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One thousand and one... camels

Week 18, Episode 35

Languages are mirrors of cultures. And Arabic language gives us great examples of that. They say, in Arabic you can find more than a thousand words to describe a camel! No wonder, camels were at the center of Arabian culture for centuries as their helpers and source of food and heat.

Though there is one common word that all Arabs use meaning "camel", الجمل (el-joemeel), that by the way comes from the root that conveys the idea of beauty (J-M-L)—الجمال (el-jamal), "beauty",—there are also other multiple ways to distinguish one camel from another based on their age, appearance, function, character, color, and even drinking behavior!

Just to give you an idea on that last one:

الغب — A camel that drinks once every two days

الربع — A camel that drinks once every 3 days

الظاهرة — A camel that drinks once every day

الرفة — A camel that drinks at any time

القصريد — A camel that drinks little water

العرجاء — A camel that drinks once during the day and once at night

الغب الطل — A camel that goes to drink from the watering hole during the day

التندية — A camel that returns to the watering hole to drink once more

السلوف — A female camel that leads other camels to the watering hole to drink

ملحاح — A female camel that doesn’t often leave the watering hole

ميراد — A female camel that rushes to get to the watering hole

الملواح or الهافة — A female camel that gets thirsty quickly

عيوف — A female camel that smells the water but often doesn’t drink it

مقامح — A female camel that doesn’t drink to heal her affliction

رقوب  —  A female camel that doesn’t drink from the watering hole when it’s busy, but waits and observes

Arabic has also impressive diversity for "fear" and "love", describing all the different kinds of these essential feelings. Synonyms exist in Arabic to show something from slightly different angles, express emotions in slightly various shades, and so on.

For example, the word "heart" can be translated into Arabic as "qalb" (القلب) or as "fu'ad" (فؤاد). The word "qalb" comes from the root Q-L-B which means "to flip", whereas the word "fu'ad" comes from the root F-A-D which means "to become ignited" and such. The heart is sometimes referred to as "qalb" because a person's emotions, opinions and overall mood can change from one to another in a split second. And sometimes the heart is referred to as "fu'ad" in situations of intense emotion because such emotions resemble a blaze.

How about words that have lots of meanings, sometimes even one word that means opposite things? Arabic is truly a surprising and creative language!

And then you meet words with such deep meanings that one has to use whole sentences to explain each of them. Coming next!

!ممتاز (Moon-taz) Awesome!

" Ah! Such a poetic article I am! Like me now! "

Read more about Arabic and other languages at

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