Arabic: شيطان

Ihsiin

Senior Member
English
Hi all. The Arabic word شيطان meaning 'Satan' or 'devil' is clearly derived from Hebrew שטן, whence also English Satan etc. But why does the Arabic word start with a ش when normally Hebrew ש imports to Arabic س? The word in Arabic is sufficiently old to appear in the Qur'an, where other Hebrew imports show ש -> س, for example إسماعيل and إسرائيل.

Thanks in advance for any insights into this.
 
  • rushalaim

    Senior Member
    русский
    Genesis 26.21 uses Aramaic ܣܝܛܢܐ "enemy". Hebrew transliterated it like שטנה
     

    fdb

    Senior Member
    French (France)
    I am not sure if this is a font problem, or something else. In Biblical Hebrew there is a distinction between שׁ (shin) and שׂ (sin). The former corresponds to Semitic s1 and Arabic س ; the latter to Semitic s2 and Arabic ش. (If you make it large enough the dots should be visible).
     

    Ihsiin

    Senior Member
    English
    I am not sure if this is a font problem, or something else. In Biblical Hebrew there is a distinction between שׁ (shin) and שׂ (sin). The former corresponds to Semitic s1 and Arabic س ; the latter to Semitic s2 and Arabic ش. (If you make it large enough the dots should be visible).

    Yes, this is the case for cognate words, but not for borrowings from Hebrew to Arabic, where as far as I am aware both שׁ and שׂ are borrowed as س (for example, إسرائيل). Does this imply that the word شيطان is not borrowed from Hebrew שטן but is cognate to it? This seems rather unlikely, given how closely it corresponds to Judeo-Christian Satan, which itself is a derived meaning from 'adversory'.
     

    fdb

    Senior Member
    French (France)
    شيطان is probably a genuine Arabic word meaning "serpent" or the like (it is also a man's name), but which adopted the meaning of the perhaps not related Hebrew name for the devil.

    إسرائيل and اسماعيل are evidently borrowed from Aramaic or possibly Greek.
     

    Ihsiin

    Senior Member
    English
    Ok, so this would make the convergence of شيطان to 'Satan' coincidental. Are there any attestations of شيطان as 'snake' - I've never come across the word meaning anything other than 'devil'.
     

    rajulbat

    Senior Member
    English - United States (Houston)
    In case you missed it, here is what can be gleaned regarding the etymology of "Shaitan" in Arthur Jeffrey, The Foreign Vocabulary of the Quran 187-90 (1938):
    1. That the word occurs Shaitan "occurs in the Lexicons" as a name meaning "evil one" (mentions Σατανᾶς - Greek Satanas)
    2. That the plural, شياطين, is used in the Quran in the sense of "hosts of evil";
    3. That metaphorically it is used in the sense of evil leaders among men;
    4. That in some cases it may refer to mischievous spirits;
    5. That "Muslim authorities" were uncertain whether the root is شطن (to be far from) or instead شاط (to burn with anger);
    6. That the Lexicons reveal its use in the sense of snake, which sense is "missing in the old poets, e.g.,: in a Rejez poet-- عنجرد تحلف حين احلف كمثل شيطان الحماط أعرف | 'A foul-tounged woman who swears when I swear, like the crested serpent from Al-Hamat,' and in a verse of Tarafa, تلاعب متنى حضرمي كانه تممج شيطان بذى خروع قفر | 'They (the reins) play on the back of the Hadramaut camel, like a snake's writhings in the desert where the Khirwa' grows.'";
    7. That "we find Shaitan used as a personal name in ancient Arabia";
    8. That its use as a personal name is probably totemistic;
    9. That van Vloten and Goldziher take شيطان to be an old Arabic word;
    10. That Arab tradition held that serpents were connected to supernatural powers, as pointed out by Noldeke in the Zeitschrift für Völkerpsychologie;
    11. That van Vloten demonstrated in his works that snakes were conceptually related to demons and evil, so that شيطان in the sense of Evil One may be derived from this connection; and
    12. That its plural usage in the Quran in the sense of mischievous spirits is practically equivalent to Jinn, and "can be paralleled from the old poetry, and would fit this early serpent connection, but the theological connotations of Shaitan as leader of the hosts of evil, is obviously derived from Muhammad's Jewish or Christian environments".
     
    Last edited:
    Top