Etymology of Arabic كابوس (nightmare)

Discussion in 'Etymology, History of languages, and Linguistics (EHL)' started by arbelyoni, Mar 2, 2012.

  1. arbelyoni Senior Member

    The Arabic word for nightmare is كابوس (kabuus).
    I wonder whether this word is originally Arabic or not. It sounds, to my untrained ear, suspiciously similar to "incubus".
  2. Lugubert Senior Member

    According to Wehr's dictionary, the كابوس root is a very respectable Semitic KBS, with meanings like press, besiege.

    Etymonline: Incubus is from Latin incubo "nightmare, one who lies down on (the sleeper)," from incubare "to lie upon" (see incubate).

    Fairly obviously no connection.
  3. origumi Senior Member

    According to Rajki's AED, kabus (nightmare, ghost) in Arabic (and then Azeri, Persian, Turkish) is related to Arabic kabasa. Kabasa (= press) is a cognate of Hebrew כבש (press, conquer, road) and also כבס (wash).

    I am not sure how the relation in meaning of kabus and kabasa is explained.
  4. ancalimon Senior Member

    We have a mythological creature called karabasan (black presser, black posseser, black dominator, black raider) in Turkic mythology. Could it be related with this? It's thought that this creature sits on your body and presses against it when your soul travels during sleep and you see a nightmare.

    There's also the Hungarian version

    In Turkic, bas means press, low and a vague meaning of "under". So a nightmare is related with underworld. I guess it's related with soul going into underworld (with a spirit horse?)

    Also there are two horse riders in Turkic mythology.

    The White Horserider: Dalgın (Dreamy)
    The Black Horserider: Kısrak (The Mare)

    So is the word "nightmare" related with this Turkic mythology as well? I guess these are related to the concept of "spirit horse". What is even more surprising is that native Americans have the same concept too. So it must be a really ancient Altaic belief.
    Last edited: Mar 3, 2012
  5. Abu Rashid

    Abu Rashid Senior Member

    Melbourne, Australia
    Australian English
    It means to press, squeeze, attack, subdue. I guess a nightmare is a kind of dream which does this to you.
  6. tFighterPilot Senior Member

    Israel - Hebrew
    Where did the Alif come from though?
  7. arielipi Senior Member

    Interestingly push/press in hebrew is by the root l-kh-tz, which is also used to describe pressure.
    Kavas in hebrew describes something disgusting - ...tkhushat kavas(=feeling disgusted at), or if we take the chaf as the initial of the root, and shin as the last letter for the root, kevesh is like an oven, kivshan is a very hot and closed oven.
    I wonder at the letters relations, as ke'ev means pain and kazav means lie(s), perhaps its related?
  8. berndf Moderator

    German (Germany)
    The cognate letters are כּבשׁ. The verb has the meaning to tread down, to suppress, to subdue. The seems to match the meanings of the verb كبس well enough.
  9. tFighterPilot Senior Member

    Israel - Hebrew
    What ariel is talking about is the word קבס, which is obviously unrelated since it starts with ק and not כ.
  10. berndf Moderator

    German (Germany)
    I understand. Therefore I told him what the cognate root was.
  11. origumi Senior Member

    Possibly also כבס (as noted above), apparently under Aramaic influence (a Talmudic word). קבס is different indeed (and modern, although based on ancient Aramaic-Hebrew root - see link below).

    קבס: (Hebrew)
  12. arielipi Senior Member

    Thats why i asked about the letters cognition(is that the right word?).
    Kevesh is also 'ramp', in general this root is about pressure on things.
  13. Wadi Hanifa

    Wadi Hanifa Senior Member

    The Arabic word for this is جاثوم (same pattern as كابوس), from the root j-th-m (to sit or squat).
  14. arbelyoni Senior Member

    Fascinating, thank you! Apparently the Germanic mare (a similar creature, origin of the word 'nightmare') also rides horses at night:
    Is جاثوم some kind of a nightly demon like Incubus, mare and karabasan, or is it a synonym of كابوس - bad dream?
  15. berndf Moderator

