Nasraani نصراني - نصارى

Discussion in 'العربية (Arabic)' started by tr463, Dec 7, 2012.

  1. tr463 Senior Member

    I stumbled across a video link via reddit (the name of the video on Youtube is تلت التلاتة: قطع الإيد اللي تتمد على شاهندة مقلد should you choose to look it up) and there was a small discussion on a usage of a word.

    Apparently, a man called a Christian woman in the video "nasraneya" (could someone spell it out in Arabic?) and someone on the forum said this about the word:
    Could someone verify this and explain how this word got its negative connotations?

  2. Wadi Hanifa

    Wadi Hanifa Senior Member

    "Nassrani" نصراني is an ancient Arabic word for "Christian." It was used by Christians themselves until fairly recently. I think it acquired a negative connotation in the minds of Arabic-speaking Christians because conservative Muslims continued to use it even after it had been replaced in the mainstream by the word مسيحي.

    But to say that anyone who uses it must be a "sectarian Salafist" or a "terrorist" is a bit of a stretch. It is after all, an archaism, not an epithet, and anyone who tells you that there's anything inherently derogatory about the term is mistaken. In fact, many modern writers continue to use it when discussing Christianity in the pre-modern Arabic world because they feel that مسيحية in such a context would be an anachronism. An example of this would be the Arabic translation of Phillip Hitti's The History of the Arabs, which was done by a group of Christian Arab scholars with the approval of Hitti himself.
  3. fdb Senior Member

    Cambridge, UK
    French (France)
    Naṣārā is used in the Qurʼan, and it is the usual Arabic word for “Christians” in Muslim and Christian authors of the classical period. The Christian inhabitants of Malta still call themselves “nsara” in their own language. The alternative Masīḥī seems to have been introduced by Western missionaries as a more direct equivalent of the word “Christian” (etc.) in European languages.
    Last edited: Dec 7, 2012
  4. Schem

    Schem Senior Member

    Najdi Arabic
    It's pretty much the only word used in Saudi to refer to a Christian. مسيحي is fairly new in use around here and still isn't used by the majority.

    As do Malay-speaking Christians and Indonesians/Malaysians in general. (nasrani)
  5. Tracer

    Tracer Senior Member

    Wadi Jinn
    American English
    1. For decades, I've heard and especially read (at least in English) the term "Jesus of Nazareth" or Jesus the Nazarene". I've always assumed that meant Jesus from the village of Nazareth (a village that still exists and is a pilgrimage destination for Christians. According to tradition, the Virgin Mary was originally from that area).

    2. نصراني may be used here and there in spoken Arabic, but at least on official documents, I've seen only مسيحي including in Saudi. (In fact, occasionally I've deliberately used
    نصراني when speaking to see what kind of reaction I'd get and it's always been one of surprise and I was using a term long out of use but still understood). Not once have I seen نصراني on an official document.
  6. fdb Senior Member

    Cambridge, UK
    French (France)
  7. cherine

    cherine Moderator

    Alexandria, Egypt
    Arabic (Egypt).

    There's a previous thread about the 2 Arabic words for "Christians", here.

    I'll try to give you a short answer, specially from an Egyptian view point (not that I represent all the Egyptians, of course, just an observation): Most Egyptians use the word مسيحي (pronounced "mesii7i") for "Christian", specially Christians themselves. Some Muslims, specially Salafis, use the traditional Arabic word naSraani (because it's the word used in the Qur'an). It doesn't have any "Jihadist connotations" as the quote in the first post says, but it's true that -for some reason- Christians really dislike this word, they even consider offensive or maybe also derogatory. But as far as I know, those who use it do not mean it as a derogatory or offensive word.

