Words for camel

Discussion in 'العربية (Arabic)' started by squirrelgirl, Dec 8, 2009.

  1. squirrelgirl New Member

    Hi all,

    I heard a claim that there are over a 1000 words for camel in Arabic and even more for camel behavior. Looking online I only found this.

    I was curious if there is any truth to all of this?

    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 28, 2009
  2. Masjeen Senior Member

    Arabian Gulf
    10 to 20 words (Within my personal information)
  3. Wadi Hanifa

    Wadi Hanifa Senior Member

    For the vast majority of Arabic speakers, there are only 3 or 4 words (جمل, ناقة, إبل, and بعير): "camel," "male camel," "female camel," and "camels (plural)."

    However, if you are a bedouin, whose livelihood is essentially the raising and selling of camels, you will of course need many more words than that. That is why Classical Arabic, and the Arabic of the bedouins (which is a lineal descendant of Classical Arabic) both have dozens, perhaps hundreds, of words for different types, breeds, ages, shapes, and sizes of camels, and of course words relating to the business of raising camels in general. Regional variations may also play a role, so that you can have words that are used in some regions but not others.

    It is not only the bedouins who use these words. Islamic law mandates an alms-tax (i.e. given to charity), that includes livestock. Therefore, in enumerating the rules for taxation of livestocks, Islamic scholars used many of these words to describe camels at different stages of growth, or of varying quality, and to determine what sort of camel is acceptable for tax purposes.

    Unfortunately, I don't know how many "camel-related" words there are in Classical or bedouin Arabic, and I don't know if anyone has ever tried to make an accurate count. However, there is a book called Arabian Diversions by Bruce Ingham, which includes a chapter on "camel terminology" among the Al Murra bedouins. Maybe he has something to say about this question based on his observations.
    Last edited: Dec 8, 2009
  4. ola84 Member

    I know only 4 words for camel:

    جمل ، ناقة، إبل ، حمر النعم
  5. xebonyx

    xebonyx Senior Member

    I believe saying more than 1000 words for camel is very much an exaggeration. More than likely this enumeration has taken into consideration borrowed technical terms of the word or less oft used forms.
  6. Faylasoof Senior Member

    Plato's Republic
    English (UK) & Urdu (Luckhnow), Hindi
    ^Definitely various ways to categorize and also (borrowed) technical terms.

    As for the largest number of synonyms for an animal in fus7a, it’ll be the lion, not the camel, that’ll tops the list. I once attempted to count these by going through a dictionary and stopped after reaching 116!

    For a camel, besides these,
    جمل ، ناقة، إبل ، حمر النعم, بعير
    there is also طبزTibz = two-humped, Bactrian camel (Camelus bactrianus), as opposed to the single-humped, Arabian camel, also called a dromedary(Camelus dromedarius).

    Rarely, 7afaD حفض (s.) 7ifaaD حفاض, 2a7faaD أحفاض (pl.) = baggage camel.

    Of course there are terms denoting:

    -large numbers = 2ibbaul إبول (sing.) 2abaaweel أباويل = troop of camels
    -special characteristics, like colour العيس = whitish / whitiish-yellow (from أعيس [m] عيساء [f].)

    According to this, there are about 13 terms used for the camel in the Quran, based on various criteria.

    Additionally, this site lists many other categorizations for the camel. Quite interesting!
  7. Wadi Hanifa

    Wadi Hanifa Senior Member

    Borrowed?? You mean from other languages? :confused:

    I found this list:

    49 words, including 17 types of camels based on the manner that they drink from the watering hole.

    I'm beginning to doubt that the number would even approach 1,000, but even a few hundred would be impressive.[...]

    And this list tells you what a camel is called based on its age: http://aljahadr.com/vb/showthread.php?t=2110

    Certainly, our poetry would not be as colorful without these words.
  8. Josh_ Senior Member

    the phrontistery
    U.S., English
    When something is a prominent part of a culture, it should come as no surprise that many terms develop in order to explain the various aspects of it. Languages tend to make distinctions in things which seem relevant to their particular environment.

