مولد النبي

Arabic Word a Day

The birthday of the Prophet Muhammad, called مَولِد النَبي (mawlid al-nabī) or just مولد, is being observed today, the 12th of the monthربيع الأول (if you want to be technical about it, the commemoration started at sundown last night, and I guess it’s ended by now in most of the world, but it’s still worth noting). Though not one of the major Islamic holidays, many Muslims do commemorate Muhammad’s birth with decorations and by exchanging small gifts or sweets.

Mawlid is not a universally celebrated holiday, for a couple of reasons. There’s no historical record of the earliest Muslims celebrating Muhammad’s birthday as a special event; the first widespread Mawlid celebration doesn’t appear in the record until the 12th century, though there are records of earlier, smaller observances. So for modern self-proclaimed “fundamentalists” the holiday is an innovation and therefore illegitimate. Honoring a historical figure’s birthday also…

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Transportation: نقل

Some time ago a friend of mine on Twitter told me that she’s enjoyed this blog but never realized that I was the person who had written it, and said she wished I kept it more active. I explained that these language posts are time-consuming for me and I’ve just had a hard time finding the time apart from my regular writing to work on them. But then I realized, they don’t really have to be that time-consuming, do they? I don’t have to talk about grammar and context and all the other stuff that bogs me down when I write them, at least not all the time. Sometimes a list of vocabulary is good enough. So here’s some basic vocabulary about the various ways people get around:

  • car: سيارة (sayārah), عربة (ʿarabah)
  • truck: شاحنة (shāḥinah), meaning something capable of carrying freight
  • motorcycle: دراجة نارية (darrājah nārīyah)
  • bus: حافلة (ḥāfilah), باص (bāṣ), أوتوبيس (ūtūbīs)
  • train: قطار (qiṭār), قطر (qaṭr, Egypt)
  • plane: طائرة (ṭāʾirah), you might also encounter طيارة (ṭayārah)
  • boat: سفينة (safīnah), مركب (markib, Egypt), قارب (qārib)
  • ship: سفينة (safīnah)
  • ferry: عبارة (ʿabārah) or معبر (maʿbar)
  • bicycle: دراجة (darrājah), also cognates like بيسيكليت (bīsīklīt)
  • taxi: there is an Arabic translation for this, but I think you might get chuckled at if you use anything other than “taxi,” تاكسي
  • walking (verb): مشى (mashá)
    • “a walk”: مشي (mashī) or نزهة (nuzhah); the latter is more like “stroll”
  • running (verb): ركض (rakaḍa)
    • “a run”: ركضة (rakḍah)

Another new year

Arabic Word a Day

This blog has previously covered the Gregorian New Year, and on my Persian blog we’ve talked about Nowruz, which is also celebrated in many Arab countries, but sundown today marked the start of the new year on the Islamic calendar. So happy 1435 everybody!

There’s not a lot to talk about in terms of holiday customs, because the Islamic New Year is usually marked quietly, perhaps with some prayer and reflection on Muhammad’s flight from Mecca to Medina, the هِجرة (hijrah), which is the event that marks the year 1 in the Islamic calendar. The next ten days, the first ten of the year, are not particularly celebratory, especially for the شيعة (shīʿah) community, which commemorates the anniversary of the events leading up to the martyrdom of إمام حُسين (Imām Ḥusayn, ʿAlī’s son and the third Imam) on the tenth, the day known…

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Eid Mubarak

Eid Mubarak! Enjoy this short description of the celebration that begins at sundown tonight!

Arabic Word a Day

At some point this week the month of Ramadan will come to an end, probably Wednesday or Thursday depending on when the new moon is sighted, and it will be followed by Feast of the Breaking of the Fast, عيد الفِطر (ʿīd al-fiṭr, Eid al-Fitr). Eid al-Fitr is technically a one-day holiday that occurs on the first of the month of Shawwal (شَوّال), but most countries celebrate it over two or three days to give families time to come together and celebrate properly. As you might imagine, the festival involves a lot of eating (Muslims are actually forbidden from fasting on this day), particularly of cookies and other sweet baked goods that are prepared over the last few days/nights of Ramadan. There is a special celebratory communal prayer to be held on the holiday, followed traditionally by family visits and meals, and then another day or two…

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Extreme weather and natural disasters

Following on from last time, let’s see what vocabulary we’d need if the weather got a little rougher.

