مصر MiSr, Egypt, city

Abu Bishr

Senior Member
Afrikaans, South Africa
Moderator note:
This discussion started in the thread about the Coptic language. It evolved enought to have it's own thread now.

Hi Guys

Is there any connection between "Copt" and "Egypt"? In Arabic "Egypt" is "MiSr" or "MaSr" (in colloquial), which does not sound anything like "Egypt". For some reason I always felt that "Copt" and "Egypt" are connected.
 
  • Wadi Hanifa

    Senior Member
    Arabic
    Both "Copt" and "Egypt" are derived from the Greek "Aegyptus", Abu Bishr. "Misr" I think has a totally independent etymology; it's the Semitic word for Egypt and appears in the Bible as "Mizrayim".
     

    Josh_

    Senior Member
    U.S., English
    Both "Copt" and "Egypt" are derived from the Greek "Aegyptus", Abu Bishr. "Misr" I think has a totally independent etymology; it's the Semitic word for Egypt and appears in the Bible as "Mizrayim".
    Yes, I also believe 'miSr' has another etymology. It is just another word for city (even though this meaning seems to have been forgotten). The full title of Ibn Battutah's travels, usually abbreviated as "riHlat Ibn Battutah," is تحفة النظار في غرائب الأمصار وعجائب الأسفار -- "A Gift to Those Who Contemplate the Wonders of Cities and the Marvels of Traveling." As the word just means city this may be why, to Cairenes, The city of Cairo is just known as maSr, like the name of the country. I remember once when I was on a bus returning to Cairo from Marsa Matruuh, I had a friend tell me in broken English that we would do something (I can't remember exactly what) after we got back by saying, "when we bring Egypt..." What he was saying was "lamma nigiib maSr" with the meaning of "when we arrive in Cairo..." ('yigiib' usually translates as 'bring', but it can also mean 'arrive'.)
     

    cherine

    Moderator
    Arabic (Egypt).
    As the word just means city this may be why, to Cairenes, The city of Cairo is just known as maSr, like the name of the country. I remember once when I was on a bus returning to Cairo from Marsa Matruuh, I had a friend tell me in broken English that we would do something (I can't remember exactly what) after we got back by saying, "when we bring Egypt..." What he was saying was "lamma nigiib maSr" with the meaning of "when we arrive in Cairo..." ('yigiib' usually translates as 'bring', but it can also mean 'arrive'.)
    First, I think we call Cairo "MaSr" as a sort of جناس محلي ; in other words: calling the capital by the name of the whole country.
    If it were because Cairo is a city, we'd call all Egyptian cities MaSr, which is not the case. :)

    As for yigiib, I think you misheard your friend. I think he said lamma niigi maSr. Yiigi = to come.
     

    Josh_

    Senior Member
    U.S., English
    First, I think we call Cairo "MaSr" as a sort of جناس محلي ; in other words: calling the capital by the name of the whole country.
    If it were because Cairo is a city, we'd call all Egyptian cities MaSr, which is not the case. :)
    I don't know why they would also be called maSrs since the usual word for city is madiina. It is just one of those things that happened -- somehow the city came to be known as maSr. I imagine it has been called this for hundreds of years.

    I don't know if this is true or not, but it seems to me that many of the poor, who also are not very educated, may have never left the vicinity of the city (due to poverty or whatever other factors) and therefore, to them, it is their whole world and so there is no distinction between the country of Egypt and the city of Cairo -- it is one and the same (note:this is only concerning the poor who life in the city). Also, among the upper classes in Cairo, I noted an arrogance, like them believing that since Cairo is the lifeblood of the country, and a very important city in the Arab world at large to boot, that it is the country -- there is no distinction, or no need to make a distinction, between the two. These are some of the impressions that I got. I could be wrong, and probably am. I would probably need to spend more time there to really understand it.

    As for yigiib, I think you misheard your friend. I think he said lamma niigi maSr. Yiigi = to come.
    He spoke in English -- "when we bring Egypt." Maybe I'm wrong but from my experiences I have deduced that 'yigiib' can also be used to mean arrive, as well as the more common 'bring'.
     

    HKK

    Senior Member
    Dutch/Belgium
    The one on Egypt is also interesting ;)

    Miṣr, the Arabic and official name for modern Egypt (Egyptian Arabic: Maṣr), is of Semitic origin directly cognate with the Hebrew מִצְרַיִם (Mitzráyim), meaning "the two straits" (a reference to the dynastic separation of upper and lower Egypt), and possibly means "a country" or "a state".[5] Miṣr in Arabic also means "a country" or "a state" or "frontier-land".
     

