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1. Algebra 

الجبر Al-jabr

Translated as ‘the reunion of two broken parts’, in Al-Khwarizmi’s mathematical compendium. Read more about his work and other Arab inventions here.

Extract from a copy of The Compendious Book on Calculation by Completion and Balancing

Extract from a copy of The Compendious Book on Calculation by Completion and Balancing

2. Assassin 

حشاشين Hashashin

The Arabs nicknamed the Nizari Ismaili religious sect, an infamous collective of assassins from the Levant, ‘hashishin’. The group were responsible for the killings of numerous religious leaders including the Crusading Christians. ‘Europeans’ at the time adopted the name, transforming it phonetically in Latin records to ‘Assassini’.

"14th-century painting of the assassination of Nizam al-Mulk by an assassin."

“14th-century painting of the assassination of Nizam al-Mulk by an assassin.”

3. Azure

لازورد Lazward

Lapis Lazuli was ground into a powder used to create blue inks found in paint, makeup etc. ‘Lazward’ can be traced back to “Lajward” in Afghanistan – a key source of the bright blue rock during the medieval era.

Afghanistan is notorious for its Lapis Lazuli

Afghanistan is notorious for its Lapis Lazuli

4. Carat (gold)

قيراط Qirat

As exactly one-twenty fourth (1/24) of the weight of the medieval Arabic gold dinar, qirat was therefore used to quantify the weight of other produce. The Western world adopted ‘qirat’ to measure the ratio of pure gold found in gold alloy coins.

Ali bin Yusuf gold Dinar

Ali bin Yusuf gold Dinar

5. Cotton  

قطن Qutn

The word for cotton began to circulate Romance languages in the mid-12th century and English much later for it was an expensive and therefore rare product at the time.

6. Elixir 

الإكسير Al-Iksir

The alchemical philosopher’s stone – the combination of materials that was said to potentially create gold. Said to be taken from the Greek, xēron to mean powder, ‘al-iksir’ was used in Al-Biruni’s writings to label the much sought after alchemical substance.

7.  Ghoul 

غول Ghul

A word used by the Arabs since the conception of Islam and most likely before then, ‘ghoul’ first entered the European literary scene in a translated version of 1001 Arabian Nights, 1712.

"Amine Discovered with the Ghoul"

“Amine Discovered with the Ghoul”

8. Lemon 

ليمون Limun

The Arabs introduced lemons and other citric delights to the rest of the Mediterranean in the medieval era. ‘Limun’ was planted in the local language of Andalucía via Arab descriptions of such plants during the 12th century and is ultimately derived from the Persian, due to the fruit originating in India.

9. Safari

سفر Safar

Safari means journey in Swahili and comes from the Arabic, Safar.

A 13th-century book illustration produced in Baghdad by al-Wasiti showing a group of pilgrims on a hajj.

A 13th-century book illustration produced in Baghdad by al-Wasiti showing a group of pilgrims on a hajj.

10. Tarragon

طرخون Tarkhun

The earliest record of Tarragon in Arabic texts can be found in the 10th century medical records of Al Razi and appears in Latin texts no earlier than two centuries later.

Tarragon and cake, anyone? (@bunsoffunemma)

Tarragon and cake, anyone? (@bunsoffunemma)

 

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