Appendix:Arabic nominals

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Multiple plurals


Arabic nouns often have multiple plural forms. For example بَحْر (baḥr, sea) can have plurals بِحَار (biḥār), بُحُور (buḥūr), أَبْحَار (ʔabḥār), or أَبْحُر (ʔabḥur). These forms are alternative ways of pluralizing the same noun. Sometimes a particular plural form corresponds to a particular sense of the noun, for example in the word عَيْن (ʕayn, eye), the fifth sense of "the thing itself" has a distinct plural أَعْيُن (ʔaʕyun). In other cases it is a matter of preference or dialect. Attempts should be made to put the most common plural form first in entry headings with multiple plurals.

Derived nouns and adjectives


In Arabic, many types of nouns and adjectives can be derived from verbal roots. Typically, derivations and other patterns for triliteral verbs are indicated using the root ف ع ل (f-ʕ-l). For quadriliteral (four-consonant) verbs, the classical root is ف ع ل ل (f-ʕ-l-l), but this is unfortunate in that the third and fourth consonants are the same, which wrongly suggests a geminated verb. Instead, we use ف ع ز ل (f-ʕ-z-l).

Verbal nouns


Verbal nouns (مَصْدَر (maṣdar)) of form I do not follow any particular pattern. Most common is فَعْل (faʕl) but there are many others, e.g. فِعْل (fiʕl), فُعْل (fuʕl), فَعَل (faʕal), فَعَال (faʕāl), فِعَال (fiʕāl), فُعُول (fuʕūl), فُعَال (fuʕāl), فَعُول (faʕūl), مَفْعَل (mafʕal), مَفْعِل (mafʕil), تَفْعَال (tafʕāl), فِعْلَان (fiʕlān), فُعْلَان (fuʕlān), فَعَلَان (faʕalān), etc. as well as the corresponding feminines: فَعْلَة (faʕla), فِعْلَة (fiʕla), فُعْلَة (fuʕla), فَعَلَة (faʕala), فَعَالَة (faʕāla), فِعَالَة (fiʕāla), فُعُولَة (fuʕūla), فَعْلُولَة (faʕlūla), مَفْعَلَة (mafʕala), مَفْعِلَة (mafʕila), etc.

Verbal nouns of the other forms do follow particular patterns:

Form Sound verbal noun Final-weak verbal noun
I No particular pattern No particular pattern
II تَفْعِيل (tafʕīl), تَفْعَال (tafʕāl), فِعَّال (fiʕʕāl), تَفْعِلَة (tafʕila) تَفْعِيَة (tafʕiya)
III مُفَاعَلَة (mufāʕala), فِعَال (fiʕāl) مُفَاعَاة (mufāʕāh), فِعَاء (fiʕāʔ)
IV إِفْعَال (ʔifʕāl) إفْعَاء (ʔifʕāʔ)
V تَفَعُّل (tafaʕʕul), تِفِعَّال (tifiʕʕāl) تَفَعٍّ (tafaʕʕin)
VI تَفَاعُل (tafāʕul) تَفَاعٍ (tafāʕin)
VII اِنْفِعَال (infiʕāl) اِنْفِعَاء (infiʕāʔ)
VIII اِفْتِعَال (iftiʕāl) اِفْتِعَاء (iftiʕāʔ)
IX اِفْعِلَال (ifʕilāl)
X اِسْتِفْعَال (istifʕāl) اِسْتِفْعَاء (istifʕāʔ)
XI اِفْعِيلَال (ifʕīlāl)
XII اِفْعِيعَال (ifʕīʕāl) اِفْعِيعَاء (ifʕīʕāʔ)
XIII اِفْعِوَّال (ifʕiwwāl) اِفْعِوَّاء (ifʕiwwāʔ)
XIV اِفْعِنْلَال (ifʕinlāl) اِفْعِنْيَاء (ifʕinyāʔ)??
XV اِفْعِنْلَاء (ifʕinlāʔ) اِفْعِنْيَاء (ifʕinyāʔ)??
Iq فَعْزَلَة (faʕzala), فَعْزَال (faʕzāl), فِعْزَال (fiʕzāl), فُعْزَال (fuʕzāl) فَعْزَال (faʕzāl)??
IIq تَفَعْزُل (tafaʕzul) تَفَعْزٍ (tafaʕzin)
IIIq اِفْعِنْزَال (ifʕinzāl) اِفْعِنْزَاء (ifʕinzāʔ)
IVq اِفْعِزْلَال (ifʕizlāl) اِفْعِزْيَاء (ifʕizyāʔ)??

