Plant names in Arabic

From PlantUse English
Jump to: navigation, search


Besides their intrinsic interest, Arabic names are of particular importance for historians. Actually, they often acted as a bridge between ancient Greek, Aramean, Persian and Indian languages on one side, and European languages on the other. Travelling eastwards, they were often borrowed by Persian and then Indian languages.

Their study is difficult for several reasons:

  • there is no comprehensive historical or etymological dictionary covering the whole Arab-speaking area;
  • names often differ from Machrek to Maghreb, and from one dialect to the other;
  • Arab authors concentrate on classical Arabic, and have neglected local and dialectal forms of language;
  • Europeans usually access names through transcriptions or translitterations, and for a long time, three competing systems have been used (English, French, Spanish);
  • moreover, given the specificities of the Arabic phonological system, there are often a close and a simplfied transcription , the latter being more readable by Europeans;
  • authors vary in giving either a transcription or translitteration of the written form, or an account of the real pronounciation;
  • last, special letters and diacritical marks were difficult to use outside of specialised publications.

Fortunately, the Unicode standard now allows to use all wished letters, and also to write in Arabic script.

Working method

We follow here the standardised translitteration DIN-31635, called "transcription Arabica" in France, and visible on English Wikipedia or French Wikipedia with a clearer presentation. Characters not found on usual keyboards cand be copied and pasted from the list of this site.

To write words or sentences in Arabic (with an English or French operating system), the French site Lexilogos offers two keyboards, one for Arabic characters, the other for translitterated characters. Both keyboards give equivalents which help typing. Once the word is written in a window, it can be copied and pasted where so wished. Lexilogos and Mediawiki manage letter forms, what Microsoft Word doesn't.

As example, see the names of aubergine, which show quite well the problems found (pronounciation of ج / ǧ, variation of the final consonant, pronounciation of vowels). Old names are classified in chronological order, and contemporary names in a geographical order from East to West. Translitterated or trancribed names aregiven as found in sources, except those between square brackets, which are added by the compiler.

If you already have data corpuses that you wish to share, don't hesitate and collaborate.


(to be documented further...)

Treatises of materia medica

  • Renaud H.P.J. & Colin Georges S., 1934. Tuhfat al-Ahbab, glossaire de la matière médicale marocaine. Arabic text with translation to French and critical notes. Paris, Paul Geuthner. XXXV-218-75 p.

Agronomic treatises

Contemporary dictionaries

  • Bedevian, Armenag K., 1936. Illustrated polyglottic dictionary of plant names in Latin, Arabic, Armenian, English, French, German, Italian and Turkish languages. Including economicc, medicinal, poisonous and ornamental plants and common weeds. Cairo, Argus & Papazian Press. 644 p. of text, 456 p. of indices and 8 p. in Arabic numbering.
  • Bellakhdar Jamal, 1997. La pharmacopée marocaine traditionnelle. Médecine arabe ancienne et savoirs populaires. Paris, Ibis Press. 764 p. 12 pl.
  • Bellakhdar Jamal, 2003. Le Maghreb à travers ses plantes. Plantes, productions végétales et traditions au Maghreb. Casablanca, Le Fennec. 198 p.
  • Bertrand P.Y., 1991. Les noms des plantes au Maroc. Rabat, Actes Editions, Institut agronomique et vétérinaire Hassan II. 166 p.
  • Hammer Karl, Lehmann Christian & Perrino Pietro, 1988. A check-list of the Libyan cultivated plants including an inventory of the germplasm collected in the years 1981, 1982 and 1983. Kulturpflanze, 36 : 475-527. Includes Arabic names.
  • Quézel, Pierre & Santa, S., 1962-63. Nouvelle flore de l'Algérie et des régions désertiques méridionales, 2 vols. Paris, Centre national de la recherche scientifique. 1170 p. download the index of Arab and Berber names in xls compiled by Rachid Meddour.
  • Schweinfurth Georg, 1912. Arabische Pflanzennamen aus Aegypten, Algerien und Jemen. Berlin, Dietrich Reimer. XXIV-232 p. Abteilung I : Arabische Pflanzennamen aus der Flora von Aegypten. Abteilung II : Arabische Pflanzennamen aus der Flora von Jemen nach Forskål. Abteilung III : Arabische Pflanzennamen aus der Flora von Jemen und Süd-Arabien. Abteilung IV : Arabische Pflanzennamen aus der Flora von Biskra. Abteilung V : Arabische Pflanzennamen aus dem Küstenland und dem Tel-Bergland von Nordwest-Algerien. Abteilung VI : Arabische Nomenklatur der Datelpalme in Aegypten und Algerien.
  • Trabut L., 1935. Répertoire des noms indigènes des plantes spontanées, cultivées et utilisées dans le nord de l'Afrique. Alger. 355 p. (Collection du centenaire de l'Algérie. Flore du nord de l'Afrique). on line.
  • Trabut, L., 2006. Noms indigènes des plantes d'Afrique du Nord. Répertoire des noms des plantes spontanées, cultivées et utilisées. Paris, Ibis Press. 356 p. Reedition without change of the 1935 edition.