  • storm: عاصفة (ʿāṣifah)
  • thunderstorm: عاصفة رعدية (ʿāṣifah raʿdīyah)

    • thunder: رعد (raʿd)
    • lightning: برق (barq) OR صاعقة (ṣāʿiqah)
  • monsoon: ريح موسمية (rīḥ mawsamīyah, literally “seasonal winds)
  • flood: طوفان (ṭūfān) OR فيضان (fayaḍān)
  • tornado: إعصار (iʿṣār)
  • blizzard: عاصفة ثلجية (ʿāṣifah thaljīyah, “snow storm”)
  • hurricane (tropical cyclone): زوبعة (zawbaʿah)
  • sandstorm: عاصفة رملية (ʿāṣifah ramlīyah)
  • drought: قحط (qaḥṭ) OR جفاف (jafāf)
  • volcano: بركان (burkān) OR جبل النار (jabl al-nār)

    • volcanic eruption: ثوران بركاني (thawrān burkānī)
  • earthquake: زلزال (zilzāl)
  • tsunami: تسونامي (tsūnāmī)
  • avalanche: انهيار ثلجي (inhiyār thaljī)
  • landslide: انهيار أرضي (inhiyār arḍī)

طقس (weather)

Let’s look at some basic weather-related vocabulary. Obviously some of these phenomena aren’t going to be easily encountered in most of the Arab-speaking world, but it doesn’t hurt to be prepared, right?

  • weather: طقس (ṭaqs) in the abstract, but جو (jaww) if you’re talking about specific weather)

    • sun: شمس (shams); “sunny” is مُشمِس (mushmis) or شامس (shāmis)
    • clouds: غيم (ghaym), one cloud is غيمة (ghaymah); “cloudy” is غائم (ghāʾim) or مغيم (mighayyim)
    • rain: مطر (maṭar); “rainy” is ممطر (mumṭir)
    • fog: ضباب (ḍabāb); “foggy” is ضبابي (ḍabābī)
    • snow: ثلج (thalj); “snowy” is مُثَلَّج (muthallaj)
    • hail: برد (barad), a single hailstone is بردة (baradah)
    • wind: ريح (rīḥ); “windy” is رَيِّح (rayyiḥ — aren’t Arabic short vowels just the best?)
    • breeze/gust: نسيم (nasīm)
  • temperature: حرارة (ḥarārah), “heat”; “degree of temperature (heat)” is درجة الحرارة (darajat al-ḥarārah)

    • cold/cool: بارد (bārid)
    • warm: دافئ (dāfiʾ)
    • hot: حار (ḥār)
  • humidity: رطوبة (ruṭūbah)

    • humid: رطب (raṭb)
    • dry: جاف (jāf)

“How’s the weather?”: كيف الجو (kayf al-jaww) or كيف الطقس (kayf al-ṭaqs)

“It’s sunny”: الجو مشمس (al-jaww mushmis); adapt for other conditions

OR alternatively you can use دنيا or “world” instead of جو or “weather,” like so:

“It’s sunny”: الدنيا مشمس (al-dunyā mushmis); again, use whatever word describes the right condition

“It’s raining”: يمطر (yumṭiru)

“It’s snowing”: يثلج (yathliju)

“It’s cold today”: الجو بارد اليوم (al-jaww bārid al-yawm)

The Day of Atonement

Today (at sundown, to be precise) is also Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, the holiest day of the year for Jews. I bring this up first to wish any Jewish readers an easy fast, but also because linguistically it’s a quick and easy way to highlight the common Semitic roots of both Arabic and Hebrew. “Yom Kippur” (which is, I hope, יום כיפור in Hebrew, because if it’s not then I’m afraid I just offended somebody) literally translates into Arabic as يوم غفور (yawm ghafūr). “Yawm,” or “yom” means “day,” obviously, and there’s some common Semitic root for the idea of “forgiveness” that developed into GH-F-R in Arabic and K-P-R in Hebrew. The relationship between “f” and “p” is so close that there’s an actual linguistic law about it, albeit one developed in the Indo-European context, and “gh” and “k” are similar enough sounds as well.

I should note that يوم غفور is not how you’d actually say “Yom Kippur” in Arabic. You might want to use عيد الغفران (ʿīd al-ghufrān), the “festival of forgiveness,” though calling it a “festival” when you’re supposed to be fasting strikes me as a little odd. يوم الغفران (yawm al-ghufrān) is also acceptable, and may actually be a little preferable, though I honestly am not sure on this one.