    German (Germany)
    Almost: Cognates.:)
    ك = כ
    ب = ב
    ס or س = שׁ (but not שׂ which is cognate to ش)
  16. Wadi Hanifa

    Wadi Hanifa Senior Member

    It is a sensation of consciously trying to wake up but not being able to, or of waking up but not being able to move (as if something is sitting on your chest). I don't know if the name جاثوم is meant to be metaphorical or if people literally believed there is an actual creature that does this. According to the classical lexicons, كابوس and جاثوم were synonyms, which makes sense. In modern speech, however, كابوس just means nightmare while جاثوم retains its older meaning.
    Last edited: Mar 4, 2012
  17. fdb Senior Member

    Cambridge, UK
    French (France)
    Arabic words with the pattern fāʻūl are virtually without exception loanwords from Aramaic, and kābūs is unlikely to be an exception. There is an Aramaic word kāḇōšā ‘nightmare’ (it can be found in the Syriac dictionaries, but the references in Brockelmann are all late and only in lexical texts), which belongs to the root k-b-š ‘to press’ (cognate with Arabic k-b-s; the correspondence of Aramaic š with Arabic s is regular). One could imagine a semantic development like that in German “Alpdruck”. On the other hand, I am intrigued by the possibility of a connection with Latin incubus (assuming the latter was borrowed into Hellenistic Greek, then into Aramaic and finally into Arabic). Words of this sort do have a tendency to migrate.
    Last edited: May 31, 2012
  18. Daybreaker

    Daybreaker Member

    Sorry guys for 2 ys of absence.

    According to the book غرائب اللغة العربية, the word may indeed stem from the Aramaic /koboûkho/ with the root /kbakh/ for "to press".
    But in my opinion both words could also be just cognates of a contraction made up from an Old Persian expression like خواب وس /khʿab-wes/ or خواب ود /khʿab-wad/ which means "bad sleep/dream".

    Best wishes!
  19. fdb Senior Member

    Cambridge, UK
    French (France)
    The Aramaic root "to press" is k-b-š, not k-b-k.

    What is "wes" supposed to mean in Old Persian?
  20. Daybreaker

    Daybreaker Member

    My fault. The author of غرائب uses /ch/ for ش and writes /kaboûcho/.
    The Pahlavi /wad/ for engl. "bad" could have been altered to /was/, thus وس; but that was just a silly conjecture.

    This is what I have found in لسان العرب:

    والكابُوس ما يقع على النائم بالليل، ويقال: هو مقدَمة الصَّرَع؛ قال بعض اللغويين: ولا أَحسبه عربيّاً إِنما هو النِّيدِلان، وهو الباروك والجاثُوم.كابوس

    "And al-kābūs is (something) that falls on a sleeping (individual) at night, and it is said: it is the beginning of epilepsy. Some of the linguists said: 'I do not think it is Arabic, it rather is an-nīdilān, and that is al-bārūk and al-ǧāṯūm.'"

    The same can be found in Eward William Lane's dictionary:

    Meanwhile, I am convinced, that the word has to come from Lat. "incubus", because it is being used - besides words like جاثوم and جافوم - in the same meaning, and it even managed to develop the meaning of نكاح and بضع, i.e. the "1st or only one intercourse". No Pahlavi origin this time...

    Best wishes!
  21. apmoy70

    apmoy70 Senior Member

    The only Greek word deriving from the Latin cubō/cubāre is the Byzantine Greek «κουβούκλιον» [ku'vukli.on] (neut.) --> the dormitory of the Byzantine emperors. There was even an imperial bodyguard in charge of protecting the emperor while asleep, called «Κουβουκλινάριοι» [kuvukli'nari.i] (masc. nom. pl.).
    Nightmare in Greek is «ἐφιάλτης» («ὁ ἁλλόμενος ἐπὶ τὶ»)≠ incubo

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