs invaded Spain, they found a highly organized Roman colony with cities whose Latin names they pronounced in their manner, and which, many centuries later, returned to the Spanish language in the Arabic form. The most striking example is that of the military camp of Caesar Augusta, which was arabized as Sarakusta and, long after the Latin original had been forgotten, hispanized as Zaragoza.
Another is Mérida, on the western border. The Emperor Augustus founded a new colony near Portugal where land was given out to his most deserving veterans meritii. It was called Augusta Emerita, or simply Emerita, which after the Arabs invaded Spain was pronounced Mérida.
The port of Seville was called by its Roman founders Hispalis, said to mean palisade for the stilts which kept its houses above water when the river flooded. Under the Arabs this Latin name was pronounced Ishbiliya, before taking its definitive form of Sevilla, pronounced in Spanish se-BEE-ya.
The word almuerzo, lunch, comes from a word used in Islamic Spain composed of the Arabic article al and the Latin for bite, morsus (as in morsel, a bite, and mordant, biting). So when a Spaniard invites you to a four-course midday meal with tapas, he is in fact offering you a bite to eat!
The river which passes through Seville is purely Arabic in name, wadi-al-kbeer, the great river (wadi=river, kbeer=great) hispanized as Guadalquivir. But the name of the citys ancient poor quarter on the far side of the river, Triana, is the arabization of the name of the great Roman emperor Trajan, himself born in Seville.
The influence of Arabic
While Spanish sentences and grammar resemble Latin more than any other living tongue, thousands of words have their origins in the language of the Muslims whose stay in some parts of the peninsula lasted eight centuries. And many of these Spanish words later found their way into other European languages. Phonetically, too, Spanish may be the most similar language to Latin, but some sounds, like the guttural j, or jota, come straight from Arabic. Most household words beginning with al- (or with a-, since the article was often slurred and left without its letter l) are Spanish versions of Arabic words.
Examples which can be easily appreciated without much knowledge of Spanish are sugar,azúcar, originally assukar; and cotton, in Spanish algodón, fromal-qutun. Olive in Spanish isaceituna, and olive oil aceite, from the Arabic for olive, al-zeitun, while olive tree is from Latin,olivo.
Many place names are composed of Arabic words. Alhambra is said to mean the red palace while others believe it means the palace of Alhamar, the sultan who founded it. Almería means the mirror of the sea, while Algeciras is a shortened version of the full name al-jazeera khadraa, literally the green island. When the first Moors entered Spain through Gibraltar, they were so impressed by the relative fertility of the place, after the aridity of Morocco, that they likened it to an isle of verdure.
When the Spaniards shout olé at the bullfighter or the flamenco dancer, they echo the Muslim invocation of God, Allah! Some still say ala as a conversational interjection, as we would say really or is that so.
The cold soup, gazpacho, which was originally made of bits and pieces of stale bread and vegetable scraps crushed in cool water, oil and vinegar, has its name from an Arabic word meaning almsbox, because everything from coins to chunks of bread and cheese were deposited in to feed the poor. The Spanish word mezquino, and the French word mesquin, both of which mean petty, come from the Arabic word mskeen meaning wretched.
The English word magazine, and the French word magasin come from the Spanish almacénand the Arabic al-makhzan, for storehouse. Our sofa, and the Spanish sofá, come from suffa, Turkish and Arabic for rug or divan.
In Spanish, duck is pato, from the Arabic bata. The English and French alcove comes from the Spanish alcoba, meaning bedroom, which has its origin in the Arabic al-kubba, the central room in a Moorish house. Since this room is usually covered by a domed ceiling, kubba is also used to signify dome.
The Spanish word for corner, rincón, comes from the Arabic rukán, while the word for quarter or neighbourhood, barrio, originates in the Arabic barri, outside, since quarters were external to the castle or citadel). Which means that when a Spaniard talks about a corner of his neighbourhood un rincón de mi barrio he is basically speaking Arabic!
