Nisba

Many Arabic adjectives are formed by taking an existing word and adding iyy at the end.

For example, if you take the word Dabaab which means fog and add iyy at the end, you get the word Dabaabiyy that means foggy.

ﺿَﺒَﺎﺏ
Dabaab
fog
ﺿَﺒَﺎﺑِﻲّ
Dabaabiyy
foggy

If you take the word miSr which means Egypt and add iyy at the end, you get the word miSriyy that means Egyptian.

ﻣِﺼﺮ
miSr
Egypt
ﻣِﺼﺮِﻱّ
miSriyy
egyptian

These types of words are called nisbah, which means koppling in Arabic.

On this site you will find lots of words that follow mönstret nisba. When you click on a word, you will come to a page with detailed information about the word. Among other information, you see related words (ie words with the same root). From them, can figure out which is the basis of the nisba adjective.

Nisba in feminine

You get the feminine form of a nisba adjective by adding ta marbuta at the end. This means that the word is pronounced with a at the end.

مِصرِيَّة
miSriyya'
Egyptian (feminine)

Nisba in the masculine thus ends in iyy while nisba in the feminine ends in iyya.

Artificial verbal noun

Artificiellt verbalnomen are words that are formed by adding iyya at the end. These words therefore look like nisba in the feminine. But they are not adjectives but nouns.

If you take the word 3amal that means work and add iyya at the end, you get the word 3amaliyya which means process.

ﻋَﻤَﻞ
3amal
work
ﻋَﻤَﻠِﻴَّﺔ
3amaliyya
method, process

Discover more patterns

Det finns m?nga m?nster f?r arabiska ord. Bland de som ?r l?ttast att k?nna igen ?r time and place nouns, instrument nouns, colours och professions.

Arabic word patterns

Arabic words follow certain patterns. The patterns make it easier to recognize, memorize and figure out the meaning of Arabic words.

Most Arabic words have a root consisting of three letters. In addition to the root letters, the words contain vowels and sometimes extra letters. The patterns show how the three root letters should be combined with vowels and sometimes extra letters to form words.

To represent the root letters of the word, the letters f, 3 and l are usually used. The letter f (fa) represents the first root letter, 3 (ayn) represents the second root letter and l (lam) represents the third root letter. Some words really have the root f,3 and l. But most words have different root letters.

Using Arabic patterns

As an example, we can look at the root k,t and b. That is, the first root letter is k (kaf), the second root letter is t (ta) and the third is b (ba).

The pattern fa3ala is a common Arabic pattern for verbs. This means that the verb is created by adding the short vowel (a) after each root letter. With the root (k,t,b), the verb becomes kataba that means to write.

The pattern maf3uul is a passive participle, that means that words with this pattern often describe the object of an action. The word is build by of the prefix (ma), the first root letter, the second root letter, the long vowel (uu) and the third root letter. With the root (k,t,b), the verb becomes maktuub that means written.

The patternmaf3al is used for words that describe places or times. You get the words by combining the prefix (ma), the first root letter, the second root letter, the short vowel (a) and the third root letter. With the root (k,t,b), the verb becomes maktab that means office.

Do I need to learn Arabic patterns?

If you think Arabic word patterns seem boring or hard to learn, then just ignore them. Most native Arabic speakers I have talked to about Arabic word patterns, have little or no knowledge of them. It is only at the university in Sweden where I read Arabic, and in textbooks by Western authors, that I have noticed interest in the Arabic word patterns.

Personally, I find the patterns very useful. I can guess the meaning of words I have never heard before, thanks to the patterns and the root letters. Above all, I think that Arabic word patterns are interesting and pleasant, actually therapeutic. When life feels chaotic and insecure, it's nice that every new Arabic word I encounter fits into the patterns I know.

More about Arabic patterns

On this website, you will find the most important Arabic patterns for forming words, and many more in addition to them. See all Arabic word patterns

This site contains thousands of words and each word has a page with detailed information about the word. Among many other things, you can see the pattern of the word. Learn more about Arabic word patterns