Right and left: اليمين و اليسار

Because like I tell my daughter, by now we should know our right from our left:

  • Right: اليَمين (al-yamīn), which comes from the same root as the country Yemen (اليَمَن), which archaically means “south” (reflecting a time when the compass was oriented to the east and the rising sun, putting south on the right)
  • Left: اليَسار (al-yasār)

Points of the compass: نقاط بوصلة

The Arabic word for “compass” is بوصلة (būṣlah or bauṣalah). It is a loanword, imported from the Italian bussola. “Points” is نِقاط (niqāṭ), singular نُقطة (nuqṭah). Here are the main directions (اتجاه ittijāh, plural اتجاهات ittijāhāt) on the compass, please note that they usually take the definite article:

  • north: الشمال (al-shamāl or al-shimāl)
  • south: الجَنوب (al-janūb)
  • east: الشَرق (al-sharq)
  • west: الغَرب (al-gharb)

These can be combined to form the derivative compass points:

  • northeast: الشمال الشَرقي (al-shamāl al-sharqī)
  • northwest: الشمال الغَربي (al-shamāl al-gharbī)
  • southwest: الجَنوب الغَربي (al-janūb al-gharbī)
  • southeast: الجَنوب الشَرقي (al-janūb al-sharqī)

The words شرق and غرب have to do with the rising and setting of the sun, respectively, and غرب has the additional, related, meaning of “going away” or “departing,” from which is derived the word غَريب (gharīb), which means “strange” or “alien” or “foreign.” I guess there’s a joke in there about strange westerners. The words شمال and جنوب, meanwhile, both derive from terms for “side” or “flank” (شمال can mean “left” although I’m pretty sure that’s an archaic meaning); also, the Arabic word for “right,” يَمين (yamīn) comes from a root that can also (if somewhat archaically) mean “south” (from which we get the name of the country of Yemen, which is in the southern part of the Arabian peninsula). I think, but don’t quote me on it, that this reflects the fact that east used to hold the “top” position among the cardinal directions, presumably due to the whole rising sun thing, which would put north on the “left” and south on the “right.” That’s not just true for Arabs; medieval European “T-O” maps often had Asia (to the east) at the top, with Jerusalem as the focal point.

FYI, since it’s relevant to our topic and our language, in Arabic “the Middle East” is الشرق الأوسط (al-sharq al-awsaṭ).

In the news: the Iranian nuclear talks

  • Iran: إيران (īrān)
  • Iranian (person): إيراني (īrānī)
  • Persian (language): فارسية (fārsiyah or fārisiyah)
  • nuclear: نَوَوي (nawawī)
  • nuclear weapon: سَلاح نَوَوي (salāḥ nawawī), plural أسلَحة نَوَوية (aslaḥah nawawīyah)
  • nuclear energy: طاقة نَوَوية (ṭāqah nawawīyah)
  • negotiation: تَفاوَض (tafāwaḍ) or مُفاوَضة (mufāwaḍah)
  • Vienna: فِيِينا (fiyīnā)
  • European Union: الإتِحاد الأوروبي (al-ittiḥād al-ūrūbī)
  • United States: الولايات المتحدة الأمريكية (al-wilāyāt al-mutaḥidah al-amrīkīyah) or just أمريكا (amrīkā)
  • Great Britain: بريطانيا العظمي (brīṭānyā al-ʿaẓamī) or just بريطانيا (brīṭānyā)
  • France: فرنسا (faransā)
  • Germany: ألمانيا (almānyā)
  • Russia: روسيا (rūsyā or rūsīyā)
  • China: صين (ṣīn)

Colors: ألوان

NOTE: Looking for other shades? Ask in the comments!

Color: لَون (lawn), pl. ألوان (alwān)

Light (modifier, after the color name): فاتِح (fātiḥ)

Dark (modifier, after the color name): داكِن (dākin)

Red: أحمَر (aḥmar)

  • Burgundy: عنابي (ʿunnābī)
  • Crimson: قرمزي (qirmizī)
  • Maroon: كستناء (kistanāʾ) or كستنائي (kistanāʾī)
  • Rose: وردي (wardī)
  • Ruby: ياقوتي اللون (yāqūtī al-lawn), or just ياقوتي
  • Scarlet: قرمزي (qirmizī) or أحمر (aḥmar)

Orange: بُرتُقالي (burtuqālī)

  • Amber: كهرماني اللون (kahramānī al-lawn), or just كهرماني
  • Vermilion: قرمزي (qirmizī)

Yellow: أصفَر (aṣfar)

  • Gold: ذهبي (dhahabī) or أشقر (ashqar)
  • Mustard: لون الخردل (lawn al-khardal)

Green: أخضَر (akhḍar)

  • Lime: لون الجير (lawn al-jīr)
  • Olive: زيتوني اللون (zaytūnī al-lawn) or just زيتوني