The French, and English massage comes from the Arabic massa, to stroke, and coffee is said to be named, through Arabic, for the place in Ethiopia which first grew it, Kaffa. In Spanish, an orange is a naranja, which comes from the Arabic naranj, meaning bitter orange, while the Arabic word for a sweet orange is portukal, from the Greek portokalls.
Ray, Thanks for the essay on Arabic influence on Spanish. I like reading about the history of language (remember Mario Pei?).
Question: In your research have you found a link between the pronunciation, in Spain, of z and c (before e or i) and a similar sound in Arabic? I have been told that this sound (the unvoiced 'th') exists in Arabic, but I really don't know. I would find this a more logical explanation that the one about a king having a lisp.
This is all great.
Now, how about if you translated all this to Spanish?
After all, you're trying to learn Spanish, aren't you.
EDIT: changed don't you for aren't you.
The pits! (sp?) I have to correct myself!
Very interesting, Ray, thank you.
As I learned some Arabic many years ago, I have often wondered if the soft 'g' sound in Spanish (as in 'guapo', 'agua' etc) is related to this particular Arabic letter:
?ayn ? (also gh) /?/ (sometimes /?/ in loanwords)[a] ??? ???? ??? ?
This Arabic letter is pretty much like a French 'r', a short roll right at the back of the throat.
I keep listening to native Spanish speakers, trying to figure it out - the soft 'g' seems almost to be swallowed at the back of the throat, although it doesn't seem to 'roll' at all.
In some cases the 'g' sound is so faint that 'guapo' can sound like 'wapo' to me, and I have seen it written as such. (¡Hola wapo/a!)
A word very used that denotes this clear Arabic influence is:
Una palabra muy usada que denota esta clara influencia árabe es:
(Del ár. hisp. law á lláh, si Dios quiere).
(From Hispanic Arabic law á lláh, If God wants)
- interj. Denota vivo deseo de que suceda algo.
1 interj. Denotes keen desire for something to happen.
I would be interested to know if the inhabitants of the Iberian peninsular pre
Roman colonisation had an influence at all on present day Spanish .
I have noticed a similarity in some Celtic languages in the use of ( D ) ( B ) ( V )
( Ll ), assuming of course that the earlier peoples spoke a form of Celtic.
In your research have you found a link between the pronunciation, in Spain, of z and c (before e or i) and a similar sound in Arabic? I have been told that this sound (the unvoiced 'th') exists in Arabic, but I really don't know. I would find this a more logical explanation that the one about a king having a lisp.
Rather unlikely. The strongest (and longest) Arabic influence was in southern Spain while the regional dialects that use the "seseo" /s/ are also concentrated in the south.
Since Spaniards don't "lisp", there is is no need to seek an "explanation". As for why the sound exists at all? Why does it also exist in English, Arabic, Hebrew, Greek, Icelandic and Proto-German?
8) abencerraje . used in expression: "Zegríes y abencerrajes", which means "partisans of opposite interests". The Abencerrajes (in Arabic aban as-sarrá?) was an Arabic family of the Kingdom of Granada, rivals of the Zegríes in the 15th century.
9)abenuz: ebony. From Arabic abanus (?????) of the same meaning.
10 ) abismal:screw in head of a spear. From Arabic al-mismar (???????) "nail.
11)abitaque:ta cut of wood used in construction of a certain shape and dimension. From Arabic Tabaqa (????) "layer" or "intermediate chamber."
12 ) acebibe.raisin. From Arabic zabib (????) of the same meaning.
13 )acebuche: .wild olive tree, or wood from such a tree. From Andalusi Arabic azzabbú?.
14 ) aceche:.copper, iron or zinc sulphate. From Hisp-Ar. *azzáj, < az-z?j, < From Classical Arabic ????? az-z?j.
15 ) aceifa: .Muslim summer military expedition. From Arabic Sa'ifah "harvest" or "summer expedition."
16 )aceite: .oil. From Arabic az-zayt (?????) "oil."
17 )aceituna: .olive. From Arabic ??????? (az-zaytun) "olive."
There's El Cid