A little introduction on Arabic root words

Assalamu alaikum,

As we are getting more familiar with the Arabic, here is a useful article on the Arabic root word system. InshaAllah you will find it useful.

Inshaallah next class onward we’ll start distributing a page a class on the common words in the Quran booklet.

Fee Aman Allah


Brief List of Arabic Roots

Introduction to the Use of Arabic Roots:

Arabic words are generally based on a root that uses three consonants to define the underlying meaning of the word. Various vowels, prefixes and suffixes are used with the root letters to create the desired inflection of meaning.

Each set of root letters can lead to a vast number of words, all predictable in form and all related to the basic meaning of the three root letters.

For example, the root k-t-b has the basic meaning of marking, inscribing or writing. The root may be conjugated in simple past tense (perfect) verb forms such as:

kataba he wrote
katabû they wrote
katabat she wrote
katabnâ we wrote

Similarly, there are simple and predictable rules for present (imperfect) and imperative forms of  the basic root, such as:

yaktubu he writes
yaktabunâ they write
taktubu you write
naktubu we write
‘uktub write!

And then the vastness really begins to be seen as additional forms such as verbal nouns are created from the same simple root k-t-b to describe things such as:

katîb writer
kitâba the act of writing
kitâb some writing, book
kutub books
kutubî bookdealer
kutayyib booklet
maktûb letter
maktab school, office
maktaba library, literature
maktabî individual office
miktâb typewriter
mukâtaba correspondence
iktitâb registration
istiktâb dictation

…. and on and on. This is only a limited sample of the immense variety of words that can be formed by simple and predictable usage of the basic root which was only the three consonants k-t-b.

A Brief List of some Arabic Roots:

The following list of roots is sorted according to the English alphabet, ignoring any diacritical marks.

Examples of typical usage of the root are shown in parenthesis.

