Arabic Observations: The Eye and Other Water Sources


root: ع-ي-ن / noun / plural: عُيون أو أَعْيُن / definition: eye, spring

Here we are with another post in the Arabic Observations series, and this one starts with the word عَين (“eye”).

When you look up عَين in the dictionary and scoot your finger across a little from its first definition, you’ll land on another meaning: “spring (of water)”.

So here we have “eye” and “spring” linguistically linked as, from our human experiential perspective, we see both of these things as sources of water—the former producing and releasing tears.

But عين isn’t the only word that links the eye to more obvious water sources…

مُقلة is another word meaning “eye”. And according to White, in her book Rooted in the Body: Arabic Metaphor and Morphology, its root م-ق-ل is also associated with: diving in the ocean (as both the ocean and eye are sources of salty water); the bottom of a well (she speculates this is due to its shape, when looked down, resembling an eye), and trickling water down the throat of a dehydrated baby camel (nice).

Then we have the root ح-د-ق which is not only linked to sight, but is also the root of the word حَديقة (“garden”). What’s the link here then? Well, if you take a look into the Arabic dictionary لسان العرب, you’ll find that حديقة originally referred to a pit in the valley that held water (something which helped plants to grow in that area, forming a garden).

Also, in Lane’s Lexicon, we find that حَدَقة refers to the “blackness of the eye”.

And perhaps the connection here is a little more imaginative, but from the root of بِئر (“well”), we get the word بُؤرة which can refer to optical focus. And from the quadriliteral, reduplicated root ب-ء-ب-ء—which was likely derived from the triliteral root of بئر, i.e. ب-ء-ر—we get بُؤبُؤ which refers to the eye’s pupil.

I’ve wondered whether these linguistic links between the eye and sources of water were at least somewhat established on the basis of how they both carry connotations of reflection too.

Am I analysing too deeply?


Either way, let us know in the comments below whether you know of any other Arabic words or roots which relate to both the eye and water sources.

I’m off to the airport in a few hours إن شاء الله for another little adventure but, don’t worry, I’m scheduling the next Wehr Wednesdays post so you won’t go a Wednesday without!

!في أمان الله

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