Source of Arabic words for "horse" (حصان, خيل, & فرس)?

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Coatdumid

Member
English - United States
(Hopefully I didn't break any rule by effectively asking about three different words (although they are of the same meaning). If I did, I'll separate the threads as instructed.)

1) I am guessing that حِصَان ḥiṣān is unrelated with the ح-ص-ن root meaning "to be inaccessible", and thus it is a standalone noun, correct? If so, is there any idea about the source of the word? If not, how did the meaning "horse" derive from that root (and from my understanding, the ح-ص-ن root of the meaning "to be inaccessible" is native to Arabic, correct)?

2) Do anyone know the source of the word خَيْل khayl, and/or why it means plural horses rather than singular horse?

3) For the word فَرَس faras, I know that several Semitic languages have cognates, and this site that suggests it not only derives from Proto-Semitic, but that it goes all the way back to Proto-Afroasiatic with identifiable cognates in Cushitic, Chadic, and Omotic (assuming Omotic is actually Afroasiatic). This seems reasonable to me, but I have also seen some other sites that discussed Arabic faras and/or Hebrew parash say that origins of the word are unknown (I guess implying that the "cognates" that are seen in the different languages are borrowings from each other, with the ultimate source being unknown; also there is discussion as to whether parash or parrāsh is the primary word and whether it means a horse or a horseman)...................anyways, if the word is Proto-Semitic in origin, is that THE Proto-Semitic word for "horse", or is no such word reconstructable for Proto-Semitic?
 
  • Drink

    Senior Member
    English - New England, Russian - Moscow
    2) Do anyone know the source of the word خَيْل khayl, and/or why it means plural horses rather than singular horse?
    I think this is related to the Hebrew word חַיִל, which means army. Horses were obviously a big part of ancient warfare. That at least explains why it refers to plural horses, rather than a singular horse.
     

    momai

    Senior Member
    Arabic - Syria
    I am guessing that حِصَان ḥiṣān is unrelated with the ح-ص-ن root meaning "to be inaccessible", and thus it is a standalone noun, correct? If so, is there any idea about the source of the word? If not, how did the meaning "horse" derive from that root (and from my understanding, the ح-ص-ن root of the meaning "to be inaccessible" is native to Arabic, correct)?
    In Arabic horses are almost always described using positive adjectives denoting how powerfull and strong they are and one of thier names is HiSaan which roghly means the impervious one
    Do anyone know the source of the word خَيْل khayl, and/or why it means plural horses rather than singular horse?
    see here & here

    I think this is related to the Hebrew word חַיִל, which means army. Horses were obviously a big part of ancient warfare. That at least explains why it refers to plural horses, rather than a singular horse.
    Herbrew חַיִל is probably more related to Arabic حيل "power".
     
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    rajulbat

    Senior Member
    English - United States (Houston)
    If خيل (khayl) is related to اختال (ikhtaala) and تخيل (takhayyal) as suggested by @momai's links to almaany, then presumably khayl acquired its horse meaning because of the horse's confident gait, as if floating on air. (The root خال having to do with emptiness, vapidness, prancing). One of the definitions given for khayl (in addition to being the plural of faras) is arrogance (الكِبْر والعُجْبُ بالنفس).

    As for its being plural, it is given also as the plural of خيلاء, and one of the entries there is:
    يمشي الخيلاء: يمشي مشية المتكبِّر المُعجَب بنفسه
    To walk arrogantly and pleased with oneself.
     
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    Wadi Hanifa

    Senior Member
    Arabic
    In Arabic, hiSaan refers specifically to a male horse while faras refers to a female. I don't know if other Semitic or AS languages have this distinction or if it's a later development in Arabic.

    The etymology of khayl خيل from "pride" or "confidence" is plausible. Another word for horse is جواد djawaad which has to do with nobility.

    The situation with khayl خيل occurs also with camels:

    إبل ibil (modern vernacular bill) refers to camels in the plural but has no singular form. Other words are used to describe individual camels, and those words have their own plural forms (male: djamal > djimal, female: naaqah > nuuq/niyaaq, both: ba3iir > abaa3ir). I can't think of an etymology for it.

    Also, sheep and goats are collectively called غنم ghanam. This has no singular form either at least in Classical Arabic (though have heard a singular ghnimah in the vernacular). The etymology probably has to do with wealth or posessions (hence the word for booty as غنائم and the verb غنم meaning to take booty in a battle -- livestock being the main form of booty in the desert).

    You will probably find other "collective" nouns for other types of animals if you search classical dictionaries or look into bedouin speech. For example, حبص HabaS is another bedouin collective noun for sheep that has no singular as far as I know. I think it's just an old feature of Arabic to have these words.
     