    Abu Rashid

    Senior Member
    Australian English
    Josh,
    Yes, I also believe 'miSr' has another etymology. It is just another word for city (even though this meaning seems to have been forgotten).
    This is true. It has the meaning of not just a city but any vestige or outpost of civilisation. It is used a few times in the Qur'an in this context, and it can be identified as having this meaning when it has tanween (obviously indicating it doesn't refer to the country of Egypt).
     

    suma

    Senior Member
    USA
    English, USA
    MiSr is a strange word. In its plural amSaar is is often or always used to mean cities, outposts, urbanized dwelling areas, and the like. Its never used in singular to mean that.

    And the word Egypt corresponds exactly to قبط . In fact if you pronounce the qaaf as hard G, which is often done in Arabic, then you have almost the same articulation as Egypt (G'bT). Interestingly the "native" Egyptians who didnot convert to Islam are known as الأقباط or قبطيون .
     

    Josh_

    Senior Member
    U.S., English
    Miṣr, the Arabic and official name for modern Egypt (Egyptian Arabic: Maṣr), is of Semitic origin directly cognate with the Hebrew מִצְרַיִם (Mitzráyim), meaning "the two straits" (a reference to the dynastic separation of upper and lower Egypt), and possibly means "a country" or "a state".[5] Miṣr in Arabic also means "a country" or "a state" or "frontier-land".
    This is quite interesting. You don't happen to have a link to where you found this, HKK? I figured that 'miSr' was originally a Semitic word, and I know the Hebrew word for Egypt is מצרים but I figured that was just because of the Arabic word, although I wondered why it appeared plural (or actually dual), rather than singular. This seems to explain that.

    EDIT: Nevermind, I think I found it, here.
     

    Abu Rashid

    Senior Member
    Australian English
    MiSr is a strange word. In its plural amSaar is is often or always used to mean cities, outposts, urbanized dwelling areas, and the like. Its never used in singular to mean that.
    It is used in singular to mean that in the Qur'an, for instance in this verse:

    اهْبِطُواْ مِصْراً فَإِنَّ لَكُم مَّا سَأَلْتُمْ
     

    Wadi Hanifa

    Senior Member
    Arabic
    It is used in singular to mean that in the Qur'an, for instance in this verse:

    اهْبِطُواْ مِصْراً فَإِنَّ لَكُم مَّا سَأَلْتُمْ
    Are you sure this verse doesn't refer to Egypt itself? It sounds similar to ادخلوا مصر إن شاء الله آمنين.
     

    Abu Bishr

    Senior Member
    Afrikaans, South Africa
    Hi All

    The way I remember it is that if مصر is munawwan (with tanwin / nunation) then it refers to any city, place, etc. and takes أمصار as its plural, and when it is ghayr munawwan (i.e. without tanwin / nunation) then it refers to Egypt. This, howver, is not unanimous, as some believe both to refer to Egypt, and the difference in nunation is for stylistic rather than semantic reasons or that both variations are possible as مصر only consists of three letters which makes it light on the tongue somewhat.

    Anyhow, al-Samin al-Halabi in his linguistic dictionary of the Quran ('Umdat al-Huffadh) has some interesting things to say about مصر , amongst them the view that مصر comes from the Hebrew مصراييم , a view that concurs with what was already mentioned above .
     

    Abu Rashid

    Senior Member
    Australian English
    Are you sure this verse doesn't refer to Egypt itself? It sounds similar to ادخلوا مصر إن شاء الله آمني
    My Qur'an teacher taught us that the most accepted opinion is that the tanween makes it nakirah and it therefore cannot refer to the ma3arifah name of the country. Therefore it has the alternative meaning of 'civilisation'.

    The english translations of this verse mostly agree with the non-Egypt meaning:

    Pickthall said:
    Go down to settled country, thus ye shall get that which ye demand
    Yusuf Ali said:
    Go ye down to any town, and ye shall find what ye want!
    Not that this is evidence in itself, but most translators tended to look to the mufasireen for clearer definitions of words like this.

    But I'd suggest you open up a good book of tafsir and see what the mufasireen have to say about the verse.
     

    Wadi Hanifa

    Senior Member
    Arabic
    My Qur'an teacher taught us that the most accepted opinion is that the tanween makes it nakirah and it therefore cannot refer to the ma3arifah name of the country. Therefore it has the alternative meaning of 'civilisation'.