Blue: أزرَق (azraq)

  • Azure: أزرق سماوي (azraq samāwī)
  • Sapphire: صفيري (ṣafīrī)
  • Teal: لون البط البري (lawn al-baṭṭ al-barī, “color of the wild duck”)
  • Turquoise: فيروز (fīrūz)

Indigo: نيلي لون (nīlī lawn), or just نيلي

Purple: أرجُواني (arjuwānī)

  • Violet: بنفسجي (banafsajī)

Pink: وَردي (wardī), or قَرَنفُلي (qaranfulī)

  • Puce: أحمر داكن (aḥmar dākin, “dark red”)

Black: أسوَد (aswad)

White: أبيَض (abyaḍ)

  • Beige: بيج (bīj or bayj)

Gray (grey): رَمادي (ramādī)

  • Silver: فضي (fiḍḍī)
  • Taupe: رَمادي داكن (ramādī dākin)

Brown: أسمَر (asmar)

  • Auburn: كستنائي (kistanāʾī)
  • Chestnut: كستناء (kistanāʾ) or كستنائي (kistanāʾī)
  • Tan: أسمر (asmar)

In the news: Ukraine, Russia, and Crimea

  • Russia: روسيا (rūsyā or rūsīyā)
  • Ukraine: أوكرانيا (ūkrānyā or ūkrānīyā)
  • Russian (person): روسي (rūsī, masc) or روسية (rūsīyah, fem)
  • Ukrainian (person): أوكراني (ūkrānī, masc) or أوكرانية (ūkrānīyah, fem)
  • Russian (language): اللُغة الروسية (al-lughat al-rūsīyah)
  • Ukrainian (language): اللُغة الأوكرانية (al-lughat al-ūkrānīyah)
  • Crimea: القِرِم (al-qirim)
  • Tatar (person): تتاري (tatārī, masc) or تتارية (tatārīyah, fem)
  • Tatar (language): اللغة التتارية (al-lughat al-tatārīyah)

Parts of the body, part 2: the stuff on the inside

If you’re looking for the parts on the outside, try here.

  • Brain: مُخ (mukhkh, means the physical organ) or دِماغ (dimāgh, connotes the seat of thought)
  • Skull: جَمجَمة (jamjamah)
  • Tooth: سِن (sinn, plural أسنان asnān) and ضِرس (ḍirs, plural أضراس aḍrās, refers specifically to the molars)
  • Spine: العَمود الفَقري (al-ʿamūd al-faqrī)
  • Vertebra: فَقرة (faqrah) or فَقار (faqār)
  • Throat: حَلق (ḥalq)
  • Heart: قَلب (qalb), not to be confused with the similar sounding كَلب (kalb), which means “dog”
  • Lung: رِئة (riʾah); the dual (you don’t have more than two, do you?) is رِئَتان (riʾatān)
  • Liver: كَبد (kabd)
  • Ribs: ضُلوع (ḍulūʿ)
  • Stomach: مِعدة (miʿdah)
  • Intestines: مِعى (miʿan) or مِعاءِ (miʿāʾ)
    • Small intestine: المِعى الدُقاق (al-miʿan al-duqāq) or المِعاء الدُقاق (al-miʿāʾ al-duqāq)
    • Large intestine: المِعى الغِلاظ (al-miʿan al-ghilāẓ) or المِعاء الغِلاظ (al-miʿāʾ al-ghilāẓ)
  • Kidney: كُلية (kulyah) or كُلوة (kulwah), pl. كَلاوي (kalāwī), dual كُلیَتان (kulyatān)
  • Bladder: مَثانة (mathānah)
  • Muscle: عَضَلة (ʿaḍalah), plural عَضَل (ʿaḍal)
  • Bone: عَظم (ʿaẓm), pl. عِظام (ʿiẓām)
  • Cartilage: غُضروف (ghuḍrūf)
  • Blood: دَم (dam)
  • Blood vessel: أوعية دَمَوية (awʿīyah damawīyah)
    • Artery: شِريان (shiryān)
    • Vein: وَريد (warīd)
  • Nerves: عَصَب (ʿaṣab)

Parts of the body, part 1: the stuff on the outside

Starting at the top and working our way down, with some miscellaneous bits at the end:

