Root Exploration: م-د-ن


root: ص-و-ب / passive participle of form IV (feminine) / definition: afflicted, ill

After more than two years of successfully dodging Covid, it finally caught me—and my parents—out. At least there’s some solidarity.

That annoying cough is still plaguing me as I type this and, over the weekend, I was suffering the worst sore throat I can remember. Sense of taste and smell are gone too, I’m feverish, and, ooh, the relentless back pain between my shoulder blades was agony for the first few days.

With the support of countless lozenges and regularly-gulped-down painkillers, I have made it to my laptop, driven by some insane urge to talk about Arabic in the midst of my suffering.

I don’t think my mind can handle anything requiring a more-than-minimal level of brainpower—like creating last week’s flowchart in Seats of the Hamza (ء)—so I picked a simple idea I jotted down a while ago: exploring the root م-د-ن.

There are several interesting things to note about this root, as we’ll see. As usual in the Root Exploration posts, we’ll be using the Hans Wehr for guidance.


Form I


مَدينة / مُدُن أو مَدائِن = city, town

This is the key word from this root. Note that in Arabic dictionaries, you may also find this word as a derivative of the root د-ي-ن.


  • المَدينة = Medina
  • مَدينة النَّبيّ، المَدينة المُنَوَّرة = other ways of referring to Medina (literally: “city of the Prophet” and “the illuminated city”)
  • المَدائِن = the ancient city of Ctesiphon (literally: “the cities”)
  • مَدينة السَّلام = Baghdad (literally: “the city of peace”)
  • مَدينة الكاب = Cape Town
  • المُدُن الكُبرى = the big cities


مَدَنيّ = urban/urbanised, city-/town-dwelling, civilised, refined, civilian, civil, secular, someone from Medina

Note that this adjective can also be used as a noun, with مَدَنيّ / ـون meaning “a civilian”, for example.


  • دَعوى مَدَنيّة = civil action, civil suit, civil proceeding (jur.)
  • الطَّيَران المَدَنيّ = civil aeronautics
  • قانون مَدَنيّ = civil law
  • دِفاع مَدَنيّ = civil defence
  • الأهالي المَدَنيّون = the urban population

abstract noun:

مَدَنيّة = civilisation

Form II

الفعل / verb:

مَدَّنَ / يُمَدِّنُ = to found or build cities, to civilise, urbanise, humanise, refine

المصدر / verbal noun:

تَمْدين = civilising, civilisation, advancement in social culture, humanisation, refining, raising of moral standards

adjective form of verbal noun:

تَمدينيّ = civilising, civilisatory, civilisational

Form V

الفعل / verb:

تَمَدَّنَ / يَتَمَدَّنُ = to be or become civilised

المصدر / verbal noun:

تَمَدُّن = civilisation, refinement of social culture

adjective form of verbal noun:

تَمَدُّنيّ = civilised

اسم الفاعل / active participle:

مُتَمَدِّن = civilised, sophisticated, refined, educated

So now here’s where things get a little more interesting.

In the Hans Wehr, next to the form V verb, you’ll also find the verb تَمَديَنَ / يَتَمَديَنُ under the root. The thing is, this isn’t a form V verb. It’s not even a triliteral verb (from a three-letter root). But it is derived from the root م-د-ن.

What’s happened is that a new quadriliteral root was derived from the noun مَدينة (city): م-د-ي-ن.

(We’ve also seen an example of a root derived from a phrase on this blog!)


Form II

الفعل / verb:

تَمَديَنَ / يَتَمَديَنُ = to be or become civilised, to enjoy the comforts of life, the amenities of life

(Quadriliteral Arabic Verb Forms)

المصدر / verbal noun:

تَمَديُن = civilisation, refinement of social culture

اسم الفاعل / active participle:

مُتَمَديِن = civilised, provided with the comforts of civilisation

(Quadriliteral Active Participles in Arabic)

And that’s all for this week, back into bed I shall climb now.

!مع السلامة

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