Active participles


Active participles (اِسْم الْفَاعِل (ism al-fāʕil)) follow regular patterns:

Form Sound active participle Final-weak active participle
I فَاعِل (fāʕil) فَاعٍ (fāʕin)
II مُفَعِّل (mufaʕʕil) مُفَعٍّ (mufaʕʕin)
III مُفَاعِل (mufāʕil) مُفَاعٍ (mufāʕin)
IV مُفْعِل (mufʕil) مُفْعٍ (mufʕin)
V مُتَفَعِّل (mutafaʕʕil) مُتَفَعٍّ (mutafaʕʕin)
VI مُتَفَاعِل (mutafāʕil) مُتَفَاعٍ (mutafāʕin)
VII مُنْفَعِل (munfaʕil) مُنْفَعٍ (munfaʕin)
VIII مُفْتَعِل (muftaʕil) مُفْتَعٍ (muftaʕin)
IX مُفْعَلّ (mufʕall) مُفْعَيّ (mufʕayy)??
X مُسْتَفْعِل (mustafʕil) مُسْتَفْعٍ (mustafʕin)
XI مُفْعَالّ (mufʕāll) مُفْعَايّ (mufʕāyy)??
XII مُفْعَوْعِل (mufʕawʕil) مُفْعَوْعٍ (mufʕawʕin)
XIII مُفْعَوِّل (mufʕawwil) مُفْعَوٍّ (mufʕawwin)
XIV مُفْعَنْلِل (mufʕanlil) مُفْعَنْيٍ (mufʕanyin)??
XV مُفْعَنْلٍ (mufʕanlin) مُفْعَنْيٍ (mufʕanyin)??
Iq مُفَعْزِل (mufaʕzil) مُفَعْزٍ (mufaʕzin)
IIq مُتَفَعْزِل (mutafaʕzil) مُتَفَعْزٍ (mutafaʕzin)
IIIq مُفْعَنْزِل (mufʕanzil) مُفْعَنْزٍ (mufʕanzin)
IVq مُفْعَزِلّ (mufʕazill) مُفْعَزِيّ (mufʕaziyy)??

Passive participles


Passive participles (اِسْم الْمَفْعُول (ism al-mafʕūl) follow regular patterns:

Form Sound passive participle Final-weak passive participle
I مَفْعُول (mafʕūl) مَفْعُوّ (mafʕuww), مَفْعِيّ (mafʕiyy)
II مُفَعَّل (mufaʕʕal) مُفَعًّى (mufaʕʕan)
III مُفَاعَل (mufāʕal) مُفَاعًى (mufāʕan)
IV مُفْعَل (mufʕal) مُفْعًى (mufʕan)
V مُتَفَعَّل (mutafaʕʕal) مُتَفَعًّى (mutafaʕʕan)
VI مُتَفَاعَل (mutafāʕal) مُتَفَاعًى (mutafāʕan)
VII مُنْفَعَل (munfaʕal) مُنْفَعًى (munfaʕan)
VIII مُفْتَعَل (muftaʕal) مُفْتَعًى (muftaʕan)
IX (مُفْعَلّ (mufʕall)) (مُفْعَيّ (mufʕayy)??)
X مُسْتَفْعَل (mustafʕal) مُسْتَفْعًى (mustafʕan)
XI (مُفْعَالّ (mufʕāll)) (مُفْعَايّ (mufʕāyy)??)
XII مُفْعَوْعَل (mufʕawʕal) مُفْعَوْعًى (mufʕawʕan)
XIII مُفْعَوَّل (mufʕawwal) مُفْعَوًّى (mufʕawwan)
XIV مُفْعَنْلَل (mufʕanlal) مُفْعَنْلًى (mufʕanlan)
XV مُفْعَنْلًى (mufʕanlan) مُفْعَنْيًى (mufʕanyan)??
Iq مُفَعْزَل (mufaʕzal) مُفَعْزًى (mufaʕzan)
IIq مُتَفَعْزَل (mutafaʕzal) مُتَفَعْزًى (mutafaʕzan)
IIIq مُفْعَنْزَل (mufʕanzal) مُفْعَنْزًى (mufʕanzan)
IVq مُفْعَزَلّ (mufʕazall) مُفْعَزَيّ (mufʕazayy)??