  • Head: رأس (raʾs)
  • Face: وَجه (wajh)
  • Eye: عين (ʿayn, plural is عُيون ʿuyūn, dual is عينان ʿaynān but use the plural)
  • Eyelash: رِمش (rimsh, plural رُموش rumūsh)
  • Eyebrow: حاجِب العين (ḥājib al-ʿayn, dual حاجِبان ḥājibān, plural حَواجِب ḥawājib)
  • Ear: سَمع (samʿ, plural اسماع asmāʿ) or اذن (udhn, plural آذان ādhān)
  • Nose: أنف (anf, pl. آناف ānāf or انوف unūf)
  • Mouth: فُم (fumm, pl. افمام afmām)
  • Lip: شَفة (shafah, pl. شِفاه shifāh)
  • Tongue: لُغة (lughah, can also mean “language”)
  • Cheek: خَد (khadd, dual خَدان khaddān, pl. خُدود khudūd)
  • Beard: لِحية (liḥyah)
  • Mustache: شارِب (shārib, often dual شارِبان shāribān)
  • Chin: ذَقن (dhaqin or dhaqn)
  • Neck: عُنق (ʿunuq or ʿunq)
  • Shoulder: كَتِف (katif or kitf, pl. اكتاف aktāf)
  • Arm: ذِراع (dhirāʿ, pl. أذرُع adhruʿ)
  • Elbow: كوع (kūʿ)
  • Wrist: مِعصَم (miʿṣam, مَعاصِم pl. maʿāṣim)
  • Finger: إصبَع (iṣbaʿ), pl. أصابِع (aṣābiʿ)
  • Thumb: إبهام (ibhām); this can also mean “big toe,” so to specify the one on the hand you’ll need to say إبهام اليَد (ibhām al-yad)
  • Hand: يَد (yad)
  • Chest: صَدر (ṣadr)
  • Belly/Abdomen: بَطن (baṭn)
  • Back: ظُهر (ẓuhr)
  • Butt: مؤخَرة (muʾakhkharah), كَفَل (kapal), or رِدف (ridf)
  • Genitalia: قَضيب (qaḍīb, penis), مَهبَل (mahbal or mahbil, vagina)
  • Leg: ساق (sāq)
  • Thigh: فَخِذ (fakhidh)
  • Knee: رُكبة (rukbah)
  • Ankle: كاحِل (kāḥil) or كَعب (kaʿb)
  • Heel: كَعب (kaʿb)
  • Foot: قَدَم (qadam)
  • Toe: إصبَع القَدَم (iṣbaʿ al-qadam), pl. أصابِع القَدَم (aṣābiʿ al-qadam), lit. “finger of the foot”
  • Skin: بَشَرة (basharah) or جِلد (jild)
  • Hair: شَعر (shaʿr, a single hair is شَعرة shaʿrah)
  • Nail (finger or toe, not the metal kind): ظُفُر (ẓufur or ẓufr), pl. اظفار (aẓfār) or اظافِر (aẓāfir)

Please and thank you (and sorry), part V: please

We wrap up this series on everyday pleasantries (until I think of one I forgot) with the word “please.” There are two roots you should know here.

The first root is فضل (F-Ḍ-L, faḍala), which means “to excel” or “to be in excess” or “to be excellent,” but also has the sense of preferring one thing over another (the form II verb, فضّل or faḍala, means “to prefer”). When you take the verbal noun, فَضل (faḍl), which means “surplus,” “abundance,” or “favor,” you can construct the prepositional phrase مِن فَضلِكَ (min faḍlika), which uses the preposition مِن (“from,” but also some meanings of “by”) and the possessive pronoun كَ (for the masculine singular; use كِ for the feminine singular and كُم for the plural/formal), and which means “please” or, if you want to be precise, something like “by your grace.” Use this when you’re making a polite request. Spoken colloquial Arabic has a slightly different way to mark gender, so you’ll say “min fadlak” to a man and “min fadlik” to a woman.

From فضل or, specifically, its form V derivation تَفَضَّلَ (tafaḍḍala), which means “to be so kind” or “to deign,” we also use the imperative form of the verb, تَفَضَّل (tafaḍḍal, masculine singular; use تَفَضَّلي tafaḍḍalī for feminine singular and تَفَضَّلوا tafaḍḍalū for plural/formal) to mean “please” in the sense of “help yourself.” Use this when you’re offering something to someone, or when you’re trying to be polite in situations such as holding a door open for someone or letting someone go ahead of you; it basically means “be so kind as to accept my offer.”

The second root you should know is لطف (L-Ṭ-F, laṭafa), which means “to be kind.” The verbal noun لُطف (luṭf, “kindness”) can be made into an adverb using a grammatical structure we’ve seen before. The result is لُطفاً (luṭfan), which means “kindly” and can be used in simple requests where you could use “please” and “kindly” interchangeably, for example لُطفاَ أفتَح النافِذة (luṭfan aftaḥ al-nāfidhah) means “please (kindly) open the window.”

I would be doing you a disservice if I didn’t mention one other possibility, though it’s less likely you’ll use or encounter it than these other two options. The verb رجو or رجا (rajā), which we’ve seen in a Turkish incarnation (rica), means “to hope,” “to ask (for something),” or even “to plead,” and its verbal noun رجاء (rajāʾ) can be made into an adverb, رجاءً (rajāʾan), that means something like “pleadingly” and can be used in contexts where “please” might be used in English.