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    momai

    Senior Member
    Arabic - Syria
    nwq means to breastfeed in Aramaic which is exactly what a naaqah does. Perhaps Arabic lost the verb already in ancient times.
    Camals are called ba3iir because of the shape of their excrement. This is mentioned in Lissan alarab :
    البَعْرَة واحدة البَعْرِ والبَعْرُ والبَعَرُ رجيع الخُف والظِّلف من الإِبل والشاء وبقر الوحش والظباء إلاّ البقر الأَهلية فإنها تَخْثي وهو خَثْيُها والجمع أَبْعَارٌ والأَرنب تَبْعَرُ أَيضاً
    So technically Rabbits are also ba3iir
    In fact in Syrian Arabic بعرة (pl. بعر) is still used for the excrement of these Animals but the word ba3iir is not or at least it is not the main word.
     

    rajulbat

    Senior Member
    English - United States (Houston)
    Also, sheep and goats are collectively called غنم ghanam. This has no singular form either at least in Classical Arabic (though have heard a singular ghnimah in the vernacular). The etymology probably has to do with wealth or posessions (hence the word for booty as غنائم and the verb غنم meaning to take booty in a battle -- livestock being the main form of booty in the desert).
    Ghanimah ( غَنِيمَةٌ ) is given as the plural in Lisan al-Arab, but not in al-Qamous al-Muhit, which explicitly states it is a noun with no plural form, such that the dual, Ghanmaan (غنَمانِ) was used instead of a proper plural (الشاء لا واحد له من لفظه، وقد ثَنَّوْه فقالوا غنَمانِ). Al-Lugha Al-Arabiya al-Mu'asara states there is no plural and does not mention the dual as a synthetic alternative to the non-existent plural.

    And Ghana'im (الغَنَائِمِ - war prizes) is supposedly the plural of ghanimah (غَنِيمَةٌ - war prize/booty).

    Just for what it's worth.

    For example, حبص HabaS is another bedouin collective noun for sheep that has no singular as far as I know. I think it's just an old feature of Arabic to have these words.
    I wonder if this has any connection to كبش (ram / male sheep).

    Regarding HORSES,
    I figured I would drop this quote, which I found in this book - The Semitic Languages: An International Handbook (Stefan Weninger, ed.) (2011)
    -, here, for future reference:
    There is no deeply rooted common term for 'horse.' Akk. sisu, Ugr. ssw, ssw, Hbr. sus and Syr. susya are related to each other, but the common source is usually thought to be foreign rather than Semitic (SED II No. 199). PWS *paras-, represented by Hbr. paras, Syr. parrasa, Arb. faras-, Sab. frs, Gez. faras, Mhr. ferhayn, looks more genuine (SED II No. 182). PS *muhr- for a 'foal' is preserved in Akk. muru, Syr. muhra, Arb. muhr-, Sab. mhrt, Tna. mehir (SED II No. 149).
    (Some of the non-ASCII characters I did not take the time to faithfully transcribe.)
     
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    Wadi Hanifa

    Senior Member
    Arabic
    nwq means to breastfeed in Aramaic which is exactly what a naaqah does. Perhaps Arabic lost the verb already in ancient times.
    Interesting but couldn't it be the opposite? مقاييس اللغة says the root was also used to denote high places and says that this may be why it's used for the camel (long neck, etc.).

    Camals are called ba3iir because of the shape of their excrement. This is mentioned in Lissan alarab :

    So technically Rabbits are also ba3iir
    This is what b3r means, not ba3iir. The Lisaan clearly says that ba3iir means an adult camel. But later it says that where used in the Quraan it should be understood to refer to donkeys because, as the exegetes believed, there were no camels in Canaan (I don't think that's correct but there you have it). It then says that all mammals are called ba3iir in Hebrew, citing the Psalms, not Arabic.

    Bottom line is that the primary meaning in Arabic was camel from an early date.

    In fact in Syrian Arabic بعرة (pl. بعر) is still used for the excrement of these Animals but the word ba3iir is not or at least it is not the main word.
    Yes it's the same everywhere else not just Syria. b3r(h) means excrement of any animal (sometimes even humans) but b3iir means camel.

    Ghanimah ( غَنِيمَةٌ ) is given as the plural in Lisan al-Arab, but not in al-Qamous al-Muhit, which explicitly states it is a noun with no plural form, such that the dual, Ghanmaan (غنَمانِ) was used instead of a proper plural (الشاء لا واحد له من لفظه، وقد ثَنَّوْه فقالوا غنَمانِ). Al-Lugha Al-Arabiya al-Mu'asara states there is no plural and does not mention the dual as a synthetic alternative to the non-existent plural.

    And Ghana'im (الغَنَائِمِ - war prizes) is supposedly the plural of ghanimah (غَنِيمَةٌ - war prize/booty).

    Just for what it's worth.
    I was just saying that ghanam (for livestock) is related in meaning to ghaniima/ghanaa'im for war booty (same root gh-n-m), but they are different words. The Lisaan says غنم ghanam has no singular, but in modern vernaculars there is a singular ghanama/ghnimah. I wouldn't necessarily consider غنمان as dual -- couldn't it just be a plural of the form فعلان?

    I wonder if this has any connection to كبش (ram / male sheep).
    I don't see a connection. The word كبش exists separately in all dialects.
     

    momai

    Senior Member
    Arabic - Syria
    Yes it's the same everywhere else not just Syria. b3r(h) means excrement of any animal (sometimes even humans) but b3iir means camel.
    I apologize for the confusion I meant to say ba3iir is not the main word for camels but jmaal is.
    As for ba3rah it is not the excrement of any animal but only the ones whose excrement specifically comes out as round, detached and small, at least in Syrian.
     

    Wadi Hanifa

    Senior Member
    Arabic
    I apologize for the confusion I meant to say ba3iir is not the main word for camels but jmaal is.
    As for ba3rah it is not the excrement of any animal but only the ones whose excrement specifically comes out as round, detached and small, at least in Syrian.
    It's probably the same elsewhere but sometimes get generalized.
     
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