derivation from Arabic root


Senior Member
french & english
Hi all,

this is my first thread in this forum... so Hi all for the first time.

Well, a question I've got in my mind for a long time ago : is there a rule to derive word from an arabic root ? I do not mean how to get the root from an arabic word, but creating words from roots.

For exemple, is there a rule in arabic, to derive from a root meaning, say what is on the good way (as ي م ن), a word meaning the opposite of what is on the good way, or a word meaning the act of going on the good way, or else again, a word meaning the result of good action, as exemples.

Hope this is understandable. Please forgive if it is not...

Lots of thanks in advance :)
  • elroy

    Imperfect Mod
    US English/Palestinian Arabic bilingual
    Hello Hibou, and welcome to the forums.

    Your question is fascinating.

    Yes, there are some patterns - but they are not always fixed and predictable.

    Let me start you off with one.

    The construction مَفْعَل (maf3al) usually means "place where one does (something related to the root)," so we have for example:

    مَطْعَم - from the root ط ع م (food, to feed) - "place where one feeds/is fed :arrow: restaurant
    مَتْحَف - from the root ت ح ف (artifacts) - "place where one keeps artifacts" :arrow: museum
    مَطَار - from the root ط ا ر (to fly) - "place where one flies" :arrow: airport
    مَتْجَر - from the root ت ج ر (trade, commerce) - "place where one trades" :arrow: shop, commercial establishment
    مَصْنَع - from the root ص ن ع (to make, to manufacture) - "place where one manufactures" :arrow: factory
    مَسْبَح - from the root س ب ح (to swim) - "place where one swims" :arrow: swimming pool

    However, sometimes these nouns are feminine:

    مَلْحَمَة - from the root ل ح م (meat) - "place where one slaughters/sells meat" :arrow: butchery
    مَغْسَلَة - from the root غ س ل (to wash) - "place where one washes clothing" :arrow: laundromat

    I have no idea whether there's a way to predict the gender for this category of nouns. This is one of the reasons I said that the patterns are not always fixed.

    I hope that helps. Perhaps I'll post more patterns as they occur to me.


    Arabic (Egypt).
    Hi Hibou and welcome,
    Nice start:thumbsup:

    Generally, yes there are rules for derivating from Arabic roots, it's called الأوزان الصرفية but they're many, depending on the stem (3,4,5 letters) and the meaning we want to express.. and of course there are exceptions.

    If you mean by the root you gave right like opposit of left يمين there's the verb يَمَّن (yammana) which means taking the right direction, or using the right hand...

    If you can give me an easier example :) maybe I could help you more, specially that I didn't really understand what you meant by creating the opposit meaning of the word from its own root.

    Edit: I came two minutes late after Elroy's great post :thumbsup:
    But I hope mine could still be of any use. :)

    By the way, the study of these أوزان صرفية is subject to a branch (field?) of Arabic language called علم الصرف , I think this shows how far your interesting question can take us ;)


    Senior Member
    french & english
    Waw, so good answers so quickly... I will need a long time to fully study those two answers, beceause I'm a very-very beginer...

    Very interesting answers, thanks

    Cherine, for the simplier exemples you are resquesting, I will give you some as soon as some fall in my hands.


    Senior Member
    U.S., English
    Hi Hibou,

    Yes this is a fascinating question. In fact, I was just telling elroy that I believe seeing the roots (from a non-native perspective anyway) is much easier when in is written in Latin letters because us non-natives can really visualize it. Here is a short explanation and examples.

    We know that the Arabic root usually consists of three letters -- so lets say use 'C' for consonant to represent these letters (some people also use 'R' for radical). Ok, so the first letter is represented by C¹, the second by C², and the third by C³. The vowels are are represented by the sounds they make. So, as elroy said the pattern maC¹C²aC³ represents a place of something:

    mat3am -- restuarant
    matHaf -- museum
    masna3 -- factory
    maSbaH -- swimming pool

    Many adjectives are respesented by the pattern C¹aC²iiC³

    kabiir -- big
    faqiir -- poor
    qariib -- near
    Saghiir -- small

    AS you can see, within a pattern all vowels are the same. This is why Arabic words can (sometimes) be easily figured out, despite the fact that vowels are not used.


    Senior Member
    french & english
    Ok, thanks for all, Elroy, Cherine and Josh (in order of apperance :p) I think the answers you gave me is all of what I was expected : the confirmation of an intuition. Thanks.
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