Relative adjectives (nisba)


Relative adjectives, also known by the Arabic term nisba, are adjectives formed from another word by adding ـِيّ (-iyy) (usually pronounced as if written ـِي (), also the pronunciation with yy returns in the feminine ـِيَّة (-iyya), the masculine plural ـِيُّون (-iyyūn), and the feminine plural ـِيَّات (-iyyāt)). This construction is quite flexible, and the nisba suffix can be added to any sort of noun, including plurals, as well as in some cases other parts of speech (e.g. خَارِجِيّ (ḵārijiyy, outer, external) from the adjective خَارِج (ḵārij, outer, outside), ثَانَوِيّ (ṯānawiyy, secondary) from the adjective ثَانٍ (ṯānin, second), أَنَانِيّ (ʔanāniyy, egotistical, selfish) from the pronoun أَنَا (ʔanā, I), فَوْقَانِيّ (fawqāniyy, upper) from the adverb فَوْقُ (fawqu, above)). Nisba adjectives can also be formed directly from foreign words, such as دِيمُقْرَاطِيّ (dimuqrāṭiyy, democratic), where no such word *دِيمُقْرَاط (dimuqrāṭ) exists.

When nisba adjectives are added to a feminine noun in ـَة (-a) or ـَاة (-āh), this suffix is normally dropped, as in the adjective مَادِّيّ (māddiyy, material, physical), formed from the noun مَادَّة (mādda, matter, material). The common suffix ـِيَا (-iyā) occurring in country names (sometimes written ـِيَة (-iya), both forms borrowed from -ia) is also dropped; for example, from بِرِيطَانِيَا (biriṭāniyā, Britain) is formed بِرِيطَانِيّ (biriṭāniyy, British). Other suffixes may also be dropped, e.g. from كِيمِيَاء (kīmiyāʔ, chemistry) is formed كِيمِيّ (kīmiyy, chemical) (also كِيمِيَائِيّ (kīmiyāʔiyy) or كِيمَاوِيّ (kīmāwiyy)).

In some cases, especially in very short words with only consonants and a short vowel intervening, a linking consonant added, as in سَنَوِيّ (sanawiyy, annual) from سَنَة (sana, year), نَوَوِيّ (nawawiyy, nuclear) from نَوَاة (nawāh, nucleus), يَدَوِيّ (yadawiyy, manual) from يَد (yad, hand), دَمَوِيّ (damawiyy, blood-) from دَم (dam, blood) (also دَمِيّ (damiyy) without a linking consonant). The particular linking consonant is usually و (w), but may be a different consonant if that consonant appears in other derived forms of the underlying word; cf. شَفَهِيّ (šafahiyy, labial), also شَفَوِيّ (šafawiyy), from شَفَة (šafa, lip) (cf. plural شِفَاه (šifāh, lips), also شَفَوَات (šafawāt)). Note that linking consonants are not used in cases like عَادِيّ (ʕādiyy, normal) with a long vowel (from عَادَة (ʕāda, custom, habit)) or صِحِّيّ (ṣiḥḥiyy, health) with a geminate consonant (from صِحَّة (ṣiḥḥa, healthy)). Linking consonants may also appear with stems from final-weak roots, e.g. ثَانَوِيّ (ṯānawiyy, secondary) from ثَانٍ (ṯānin, second), عَلَوِيّ (ʕalawiyy, upper, heavenly, Alawite) from عَلِيّ (ʕaliyy, high, exalted, Ali). Examples with a linking ـَانـ (-ān-) are أَنَانِيّ (ʔanāniyy, egotistical, selfish) from أَنَا (ʔanā, I) and عَلْمَانِيّ (ʕalmāniyy, secular, worldly) from عَالَم (ʕālam, world). Sometimes the stem may be distorted (usually shortened) in the nisba, as in عَلْمَانِيّ (ʕalmāniyy) just mentioned (also pronounced عِلْمَانِيّ (ʕilmāniyy)) and عُلْوِيّ (ʕulwiyy, upper) from عُلُوّ (ʕuluww, height).

