Jingle Bells

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Arab culture and civilization in English Language

Any prolongued contact between cultures has proven to lead to borrowing between languages. Borrowing may be cultural in nature, incorporating terms that denote previously unfamiliar objects or concepts, or social, incorporating what are viewed as more prestigious terms that denote familiar items or concepts for which perfectly serviceable native terms already exist.

Languages use various strategies in borrowing: perhaps adoptinxg and preserving the form used in the donor language, sometimes adapting the borrowed word to conform more closely to their own phonological and morphological systems, and sometimes creating a new word through loan translation. Not surprisingly, the extent and nature of borrowing between two languages reflect the extent and nature of the contact between the corresponding cultures.

During the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, English speakers came into contact with the prestigious intellectual centers of the Arab world. This contact led to a flow of borrowings from Arabic into English, primarily in the fields of chemistry, medicine, philosophy, mathematics, astronomy, optics, physics, botany, literature, religion (chiefly Islam), music, warfare, shipping, trade, architecture, geography, government and sovereignty. Mostly via Romance and sometimes even via Germanic languages, English language incorporates numerous Arabic originating words, even in it's primary vocabulary:

alcohol
الكحل al-kohl, finely powdered stibnite and any similar fine powder. The word with that meaning entered Latin in the 13th century. In 14th-century Latin it meant any finely ground and sifted material. In the later Latin alchemy literature it took on the additional meaning of a purified material, or "quintessence", which was arrived at by distillation methods. The restriction to "quintessence of wine" (ethanol) started with the alchemist Paracelsus in the 16th century. The biggest-selling English dictionary of the 18th century (Bailey's) defined alcohol as "a very fine and impalpable powder, or a very pure well rectified spirit."

algebra
الجبر al-jabr, completing, or restoring broken parts. The mathematical sense originates from the title of the book "al-kitāb al-mukhtaṣar fī ḥisāb al-jabr wa al-muqābala", "The Compendious Book on Calculation by Completing and Balancing" by the 9th-century mathematician al-Khwarizmi. This algebra book was translated to Latin more than once in the 12th century. In medieval Arabic mathematics, al-jabr and al-muqābala were the names of the two main preparatory steps used to solve an algebraic equation and the phrase "al-jabr and al-muqābala" came to mean "method of equation-solving". The medieval Latins borrowed the method and the names.

arsenal
دار صناعة dār sināʿa, "house of manufacturing", particularly government-run manufacturing, usually for the military. "Ibn Khaldoun quotes an order of the Caliph Abdalmelic to build at Tunis a dār sināʿa for the construction of everything necessary for the equipment and armament of [seagoing] vessels." In the West the word's early history is tied to the then-famous Arsenal of Venice, which for centuries in Republic of Venice was a place for building ships and military armaments for ships on a large scale. 14th-century Italian included the spellings "tarcenale", "terzana", "arzana", "arsana", "tersanaia", "tersanaja".... In today's French, fr:Arsenal means both a naval dockyard and an arsenal. The early records in English (16th century) contain the same dual meanings as in today's French.

assassin
حشاشين ḥashāshīn, an Arabic nickname for the Nizari branch of Ismailism in the Levant during the Crusades era. This sect carried out assassinations against chiefs of other sects, including Christians, and the story circulated in Europe at the time (13th century). Generalization of the sect's nickname to the meaning of "assassin" happened in Italian after the Crusades era was over....
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