Cognates to Arabic سمر/smr root in the sense of "brown(ness)"


Senior Member
English - USA
Would the Arabic root *smr in the sense of the color brown (example word: أسمر ˀasmar "brown") be considered related to the Hebrew/Aramaic noun שׁמר meaning "dregs, lees" (also "smoke" in Aramaic), or is there probably no relation? I haven't been successful in finding an etymology for this Arabic root in this specific sense thus far.
  • Mahaodeh

    Senior Member
    Arabic, PA and IA.
    I don't know about the relation, but it seems plausible to me that the three words in the three languages may be cognates although would have diverged in meaning.

    As for the etymology of the Arabic one, I found this in Lisaan Al Arab:
    والسَّمَرُ: ظلُّ القمر، والسُّمْرَةُ: مأُخوذة من هذا.

    If you read the entry well, asmar does not clearly mean brown, sometimes he describes something dark, sometimes light in colour but it's always something between black and white. It mostly decribes colours that are not so white, but far from being black. For example, the classical description of a person that is أسمر is someone that is white with a hint of red as opposed to أشقر which is white with a hit of yellow. A camel that is أسمر is a tan one, and wheat and unpurified water are called الأسمران.

    It seems to me that the original idea of أسمر comes a something that is impure, or mixed with something that changed the colour and made it lose its whiteness or colourlessness. This seems to match the Aramaic meaning of smoke (impure air), and to a lesser degree dregs (obviously darker than the original drink or liquid it comes from but not necessarily very dark).

    Now Ibn Manthour doesn't really focus a lot on etymology (as seen from the very short note despite the very detailed entry), but he is quite comprehensive when he gathers information so I think that this origin might be something worth looking into.
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