Relative nouns (nisba)


Relative (nisba) adjectives can be freely made into nouns. For example, from the adjective بِرِيطَانِيّ (biriṭāniyy, British) is derived the noun بِرِيطَانِيّ (biriṭāniyy, British man, Briton) and from the adjective دِيمُقْرَاطِيّ (dimuqrāṭiyy, democratic) is formed the noun دِيمُقْرَاطِيّ (dimuqrāṭiyy, democrat). These nouns form feminines and plurals the same way as the corresponding adjectives.

In addition, the feminine nisba noun frequently has the meaning of an abstract noun, e.g. دِيمُقْرَاطِيَّة (dimuqrāṭiyya, democracy) from دِيمُقْرَاطِيّ (dimuqrāṭiyy, democratic) or ذِهْنِيَّة (ḏihniyya, mentality) from ذِهْنِيّ (ḏihniyy, mental) (in turn formed from ذِهْن (ḏihn, mind)). In some cases, it is best to view these nouns as being formed directly using a suffix ـِيَّة (-iyya), especially since the corresponding word in ـِيّ (-iyy) may not exist. Examples are كَمِّيَّة (kammiyya, quantity) formed from كَمّ (kamm, quantity), أَهَمِّيَّة (ʔahammiyya, importance) formed from أَهَمّ (ʔahamm, more important, very important) and هُوِيَّة (huwiyya, identity) formed from هُوَ (huwa, he) (note that the last two examples are formed from parts of speech other than nouns).

Basic adjectives


Many adjectives are formed from the triliteral root using the pattern فَعِيل (faʕīl), for instance:

Some nouns also use this form: for instance, الْخَمِيس (al-ḵamīs, Thursday).

The masculine plural is sound, or broken. The most common patterns are فُعَلاء (fuʕalāʔ) and فِعَال (fiʕāl); others include أَفْعِلاء (ʔafʕilāʔ), فُعُل (fuʕul), and أَفْعال (ʔafʕāl).

Elative adjectives


Elative adjectives (اِسْم التَّفْضِيل (ism at-tafḍīl) or أَفْعَل التَّفْضِيل (ʔafʕal at-tafḍīl)) are formed from basic triliteral adjectives, typically of the form فَعِيل (faʕīl) or فَاعِل (fāʕil), but also forms like فَعْل (faʕl), فِعْل (fiʕl), or فُعْل (fuʕl). The elative is formed directly from the root of the adjective and has the diptote form أَفْعَل (ʔafʕal) in the masculine singular. Elatives have the meaning of comparatives (as in English smarter or more intelligent), superlatives (as in English smartest or most intelligent), and absolute superlatives (as in English very smart, utterly intelligent). The difference is often expressed through different syntactical constructions. A few adjectives are formally elative without having an elative meaning, for example آخَر (ʔāḵar, other). Conversely, some adjectives are used as elatives without being in elative form, for example خَيْر (ḵayr, better, best).

The inflectional pattern for elative adjectives is as follows: The feminine singular has the form فُعْلَى (fuʕlā), which is invariable with regard to case and state. The masculine plural is diptote أَفَاعِل (ʔafāʕil), or sound أَفْعَلُون (ʔafʕalūn). The feminine plural is either فُعَل (fuʕal) or sound فُعْلَيَات (fuʕlayāt). An example with full declension is أَكْبَر (ʔakbar, bigger, biggest), elative of كَبِير (kabīr, big). This adjective has feminine singular كُبْرَى (kubrā), masculine plurals أَكْبَرُون (ʔakbarūn) and أَكَابِر (ʔakābir), and feminine plural كُبْرَيَات (kubrayāt).

