Root Exploration: د-ل-ه-م


root: ض-ح-ك / verbal noun of form I / definition: laughter

After two hours and countless retakes, my classmate and I finally managed to record 20 minutes of Arabic conversation today for an assessment. Yes, that’s two hours of attempts for 20 minutes of usable footage. Honestly though, most of the retakes started soon after “أهلا” because one of us would burst into laughter for some reason or other.

At least my classmate is an editing pro and I have no doubt that our introduction (featuring a walk down the stairs and miming a conversation) will be a Spielberg-esque feat. Not sure we get marks for that though…

Let’s delve into today’s post now (hopefully the segues in the video will be smoother than this) where we’re going to be exploring a quadriliteral root: د-ل-ه-م.

Another quadriliteral post? Yes, last week’s one only spurred me on—and besides, this four-letter root has been patiently waiting in my notes for some time and we haven’t had a Root Exploration post since last July!

The reason the root د-ل-ه-م entered my notes is because I was wondering whether it’s an example of a compound quadriliteral: where two triliteral (3-letter) roots are merged to form a 4-letter root that encompasses the meaning of both. Super cool.

Before we look at why it might be a compound quadriliteral (or why I thought it might be), let’s explore the root itself through the Hans Wehr:


Form I


دَلْهَم = dark, gloomy, deep black

Quadriliteral verb forms? Take a look at this post.

This is the only form I derivative mentioned in the dictionary from the root (i.e. the only one without any additional letters). The other derivatives in the Wehr are of…

Form IV

الفعل / verb:

اِدلَهَمَّ / يَدلَهِمُّ = to be dark, gloomy, or deep black

المصدر / verbal noun:

اِدْلِهْمام = a deep black

اسم الفاعل / active participle:

مُدلَهِمّ = dark, gloomy, deep black

You must be new here if you’re wondering whether I wrote a post about quadriliteral active participles. Of course I did.

So that’s all the derivatives the Hans Wehr dictionary gives. Now let’s look at the possible triliteral roots that could have combined to form د-ل-ه-م:

The obvious one is د-ه-م, which carries meanings related to darkness and blackness.

My first thought for the second triliteral root was ل-ه-م, which is associated with the idea of swallowing something up.

From here, I was like: ahh, so د-ل-ه-م might be specifically referring to a darkness that swallows everything up. As in it encompasses/drowns everything else.

Then, I wondered about د-ل-ه which could also combine with د-ه-م to give the root letters of the quadriliteral. But the derivatives of د-ل-ه are related to being “driven crazy by love”. So that doesn’t fit, does it?

But wait!

I took a look in Lane’s Lexicon where it’s mentioned that د-ل-ه-م might come from either د-ل-ه or د-ه-م—and the extra letter in the quadriliteral is augmentative (i.e. there’s no compounding going on, just an extra letter added: either م or ه).

Still, how does the idea of being “driven crazy by love” (the root د-ل-ه) relate to the quadriliteral?

Well, there are other derivatives of د-ل-ه-م not mentioned in the Wehr. For example, the noun مَدلَهَم is defined as someone who lost their mind because of love, where the passive participle of form II of the root د-ل-ه (i.e. مُدَلَّه) is actually used in the definition.

So what do you think? Compound quadriliteral or not?

Either way, it’s interesting to think about how the meanings of similar roots may relate to each other!

I think I have a headache approaching (probably from the two hours of trying to speak in Arabic) so this is enough screen-time for now. Don’t forget to subscribe below for email updates about new posts and I’ll see you tomorrow for our 123rd week of Wehr Wednesdays posts!

!في أمان الله

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