    The english translations of this verse mostly agree with the non-Egypt meaning:





    Not that this is evidence in itself, but most translators tended to look to the mufasireen for clearer definitions of words like this.

    But I'd suggest you open up a good book of tafsir and see what the mufasireen have to say about the verse.
    I wasn't aware of that. Thank you.
     

    cherine

    Moderator
    Arabic (Egypt).
    I don't know if this is true or not, but it seems to me that many of the poor, who also are not very educated, may have never left the vicinity of the city (due to poverty or whatever other factors) and therefore, to them, it is their whole world and so there is no distinction between the country of Egypt and the city of Cairo -- it is one and the same (note:this is only concerning the poor who life in the city). Also, among the upper classes in Cairo, I noted an arrogance, like them believing that since Cairo is the lifeblood of the country, and a very important city in the Arab world at large to boot, that it is the country -- there is no distinction, or no need to make a distinction, between the two. These are some of the impressions that I got. I could be wrong, and probably am. I would probably need to spend more time there to really understand it.
    I think you are wrong Josh.
    I'm a university graduated from the second largest city of Egypt, Alexandria, and I call Cairo "maSr" and very rarely say "el qaahera". And I'm not the only one.

    I have two suggestions to explain this (why people call Cairo maSr) :
    1- It's the capital of the country, so it is -in a way- the country :) (all the ministries, government agencies, big universities, big theatres, major cultural activities....) have place there. So in a way it is the country.
    2- As we rarely pronounce the qaaf ق , maSr sounds "lighter" to our ears than a word with a qaaf.
    I may be mistaken, and there may be other reasons. But these are the ones I can think of. :)

    I don't know why they would also be called maSrs since the usual word for city is madiina. It is just one of those things that happened -- somehow the city came to be known as maSr. I imagine it has been called this for hundreds of years.
    He spoke in English -- "when we bring Egypt." Maybe I'm wrong but from my experiences I have deduced that 'yigiib' can also be used to mean arrive, as well as the more common 'bring'.
    If he spoke in English, then I think he was just having problem finding the right translation. Because we never use yigiib to mean arrive.
    Actually, the Arabic word in that situation should be newSal لما نوصل مصر .
    Are you sure this verse doesn't refer to Egypt itself? It sounds similar to ادخلوا مصر إن شاء الله آمنين.
    Here's what I found in Lisaan al-3arab :

    : المصر: الحدّ في كل شيء، وقيل: المصر الحَدُّ في الأَرض خاصة.الجوهري: مِصْر هي المدينة المعروفة، تذكر وتؤنث؛ عن ابن السراج.
    والمِصْر: واحد الأَمْصار. والمِصْر: الكُورَةُ، والجمع أَمصار. ومَصَّروا الموضع: جعلوه مِصْراً. وتَمَصَّرَ المكانُ: صار مِصْراً. ومِصْرُ: مدينة بعينها، سميت بذلك لتَمَصُّرِها، وقد زعموا أَن الذي بناها إِنما هو المِصْرُ بن نوح، عليه السلام؛ قال ابن سيده: ولا أَدري كيف ذاك،

    The word kuura كورة is another word for city/madiina
    So, مصر means:
    - limit,
    - city (and there's a verb from it: maSSara = to found a city مَصَّر الأمصار ) ,
    - Egypt.

    As for Egypt's being mentioned in the Qur'an, this was four times:
    10 Yunus: 78
    (وأوحينا إلى موسى وأخيه أن تبوَّءا لقومكما بمصرَ بيوتا)
    12 Yusuf: 21
    (وقال الذي اشتراه من مصرَ لامرأته أكرمي مثواه)
    12 Yusuf: 99
    (وقال ادخلوا مصرَ إن شاء الله آمنين)
    43 az-zukhruf: 51
    (ونادى فرعون في قومه قال يا قوم أليس لي ملك مصرَ)
    All four about MiSr/Egypt. It's understood from the context, and from the i3raab of the word: it's being a mamnuu3 min aS-Sarf indicates that it's a proper noun.

    And it's mentioned only once with tanwiin:
    2 al-baqara: 61
    (اهبطوا مصرًا فإن لكم ما سألتم)
    And this was already explained by Abu Bishr and Abu Rashid.
    It's being munawwana (nunated?) indicates that it's not a proper noun (i.e. it means "a city").
     
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