Some elatives, like آخَر (ʔāḵar) and أَوَّل (ʔawwal, first), follow these inflections consistently. Most elatives, however, can be in the form of the masculine singular even when they refer to feminine or plural nouns. In fact, only a limited number of inflected elative forms are current in contemporary Arabic, and these are typically restricted to the absolute superlative sense; as in بِرِيطانْيَا اَلْعُظْمَى (birīṭānyā l-ʕuẓmā, Great Britain). In Classical Arabic, inflected elative forms were used more freely.

Color or defect adjectives


Color or defect adjectives are adjectives of the form أَفْعَل (ʔafʕal), with feminine singular فَعْلَاء (faʕlāʔ), generally referring to colors and physical defects. Both masculine and feminine are diptotes. Note that the masculine singular has the same form as elative adjectives, but the feminine singular is different. The plural, both masculine and feminine, is usually of the form فُعْل (fuʕl), but there are exceptions, e.g. أَحْمَق (ʔaḥmaq, crazy), with regular plural حُمْق (ḥumq) but also the plurals حُمُق (ḥumuq), حَمْقَى (ḥamqā) and حَمَاقَى (ḥamāqā). Prototypical examples of color adjectives of this form are:

There are others, such as

but most remaining common colors are in the form of nisba adjectives, e.g.

Prototypical "defect" adjectives do refer to actual physical defects such as

but others refer to mental defects such as

while others refer to characteristics that may have negative connotations but are not obviously "defects", such as

and yet others have meanings that cannot in any way be characterized as defects, e.g.

First-weak and second-weak roots are formed the same way as strong roots, e.g. أَوْجَر (ʔawjar, timid, fearful) and أَبْيَض (ʔabyaḍ, white); third-weak roots are formed on the pattern أَفْعَى (ʔafʕā) e.g. أَعْمَى (ʔaʕmā, blind); geminated roots are formed on the pattern أَفَعّ (ʔafaʕʕ) e.g. أَزَبّ (ʔazabb, hairy).

Collective nouns


Collective nouns have the form of a singular but the meaning of a plural. Most collective nouns refer to non-humans (usually animals or plants), but there also exist collectives for people or other intelligent beings. These latter are sometimes called ethnic collectives. They often take plural agreement, whereas non-human collectives generally take singular agreement.

The noun with the corresponding singular meaning is the singulative (see below). From it, an actual plural can often be formed.

Singulative nouns


Singulative nouns (اِسْم وَحْدَة (ism waḥda)) have a singular meaning and are formed from collective nouns by adding َة (a), unless the collective refers to people or intelligent beings, in which case the ending is the nisba ending ـِيّ (-iyy), e.g. أَمْرِيكَان (ʔamrīkān, Americans), أَمْرِيكَانِيّ (ʔamrīkāniyy, an American), or يَهُود (yahūd, Jews), يَهُودِيّ (yahūdiyy, a Jew), or جِنّ (jinn, jinn, demons), جِنِّي (jinnī, a jinn, a demon).

Singulative nouns form plurals in the normal way, e.g. from شَجَرَة (šajara, tree) the plural أَشْجار (ʔašjār). This form and the collective شَجَر (šajar) both translate to English as “trees”. The difference is that أَشْجار (ʔašjār) considers them individually, شَجَر (šajar) collectively. (A similar case in English may be the difference between persons and people.) The plurals of singulative nouns are sometimes called plurals of variety; this term is somewhat misleading, but is based on the fact that أَشْجار (ʔašjār) is also used in the sense of “different kinds of trees”.

