Days of the Week

Sorry for the long break. I caught yet another bug, and in general I just haven’t had much time for these things, particularly as I know there are a couple of long explanatory entries that I need to do if this venture is going to continue. In lieu of one of those long entries, here’s something quick and easy, the days of the week. The Arabic word for “day” is يَوم (yawm), and properly the name of each day is يَوم plus the word from the list below (as, in English, we append “day” onto other words to create the names of the days: “Sun” + “day” = “Sunday,” etc.). However, you will often see يَوم omitted and the days simply called by the names listed below:

  • Monday = الإثْنَين (al-ithnayn)
  • Tuesday = الثَلاثاء (al-thalāthāʾ)
  • Wednesday = الأربَعاء (al-arbaʿāʾ)
  • Thursday = الخَميس (al-khamīs)
  • Friday = الجُمُعة (al-jumuʿah)
  • Saturday = السَبْت (al-sabt)
  • Sunday = الأحَد (al-aḥad)

Other than Friday and Saturday, these names are derived from the cardinal numbers (maybe that should be our next lesson). So “Sunday” is literally “first day,” Monday “second day,” and so on.

“Week” is أسبوع (usbūʿ), from سَبَع (sabaʿ) or “seven,” and “days of the week” is أيام الأسبوع (ayām al-usbūʿ).

The makeup of the work week in the Arab world varies by country. Friday, you probably know, is the Islamic Sabbath. This is actually reflected in the word for “Friday,” which is derived from the verb جَمَعَ (jamaʿa), meaning “to collect,” which in other forms can mean “meeting” or “congregating,” and so the name of the day refers to the fact that Friday is the one day when Muslims are expected to attend a large congregational mosque for formal prayer services (Islam requires several daily prayers, but these can be done alone, in small or large groups, in small or large mosques or any other suitable location; the midday Friday prayer is the one obligatory weekly large group prayer in the mosque). The traditional Islamic “weekend” was Thursday-Friday, mirroring our Saturday-Sunday, but globalization and the demands of interacting with non-Muslims for business have caused a number of countries to shift to a Friday-Saturday weekend, which means their work week and non-Muslims’ work week are only off by two days rather than four. Saudi Arabia, Oman, and the Yemen still practice the Thursday-Friday weekend according to the fine folks at Wikipedia,  while Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Libya, Qatar, the Sudan, Syria, and the UAE use the Friday-Saturday weekend. Lebanon, Morocco, and Tunisia actually use a Saturday-Sunday weekend; this makes a certain amount of sense in the case of Lebanon, where Christians were in the majority at least until the mid-20th century, but I am at a loss as to why Morocco and Tunisia are on that schedule (or at least why they would be Saturday-Sunday while Algeria was Thursday-Friday until 2009, when it went to Friday-Saturday).


Since we’ve no place to go

We’ve had a very strange Chicago winter, with big temperature shifts but very little snow. I was on vacation last week and got back to snow everywhere and more on the way today, so it seems like a good time to go over a couple of winter words:

Winter = الشِتاء (al-shitāʾ, pronounced “ash-shi-ta” and clip off the last “a” abruptly; I assume you recall that ش is one of the “sun letters” that assimilates the definite article, yes?). This is the verbal noun of a root (شَتا, shatā) meaning “to winter” or “to hibernate.” For most Westerners I’d imagine that the idea of “wintering” in a different place is associated with those who are wealthy enough to own at least two homes, but for arid-zone nomads like the Bedouin “wintering” means moving the herd to new grazing territory that has hopefully sprouted due to Autumn rains, so as to give the summer grazing areas a chance to recover. It’s common for Bedouin to have more or less fixed wintering sites where large family units can come together after having summered at some distance from each other, and if that is the case then these fixed winter sites may very likely include stone houses for the Bedouin and shelters for the herds.

Cold = بَرَدَ (barada) is the verb meaning “to be cold,” and from it is derived words like بارِد (bārid), the state of being cold as in أنتَ بارِد؟ (anta bārid?) or “Are you cold?” and بُرودّة (burūdah), which is “cold” as in the meteorological condition. Of course, “winter” in a place like Qatar, where the temperature rarely goes below 60F, is somewhat relative, but it can get quite cold in the deserts of Saudi Arabia, and at any rate the more important seasonal marker is that it rains a bit, whereas summers are often bone dry.

Snow = ثَلْج (thalj, plural ثُلوج thulūj), from the verb ثَلَجَ (thalaja), “to snow.”

Rain (since rain, moreso than snow, is the marker of the season in much of the Arab world) = مَطَر (maṭar, plural امْطار amṭār), from the verb مَطَرَ (thalaja), “to rain.”

Ice = جَليد (jalīd); this derives from a verbal root (جلد J-L-D) that can have a few meanings depending on how it is voweled. جَلِدَ (jalida) means “to freeze” or “to be frozen,” but جَلَدَ (jalada) means “to lash or whip” and جَلُدَ (jaluda) means “to be tough, steadfast.” جَليد itself can also mean “sturdy, staunch, steadfast,” so watch the context.

Coat = مِعطَف (miʿṭaf, plural مَعاطِف maʿāṭif), from the form V verb تَعَطَّفَ (taʿaṭṭafa) meaning “to wrap in a coat or cloak.” This derives from a form I root, عَطَفَ (ʿaṭafa), meaning “to bend, incline, turn” because of something something and also I’m not a lexicographer. Also could be سُترة (sutrah), from the verb سَتَرَ (satara) “to cover”; this is more likely to refer to a lighter jacket rather than a heavy coat.