11 words for love, hundreds for camel

Every now and then I have new questions about the Arabic language: what does an Arab’s computer keyboard look like? Do Arabic speakers grow up knowing two alphabets from a super young age as I imagine they do, or is that Latin-centric of me? If I typed in the address of a website in Arabic letters, would the internet find what I was looking for? Are there any “404 PAGE NOT FOUND” pages written in Arabic? [*I collect those on Pinterest, that’s why I think of them]. Will I ever manage to find online resources to make progress in Arabic calligraphy as I did with ‘modern’ calligraphy, or is that a lost battle? Are Arabic native speakers’ hand-writings as different from one another as ours? Exactly how much can you play with an Arabic letter before it becomes unidentifiable for all? Etc, etc, etc.

I have occasionally tried to look for some answers on the net. Found none. But discovered other intriguing things in the process. From the British Council, for example:

There are at least 11 words for ‘love’ and hundreds of words for ‘camel’

Arabic has at least 11 words for love and each of them conveys a different stage in the process of falling in love. The word ‘hawa’, for example, describes the initial attraction or inclining of the soul or mind towards another. The term comes from the root word ‘h-w-a’ – a transient wind that can rise and fall.

‘Alaaqa’, which comes from the root word (‘a-l-q) which means ‘to cling on to’ describes the next stage when the heart begins to attach itself to the beloved, before evolving into a blind desire ‘ishq’ and all-consuming love ‘shaghaf’. The final stage of falling in love, ‘huyum’, describes the complete loss of reason.

Interestingly, the most common word for love in Arabic, ‘hubb’, comes from the same root as the word ‘seed’ – that which has the potential to grow into something beautiful.

The word for heart, ‘qalb’, comes from the root word (q-l-b), meaning to flip or turn something over. Although the word refers to the physical heart, spiritually the root word becomes appropriate when we think of our hearts as something constantly turning over emotions, decisions and opinions. Be careful to pronounce the first letter correctly as the word ‘kalb’ translates as ‘dog’, and is very insulting.

This expansive vocabulary is not just limited to the world of poetry and literature, but also practical life. Arabic is said to have hundreds of words for ‘camel’. For example, ‘Al-Jafool’ means a camel that is frightened by anything; ‘Al-Harib’ is a female camel that walks ahead of the others by a great distance so that it appears to be fleeing.

Trust in God, but tie up your camel’ is a great (and practical) Arabic proverb used to express the nature of destiny and personal responsibility. The matter of destiny is also very much embedded within everyday Arabic phrases such as ‘Insha’Allah’ (If God wills). The expression can be used so fervently that, when asking someone’s name, I was once given the response ‘Ahmed, Insha’Allah’.

Imagine me putting a few thousands heart emoticons in line to describe my feelings for the Arabic language now. It just gets better and better the more I learn about it! Maybe though I should just get on and learn all the different words for love, to then choose what’s most appropriate to describe my relationship with this language. With the camels, I already know that I love that Al-Harib character  ❤

Aaaand that’s it for up-to-me Saturday! #happyblogger
See you soon… Insha’Allah 😉


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