The Wind, and a Wandering Mind


root: ر-و-ح / noun / plural: رِياح / definition: wind

I was watching an episode of Karadayı last week, my favourite Turkish series, and two phrases related to the wind came up in quick succession:

  • Hangi rüzgâr attı sizi buraya? (literally: which wind threw you here? / meaning: what brought you here unexpectedly after so long?)
  • Ağzımdan yel alsın! (literally: may the wind take it from my mouth! / meaning: may what I said never happen! God forbid!)

In these sayings, the wind—whether rüzgâr (a word derived from Persian) or yel (a Turkic word)—appears as an active force, linked to fate.

It was this that got me thinking about the Arabic word for “wind”: ريح.

If we take a look into Lane’s Lexicon, we discover that the word رِيح was originally رِوح—with the و changing to a ي for ease of pronunciation. You’ll have noticed that it’s rare to hear the diphthong iw in Arabic today.

The word’s diminutive form appears to confirm this: رُوَيحة.

Now, note that ريح comes from the root ر-و-ح, the same as روح (soul), رَوح (refreshment), and راحة (rest, ease).

ريح has three mentioned plural forms in the Hans Wehr and one of them, أَرواح, is also the plural of “soul”, روح. So there’s a very close link there. Perhaps because both are unseen, or both represent life in some way.

Both ريح and روح can also be treated grammatically as either masculine or feminine.

Lane’s Lexicon additionally mentions that the wind (ريح) brings refreshment (رَوح) and ease (راحة), hence the shared root.

In those Turkish sayings I mentioned at the start, the wind is a carrier (I’m getting flashbacks to my master’s dissertation, which was all about the four elements in Arabic poetry). It carries people, or words.

And the wind has a similar association in Arabic too, and I assume many other languages as—in our experience as humans—we observe the wind moving things. (I should just post my dissertation here at this point, I wrote these exact things just in a much more flowery manner and with complicated-sounding theory behind them.)

For example, even a quick glance under ريح in the Hans Wehr tells us of the phrase ذَهَبَ مَعَ الرّيح (to vanish, go with the wind).

We also see ريح linked to fate in the phrase right before that on the page, هَبَّت ريحُهُ (literally: his wind blew, meaning: he was enjoying good fortune).

It’s always interesting how Arabic dictionaries can get your mind to wander. Turkish TV series too, I guess.

!إلى اللقاء

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