    By the way, in official papers in Egypt, like the National ID cards, you'll find مسيحي but not نصراني.
  8. Wadi Hanifa

    Wadi Hanifa Senior Member

    I agree. "Nassrani" is only used by clerics and conservative people (at least in the major cities).
  9. Schem

    Schem Senior Member

    Najdi Arabic
    This could be a generational thing, but from Jeddah to Dammam, the only times I've heard مسيحي used were by fairly Westernized and/or well-traveled Saudis who are used to translating words from English to Arabic in their minds or by teenagers imitating Lebanese/Pan-Arab Tv with no prior contact to the word. In all other scenarios, نصراني dominates and it does so without any negative connotations. I doubt it's a big city vs small city divide.
  10. Mighis

    Mighis Senior Member

    After all, we should not confuse Nasâra in a lexical sense, or as this word is being used nowadays, with the philological meaning of the word.
    The Nasrâniyya was, according to official Christendom, a heretical trend. The Nasâra were more monotheistic and less trinitarianistic.

    Reference: check introduction to Qur'ân by the Moroccan philosopher Mohammed 'Abid al-Jâbiri.

    Kr, :)
  11. AreYouMetal Member

    Hello everybody, for this moment I'm living in a country where quite a lot people speak Arabic, so it occurs pretty often that I hear this word 'nasara' in their speech. When I asked one of them about it, he answered something like 'it means a man like you, a white man' (he's black, I am a white man). Is it a neutral word, or does it carry a disregard/scorn nuance?

    Moderator note: This new thread is now merged to a previous one about the same topic. Please make sure to search for the answer before opening a thread to avoid unnecessary repetitions. And ask about one topic only per thread.
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 15, 2013
  12. إسكندراني

    إسكندراني Senior Member

    أرض الأنجل
    عربي (مصر)ـ | en (gb)
    NaSAra is the traditional Arabic word for 'Christian'. In the Chadian dialect of Arabic, they use this word to mean 'European'. It doesn't carry any negative connotation - it's not rude to say 'the foreigner' in other Arab countries.
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 15, 2013
  13. wildan1

    wildan1 Moderando ma non troppo (French-English, CC Mod)

    This has been my experience in Morocco, too. As a European-appearing person living there, I was often referred to (even in front of my face) as nasrani, and in speaking generally of a group of foreigners, nsara.

    This was not specific to one's religious practice, but just a general label for European-looking (Caucasian) foreigners.
  14. leros New Member

    I would like to return to the original post as my question seems to refer to the same context: a (native) person referring to a (foreign?) female with whom another (native) man has been in intimate relation.

    During my recent holiday in Tunisia we danced three or four times a day to bilingual C'est la vie sung by Algerian raï singer Khaled. Since I do not unerstand any Arabic, I decided to look up the meaning of the (Maghrebi) Arabic text on the internet. This is the second verse:

    جاني بشار بالخفية
    و قالي على اللي بيا
    وقالي انت نية
    غير راها نصرانية

    What immediately caught my eye was different translations of the line: غير راها نصرانية »ghir raha nasraniya«: just a Christian, a Christian girl, just a foreigner, a foreigner/stranger, a Nasraniya.

    The translated items can be listed according to different translational strategies:

    Formal translational strategy:
    He told that I am a naive one
    And She is a christian girl

    Annotated formal translational strategy:
    And he told me that I'm naive
    It's just a Christian1

    1. in meaning that she is a stranger/foreigner doesn't respects his traditions -in love-

    Domesticating/Interpretative translational strategy:
    and told me "you're gullible"
    she's just a foreign

    He told me that I was naive
    and that she was a stranger/foreigner

    Foreignizing annotated translational strategy:
    A Bachar [a bringer of good news] comes and tells me that I’m Niya [a naïve person who knows no sin] and that she’s Nasraniya [the opposite of Niya].

    I interpret the different translational strategies as indicative of a (polysemic) lexical item with (possibly) ideologically laden etymology. As I understand the message of this song, the subject tries to transcend his native fellows' (traditional) view of a love relationship.
    From a linguistic point of view I find it interesting that in Arabic the word denoting a »Christian« has come to mean a »foreigner«, possibly carrying some negative connotation. Incidentally and ideologically quite obviously, the word »Christian« is positively connotated in English as »humane, decent, generous«.
    My question is which translation/intepretation you find most appropriate in the context of this pop song: foreigner, stranger, a Christian girl, just a Christian, Nasranyia. Something else?
    By the way, I suppose that Baudelaire's and Camus' concept of L'Étranger is not comparable to the discussed »stranger/foreigner«?
    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 26, 2014

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