    Take for example the dog in English. We have hundreds of terms to describe the various breeds of dogs, but of course none mean "dog" in a general sense, so they are not really synonyms. I imagine the same thing exists in Arabic, where there are many terms referring to different kinds/breeds of camels, or different attributes of camels (e.g tall, short, tan-colored, whitish), or different aspects of behavior (drinks water once every day, once every two days), but few are used in a generic sense.
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 14, 2009
  9. Faylasoof Senior Member

    Plato's Republic
    English (UK) & Urdu (Luckhnow), Hindi
    I decided to err on the side of caution and “quote” xebonyx:
    I thought she might have better knowledge of camels than I.
    It is rather a large number. Many are indeed descriptions: ba3uusبعوس = lean, “milkless” camel; 7albaanah حلبانة = milking camel; 7ilbid حلبد = small camel; Sahlaj صهلج= large camel; bahnas بهنس = docile camel (also a lion).

    May be it was just a casual remark. But you could get a large number if different combinations were used. I not sure if it is done. I don’t know enough about camel nomenclature in Arabic.

    BTW, found some terms used for both, camel and lion, e.g. bahnas بهنس: docile camel, lion, (also means fat and heavy).

    …. and thanks for those links! Enjoyed going through them.

    Anyway, back to the camel. Here is another synonym (and I mean synonym - not epitet, as far as I know) for Tibz طبز, the two-humped camel: duhaamij دهامج.
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 13, 2009
  10. Faylasoof Senior Member

    Plato's Republic
    English (UK) & Urdu (Luckhnow), Hindi
    Anyway, back to camel once again. Just like some of the terms you give above for the horse that may just be terms of characteristics <e.g. جواد = a swift horse = أبوُص; also خَضَمّ = heavy horse / sword ! >, the same is true also for the camel:

    ضائل = strong male camel
    صِنخاب = stout camel

    Just descriptive terms but I guess these might even have been used on a daily basis.
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 13, 2009
  11. xebonyx

    xebonyx Senior Member

    What I meant is that sometimes people tend to use technical words associated with certain fields and through trading, or use the specie's name ie. بكتريان - Bactrian. However, it seems the vast majority of these words are nicknames, synonyms, or simply adjectives.
  12. Faylasoof Senior Member

    Plato's Republic
    English (UK) & Urdu (Luckhnow), Hindi
    I see what you mean. Xebonyx.

    I tried googling بكتريان. You do get a hit or two. Here is one link. Usually it is referred to as الجمل ذو سنامين. This of course gives a lot of hits.

    Funnily when you go to Google Images with either طبز or دهامج , you get nothing that looks like a camel. This useful Persian reference dictionary though suggests that it is an Arabicised word. Here, and here are a little more on دهامج. It also mentions طبز.
  13. xebonyx

    xebonyx Senior Member

    Yes. There are even quite a few more names for that particular type of camel listed here.
    I actually did that earlier too, with most of the names provided so far, haha. It makes you wonder who's behind these naming rituals :D
  14. Faylasoof Senior Member

    Plato's Republic
    English (UK) & Urdu (Luckhnow), Hindi
    Yes, I saw that! It's in my post too! Quite a few names there - all from لسان العرب. (Reference at the bottom of the page).

    So the number is steadily increasing!
  15. Mahaodeh Senior Member

    Arabic and English
    I suppose it depends on who used it and what type of descriptive usage. Usually there is only one or two general words for it and the others are much more specific.
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 13, 2009
  16. Faylasoof Senior Member

    Plato's Republic
    English (UK) & Urdu (Luckhnow), Hindi
    Incidentally, I was curious about all these other terms for the Bactrian camel, presented earlier. That link gives the following:

    الفَلْج أو الفَالِج أو اليَعْلُول أو القِرْعَوْس أو الدُهَانِج أو الدُنَاهِج أو الدُهَامِج أو القِرْمِل أو العُصْفُورِيّ

    This one (
    الدُهَامِج ,and perhaps those like it) seems to be Arabicised according to the Persian reference dictionary <loghatnameh dehkhuda> - link provided in my post above.

    The others intrigue me, esp. as to their origins. Of these, the last one is really curious as
    العُصْفُورِيّ seems to be related to العُصْفُورِ = sparrow !
    Though it may have more to with the verb
    عَصفَرَ = to dye with saffron, dye with red or yellow.

    Anyone have any ideas on this.
    .... and for the others I need to start looking them up.

    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 13, 2009
  17. Wadi Hanifa

    Wadi Hanifa Senior Member

    I just wanted to add something. Some words do indeed start out as referring to a specific type or quality of a camel, but end up being used to refer to camels generally. For example: هجن/هجان used to refer to mean a purebred white camel, but now هجن can just mean camels in general. Camel races are called سباق الهجن.

    I imagine the same thing occurred with some of the words for "lion" as well.

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