Words of Arabic origin - food and drink

Published 2021-07-12

Sugar, coffee and alcohol. Many of our words for food and drink have Arabic origin, or has come to us through Arabic. I will talk about some of them in this blog post.


Coffee is (qahwa) in Arabic. The word starts with the letter q that is pronounced as a k, but further back in the mouth and with a clicking sound. Coffee drinking started in Yemen in the 15th century.



Speaking of addictive drinks, the word for alcohol also has Arabic origin. I mentioned that in the lesson about definite form. The word alcohol comes from al-kohl, definite form of kohl, that is a black eye cosmetic, made from stibnite powder. The meaning of the word has moved from kohl to desilled substances in general to the specific substance alcohol.


Kohl and coffee

Now that we have learned the Arabic words for coffee (qahwa) and kohl, we can use them in sentences.

The coffee is black as kohl.
Kohl is blacker than coffee.


We move on to words for eatable things. Sugar is pronounced (sukkar) in Arabic. In my navite language Swedish, sugar is "socker" which is even more close to the Arabic pronounciation. The pattern for (sukkar) does not fit into any Arabic word pattern. That is perhaps because the word originates from Sanskrit.


Coffee and sugar

The Arabic words for coffee (qahwa) and sugar (sukkar) are useful when you go to cafes.

coffee with sugar
coffee without sugar

Rock candy

Now it is time for more sugar. The word candy comes from the Arabic word (qand) that means rock candy, also called sugar candy. The word came to Arabic from Persian. The origin might be Sanskrit.

rock candy, sugar candy

Rock candy and sugar

Now we can combine the words for sugar (sukkar) and rock candy (cand) to form sentences.

Rock candy is hard sugar.
Rock candy is extracted from sugar cane.


The last sweet for today is sorbet. The word sorbet, and also the words syrup and sherbet, originates from the Arabic root sh r b. The verb (shariba) that means "he drank" is an example of words with this root.

to drink

He drank coffee

We can combine the Arabic verb "he drank" (shariba) with the Arabic words for coffee (qahwa) and sugar (sukkar).

He drank coffee.
He drank coffee with sugar.

Harmful to the health

There are plenty of English words that comes from Arabic. Today, I only talked about words for unhealhy food and drink.

A lot of coffee, sugar and rock candy is harmful to the health.

More words with Arabic origin

The words and much of the information about them come from Wikipedia. I plan to write more blog posts on this theme. Then there will be healthier food, and words describing other things than food. Please comment and tell me what words with Arabic origin you know, and which words you want to know more about.