a-b 2 father, ancestor, forefather
(ab, abû)
‘a-b-d 685 to serve, worship, be devote to, show veneration
(‘abd, ‘ibâda, ma’bûd)
‘a-d-l 696 to act justly, equitably or to make straight, set in order
(‘adl, a’dâla, ta’dîl)
‘a-d-m 698 to be non-existent, disappeared, destroyed, devoid of
(‘adam, ‘adîm)
‘a-f-w 731 to be obliterated, effaced, eliminated
(al-‘afûw, ‘afwîya, ‘afâ’, isit’fâ’, ‘âfin, mu’fan)
a-h-d 7 to unify, be one
(al-ahad, ahadîya, uhâdî)
a-kh-r 9 to postpone, defer, be last, final, ultimate
(al-âkhir, âkhar, ukhrâ, ta’khîr, mu’akhkhara)
a-l-h 30 to adore, deify, turn to another with intense feeling
(ilâh, ilâhî)
‘a-l-m 743 to know, have knowledge, be informed, teach, notify
(al-‘alîm, ‘ilm, ‘ilmiya, ‘allam, u’lûma)
a-m-l 35 to hope, to look attentively, meditate, consider
(amal, âmâl, âmil, muta’ammil)
a-n-s 38 to be familiar, friendly, sociable
(uns, insî, ins, anîs)
‘a-q-d 734 to tie, knit, make a knot, put together, join
(‘aqd, ‘aqîda)
‘a-q-l 737 to have the faculty of reasoning, comprehension
(‘aql, ‘aqlî)
‘a-r-f 708 to know, to perceive, discover, to announce
(‘arîf, ‘irfân, ma’rîfa, ta’rîf, ma’rûf)
‘a-s-m 722 to hold back, restrain, preserve, to take refuge, guard
( ‘asama, ‘isâmî)
‘a-z-m 729 to be great, powerful, mighty
(a’zam, al-‘azîm, ‘izâmî, ‘azîma)
‘a-y-d 774 to celebrate, to feast
(‘îd ul adhâ, mu’âyada)
‘a-z-z 712 to be strong, powerful, respected, to fortify, strengthen
(al-‘azîz, ‘izz, ta’zîz, ma’azza)
b-d-‘ 57 to introduce, originate, start, do for the first time
(al mubdi’, bdi’, badî’a, abda’, ibtidâ’)
b-q-y 84 to remain, continue, endure, be ever-lasting
( al- baqî’, baqâ’, abqâ, bâqin)
d-a’-â 326 to call, summon, appeal to, invite, invoke
(du’â, da’wa)
dh-k-r 358 to remember, recollect, bear in mind
(dhikr, tadhkâr, dhâkira)
d-w-n 350 to record, write down, enter, collect
d-y-n 352 to be obedient, submissive, to be indebted, to owe
(dîn, diyâna)
f-l-q 851 to split open, cleave, tear asunder, burst
(falq, falaq)
f-n-y 854 to wane, dwindle, recede, come to an end, cease to exist
(fanâ’, fânin)
f-q-h 847 to understand, comprehend or to teach, instruct
f-t-h 811 to open, unlock, reveal, conquer
( fattâh, mifatâh, miftâhî, al-fâtiha)
f-t-m to wean, relinquish, disengage, abstain, cut-off
gh-f-r 793 to cover, hide, forgive, guard, protect
(al-ghafûr, ‘astaghfirullâh)
gh-n-y 803 to be rich, wealthy, free or to sing praises, extol
(ghanâ’, istighnâ’ )
gh-s-l 788 to wash, clean, cleanse, purge
h-â-l 251 to change, be transformed, become, to be transferred
(hâla, tahwîl, ihâla)
h-a-t 249 to guard, protect, encircle, encompass, surround
(ihâta, muhît)
h-b-b 179 to love, to endear, to make dear, to like, to prefer
(hubb, habîb, mahbûb)
h-b-l 182 to catch, ensnare, or to be pregnant
(habîl, habila, hublâ)
h-f-z 220 to protect, guard, preserve, take care of
(hafîz, tahz)
h-m-d 238 to praise, commend, laud, extol
(hamîd, mahmûd, muhammad, al-hamdulillâh)
h-m-l 240 to carry, bear, lift, take along, transport, convert, bring around
(hamîla, haml)
h-m-s 239 to be zealous, ardent, enthusiastic, excited
(hamâs, tahammus)
h-q-q 224 to be true, right, correct
(al-haqq, haqîq, tahqîq)
h-s-d 207 to envy,  to be envious
( hâsid)
h-s-n 208 to be beautiful, lovely. fine, proper
(husnâ, hasan)
hs-n 214 to fortify, be accessible, to be chaste, pure
(ihsân hasâna)
h-y-y 256 to live, to exist
(al-hayy, tahîya, ihyâ’, hayâh, hayya)
j-â-‘ 177 to come, to get to, reach, arrive, set forth, set out to do
(jai’a, majî’, jâ’iât)
j-â-d 172 to be good, to improve, to be skilled, proficient
(jûd, tajwîd, jayyid)
j-â-l 176 to roam, wander, move freely, circulate
(jawwâl, tajwâl, majâl)
j-h-d 168 to struggle, endeavor, strive, labor, strain, fight
(jihâd, majhûd, ijtihâd)
j-n-n 164 to hide, conceal, put under cover
(janna, junna, junûn, jinn, jinnî)
j-w-d 173 to be good, be better, to grant generously, liberally
(jûd, jayyid, jawâd, tajwîd)
k-b-r 947 to be older, esteemed, big, great, large, famous, admired
(kabîr, ‘akbar, takbîr)
k-f-â 977 to be enough, sufficient, to meet all needs
(kifâya, iktifâ’, mukâfâh)
k-l-m 981 to speak, talk, converse, express
(kalima, kalâm)
k-m-l 984 to be whole, complete, perfect, finished
