Plural of the Plural


root: ف-ت-ح / verbal noun of form I / definition: opening

We’re somehow nearing the end of the second semester and this academic year seems to have zoomed by faster than the time it takes for students to open Arabiyyat al-Naas and flick to the right page.

Writing about semesters again reminds me that my journey as a master’s student has pretty much been documented on this blog via snippets in the introductions of posts from September 2021-22. Like in the post Using مهما, or Another Small But Useful Phrase: جاء في.

Ah, academic life!

But I’ll put the reminiscing on pause while we discuss something new: the Arabic plural of the plural.

Known as جَمع الجَمع, the plural of the plural is a plural form of, well, a plural…

Okay, so it sounds like I’ve made it up, but honestly, it’s a thing in Arabic. Let’s take a look at an example that always comes to mind:

So we have the word هَرَم which means “pyramid”.

Its plural form is أَهرام.

But it also has another plural form, أَهرامات, where we’ve taken the plural أهرام and pluralised it using the sound feminine plural ending.

And here are some more examples:

طَريق > طُرُق > طُرُقات


يَد > أَيدٍ > أَيادٍ


(here, the plural أيد is pluralised using a broken plural pattern to give us the plural of the plural, أياد)

سِوار > أَسوِرة > أَساوِر


بَيت > بُيوت > بُيوتات


In A Reference Grammar of Modern Standard Arabic, the author explains that it’s not known whether there’s a difference in meaning between the simple plural forms and the plural of the plural—with one mentioned exception:

رَجُل > رِجال > رِجالات


In this instance, she notes, the plural form رجال simply indicates plurality, whereas the plural of the plural, رجالات, indicates both plurality and distinction. Meaning that the latter, which has the sound feminine plural suffix, refers to “men of importance”. Pretty interesting.

Have you come across any other examples of جمع الجمع? Let us know in the comments!

!إلى اللقاء

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4 thoughts on “Plural of the Plural

  1. Perhaps also interesting is dual form derived from (broken) plural:

    رمح -رماح – رماحان
    Spear – spears – two spears. Allegorically, united forces of two tribes

    اصل – اصول – اصولان
    Principle- principles – two principles (of Islamic jurisprudence), i. e., اصول الدين واصول الفقه

  2. Akābirīn,
    Sing. kabīr–>
    Plural^2 akābirīn–>

    Used by certain movements from the subcontinent to denote the ‘elder’ status of their religious ideologies’ founders

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