Eight interesting facts about the Arabic language

_December 18th marks Arabic Language Day, the day when the General Assembly approved Arabic as one of the official languages of the U.N. in 1973. To celebrate its 43rd anniversary, we’ve collected some lesser known facts about the fifth most widely spoken language in the world in 2016.

1. The word “Arab” means nomad” — a fitting word because the Arabic language originated from nomadic tribes in the desert regions of the Arabian Peninsula.

2. The English words, admiral”,coffee”, and giraffe, are of Arabic origin, as well as “alcohol”, “algebra”, “algorithm” and “alkaline”. The article “al” means “the” in Arabic.

3. In mathematics, the algebraic letter ‘x’ which represents an unknown number actually originated from the Arabic word “shay” or “thing” in English. It eventually became translated to ‘xay’ in Spain so its final abbreviation became ‘x’.

4. Arabic has influenced several other languages around the world:

Hausa Amaric Swahili

5. It is the official language in over 20 countries.

Arabic Speaking Countries in Africa


Arabic Speaking Countries in Asia (Middle East)

OmanPalestinian territoriesQatar
Saudi ArabiaSyriaUnited Arab Emirates

6. Arabic is the language of the Noble Qur’an and the Islamic law. Knowing the language is an obligation for Muslims or practitioners of Islam, a rapidly growing religion with a global population of 1.6 billion.

7. Words are written from right to left. Numbers are written from left to right. Some Arabic letters also change form depending on where they are placed in a word (beginning, middle, end, or standalone).

8.In the Arabic language, there are at least 11 words for “love”. Each one conveys a different stage in the complex process of falling in love. “Hubb”, the most common word for “love” in Arabic comes from the same root as the word “seed”, which has the potential to grow into something beautiful. (Beautiful, isn’t it?)

Are you an Arabic native speaker or learner? What do you think makes this language interesting? We’d love to hear from you in the comments!

Sources: wikipedia.com, myeasyarabic.com, nationsonline.org, britishcouncil.org

Jenie Gabriel

The author

Jenie Gabriel

Jenie creates and coordinates content for Gengo's marketing team. Originally from the Philippines, she was an advertising creative in Singapore before moving to Tokyo. In her spare time, you’ll find her wandering around the city or planning her next escapade.

Stay informed

Subscribe to receive all the latest updates from Gengo in your inbox.

Translator Resources [EN]

Get the leads of users from translator resources page.

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Business Resources

Discover everything you need to know about going global.

Translator Resource Page

Discover everything you need to know about translating with Gengo.

Translator Forum