(kamâl, kâmil, kamâla, takmîl, ikmâ, istikmâll)
k-s-b 966 to earn, acquire, win, gather, attain
(kâsib, iktisâb)
k-w-n 993 to be, exist, happen, take place or make, create, bring forth
(yakûn, kiyân, kaun)
kh-l-f 297 to be a successor, take the place of, substitute or to differ, argue
kh-l-s 294 to be pure, refined, purged,  free, liberated, redeemed, sincere
(ikhlâs, takhlîs)
kh-l-q 299 to create, make, form, mold, pattern
(khulq, khulqî, khalîq, al-khâliq, akhlâqî)
l-h-b 1032 to flame, burn, blaze, kindle, excite
(iltihb, lahab)
l-t-f 1018 to be kind, friendly, amicable, benevolent
m-l-k 1081 to possess, rule, own, have dominion over
(mâlik, malîk)
m-r-‘ 1058 to be wholesome, healthy, manly
(imra’, marî’)
m-s-h 1064 anoint, rub, wipe off, stroke with hand
m-w-l 1093 the have wealth, to become rich, finance something
(mâl, amwâl)
n-d-r 1118 to dedicate, consecrate, vow, notify, warn
(nadîr, indâr, mandûr)
n-f-k 1152 to blow, puff, breathe, inflate
(nafk, manfûk)
n-s-r 1138 to help, aid, assist, defend, protect
(nasîr, mansûr)
n-s-y 1130 to forget, neglect, omit
(nasy, mansîy)
n-w-r 1182 to illuminate, light, enlighten, to clarify, be revealed, disclosed
(nârî, nûr, munîr, munawwar)
n-z-l 1122 to come down, descend, reveal
(tanzîl, nazîl)
n-z-m 1147 to arrange, put in order, determine the details of something
(nizâm, munazzam)
q-â-m 934 to rise up, get up, ascend, to begin, to remain, to exist
(al-qayyûm, qiyâm, maqâm, qâ’im)
r-â-d 425 to walk about, prowl, search, seek
(irâda, murîd)
r-b-b 370 to bring up, to foster, to nourish, a master, lord, owner
r-h-m 384 womb, kinship, mercy, compassion
(al-rahmân, al-rahîm)
r-sh-d 395 to be on the right track, rightly guided
(murshid, irshâd, rashâd, rashîd)
r-z-q 389 to provide, supply, grant means of subsistence
(al-razzâq, rizq, marzûq, murtazak)
s-b-h 457 to glorify, praise, to be swimming in
(subhan allâh, tasbîh)
s-b-r 585 to be patient, to make durable
(al-sabûr, sabbâr, asbar, musâbara, istibâr)
s-l-m 495 to be safe, secure, protected, to surrender, to submit
(al-salâm, islâm, salîm, muslim)
s-l-w 611 to pray, worship, bless
(salât, musallâ, salawâtun)
s-m-d 613 to be unaffected, or turn to someone or to resist, oppose
s-m-‘ 501 to hear, to listen, pay attention, be told, hear about
(al-samî’, samâ’)
s-w-m 621 to abstain, to refrain, a particular form of abstinence e.g. fast
(saum, sâ’im, siyâm)
sh-k-r 563 to thank, to be grateful, laud, offer thanks
sh-r-k 547 to share, become a partner, participant
sh-r-q 546 to radiate, shine, beam,  to rise like the sun
sh-r-r 539 to be evil, bad, wicked
(sharr, sharîr)
t-b-b 108 to perish, be destroyed, stabilized
(tabban lahâ)
t-w-b 119 to turn toward, to repent, renounce
w-b-l 1226 to be unwholesome, unhealthy, noxious, heavy rain
w-h-d 1236 to be one, unique, without equal
(wahîd, wâhid)
w-k-l 1283 to entrust, assign, commission, empower
(wakil, tawakkul)
w-l-d 1285 to give birth, make, create
(walid, maulûd)
w-l-y 1288 to be near, close, friend, servant, defender, supporter, protector
(walîy, wâlî, maulânâ)
w-s-w-s 1254 to whisper, to temp, to awaken doubts
y-d 1295 hand, handle, control, power
y-q-n 1298 to be certain, convinced, certitude
(yaqan, yaqîn, mûqin)
z-h-r 682 to be visible, perceptible, manifest, distinct
z-l-m 681 to do wrong, treat unjustly or to grow dark, gloomy
(zulm, zalâm)

Useful References:

An Arabic-English Lexicon, Edward W. Lane… an eight volume masterpiece of classical Arabic which includes plentiful examples of classical usage and the meanings of the words during the time period that the Qur’ân was revealed. Indexed by Arabic roots, with definitions in English.

Hans Wehr Dictionary of Modern Written Arabic, edited by J.M. Cowan.

Dictionary of the Holy Qur’ân, Abdul Mannân Omar… truly a precious gift to those who speak English, this magnificent dictionary translates every Arabic word used used in the Qur’ân into English, giving the Arabic root word followed by English translations of every form of that root which appears in the Qur’ân. This dictionary is easy to use, is relatively inexpensive and is based on classical Arabic as used in the Qur’ân.