Quinquiliteral Arabic Roots


root: خ-م-س / adjective / definition: consisting of five consonants

I have just a matter of hours before I’m due to catch a flight, and an unexpected nap earlier means that I’m now two to-dos behind on my to-do list, with writing this post being in prime position.

Anyhow, you’ve read about my obsession with Arabic quadriliterals (words derived from four-letter roots) before, but do you know something rarer than a quadriliteral? A quinquiliteral.

That’s right, quinquiliterals (also spelt quinqueliterals) refer to words derived from five-letter roots.

Now there’s the question of whether five-letter roots actually exist ‘naturally’ in Arabic, or whether each word appearing to be from a quinquiliteral root is either derived from a foreign word or is derived from a triliteral or quadriliteral root.

Whatever the case is, and whether it matters or not, they’re interesting to know about!

And we’ve actually come across a quinquiliteral before, in Wehr Wednesdays #89 where we encountered the adjective عَرَمرَم:

In that post, I mentioned a little about this word’s derivation:

The root ع-ر-م-ر-م appears to have been directly derived from the triliteral root ع-ر-م. The adjective عَرِم from the latter root has the same meaning as عَرَمرَم: strong, violent, vehement.

The repetition of root letters, something we looked at in the case of quadriliteral ‘doubled’ roots, actually signifies a repetitive or strengthened meaning.

So we can assume that عَرَمرَم (which has the final two root letters of the triliteral root, ر-م, repeated) refers to something stronger or more violent than عَرِم.

Here are some more quinquiliterals from the dictionary:

root: غ-ض-ن-ف-ر
root: ب-ن-ف-س-ج, but probably related somehow to بَنفش (“amethyst”)
root: ز-ن-ج-ب-ل

And we also find quinquiliterals whose plural forms appear to be quadriliteral:

root: ع-ن-ك-ب-ت
root: س-ف-ر-ج-ل

Now I wonder, do the plurals of these quinquiliterals appear as quadriliterals because Arabic doesn’t accommodate quinquiliteral plural forms? Or do the quadriliteral plurals indicate that the quinquiliteral nouns are originally derived from quadriliteral roots?

Indeed, the seemingly quinquiliteral noun عندليب (root: ع-ن-د-ل-ب) not only has a quadriliteral looking plural (root: ع-ن-د-ل)…

…but we also find a related quadriliteral noun:

The letter q on my keyboard has never been tapped as much as it has been today.

Before you go, fellow vocabulary nerds, don’t forget to check out the somewhat-regularly-updated post Uncommon Arabic Words for Colours—and I’m just about to add a new word from a quadriliteral root!

!في أمان الله

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