Dictionary Finds: ماخِرة


root: ع-و-م / noun / plural: أَعْوام / definition: year

We’re some days into 2023 now, around the time where resolutions begin to break down and the glossy new year starts to feel like any other. Except, of course, for those who didn’t bother with resolutions, determined to avoid failure at all costs.

But if your resolution by any chance was to explore some more of the Arabic dictionary (a popular choice, of course), then I’m here to help you fulfil that one…

I think it was last month that I came across the word ماخِرة in the Hans Wehr.

See that little 2 after the plural form? Find out what that and other symbols in the Hans Wehr mean in Reference: A List of Abbreviations in the Hans Wehr Dictionary

Not an extraordinary word, in itself. It’s from the sound root م-خ-ر, and it’s a feminine form I active participle (اسم فاعل). It simply means “ship”.

But the thing is, there’s another more common word for “ship”: باخِرة—clearly, the word twin of ماخرة!

Now these aren’t isolated word twins, in the sense that they don’t exist in the dictionary without clear indication of how these two very similar-sounding nouns came to exist.

Rather, both come from separate roots with different core meanings that have both verbal and nominative derivatives. And the core meanings of each root link to a specific connotation of “ship”:

As mentioned, ماخرة comes from the root م-خ-ر. The form I verb derived from this root, مَخَرَ / يَمخَرُ means “to move, traverse, plow“. So ماخرة, the active participle, highlights the movement of the vessel through the water.

باخرة is also a form I active participle, even though a form I verb does not appear under its root ب-خ-ر in the dictionary. However, the form II and V verbs from this root—as well as its nominal and adjectival derivatives—all relate to “steam“. So باخرة is a reference to how the vessels (well, steamships) propel themselves, i.e. using steam engines.

On this topic, why not also check out the synonyms post Six Arabic Words for “Ocean” or “Sea”?

Have you discovered any interesting word twins of your own? I’d love to hear them!

!في أمان الله

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