Instance nouns


Instance nouns (اِسْم مَرَّة (ism marra)) have the meaning "an instance of doing something" and are formed from verbal nouns by adding َة (a), e.g. from the verbal noun ضَرْب (ḍarb, hitting, striking) is formed ضَرْبَة (ḍarba, a blow, a stroke) and from the verbal noun اِنْتِفَاض (intifāḍ, shaking off) is formed اِنْتِفَاضَة (intifāḍa, a shaking off, an uprising, an intifada).

Nouns of place


Nouns of place (اِسْم مَكَان (ism makān)) are typically derived from verbal roots and have the approximate meaning “the place for doing x”, where x is the meaning of the verb. Nouns of place of the base stem (form I) generally have the prefix مَـ (ma-), bearing the forms مَفْعِل (mafʕil), مَفْعَل (mafʕal), مَفْعَلَة (mafʕala), مَفْعِلَة (mafʕila), rarely مَفْعُلَة (mafʕula).

Examples are:

Some nouns of place are formed from non-verbal roots, e.g. مَقْهًى (maqhan, cafe), formed from the root of قَهْوَة (qahwa, coffee), and meaning literally “place of coffee”.

Nouns of place of non-form-I verbs take the same form as the passive participle, meaning they begin with مُـ (mu-), such as مُسْتَشْفًى (mustašfan, hospital), formed from the form-X verb اِسْتَشْفَى (istašfā, to seek a cure), hence “place for seeking a cure”, مُنْتَزَه (muntazah) of form VII and مُتَنَزَّه (mutanazzah) of form V “park, where one strolls upon”, مُسْتَنْبَت (mustanbat, place where one grows plants) from the form X-verb اِسْتَنْبَتَ (istanbata, to grow, to cultivate).

Tool nouns


Tool nouns (اِسْم الْآلَة (ism al-ʔāla)) are typically derived from verbs and have the approximate meaning tool for doing X where X is the meaning of the underlying verb. Tool nouns usually have the prefix مِـ (mi-) and are often of the form مِفْعَل (mifʕal), مِفْعَلَة (mifʕala) or مِفْعَال (mifʕāl). Examples are:

Some such nouns are derived from other nouns, having the approximate meaning "tool related to X":

A recent trend is to instead derive tool nouns from the feminine of occupational/characteristic nouns/adjectives or active participles, perhaps calqued on English:

Some tool nouns are derived directly from active participles:

Occupational nouns


Occupational nouns can be derived from many verb stems, generally using the form فَعَّال (faʕʕāl), e.g. كَتَّاب (kattāb, scribe) from كَتَبَ (kataba, to write).

The active participle can also be used to form occupational nouns, e.g. طَالِب (ṭālib, student) from طَلَبَ (ṭalaba, to ask), كَاتِب (kātib, writer, clerk) from كَتَبَ (kataba, to write), بَائِع (bāʔiʕ, vendor) from بَاعَ (bāʕa, to sell), مُهَنْدِس (muhandis, engineer) from هَنْدَسَ (handasa, to engineer). The words using the form فَاعِل (fāʕil) often have plurals of the form فُعَّال (fuʕʕāl) or sometimes فَعَلَة (faʕala); sometimes both plurals exist with different meanings, e.g. كُتَّاب (kuttāb, writer) but كَتَبَة (kataba, clerk).

In addition, some occupational nouns are in the form of a nisba (with an ـِيّ (-iyy) suffix), e.g. صُحُفِيّ (ṣuḥufiyy, journalist) or صِحَافِيّ (ṣiḥāfiyy, journalist), derived respectively from صُحُف (ṣuḥuf, newspapers) and صِحَافَة (ṣiḥāfa, journalism).

Characteristic nouns and adjectives


Characteristic nouns can be derived from verb stems using the form فَعَّال (faʕʕāl), creating nouns with the meaning of "person who habitually does X", e.g. كَذَّاب (kaḏḏāb, liar). Note that this is the same form as is used for many occupational nouns. Characteristic adjectives have the same form as characteristic nouns, e.g. دَبَّاب (dabbāb, crawling), نَظَّار (naẓẓār, keen-eyed).



Diminutives can be derived from triliteral nouns and some quadriliteral and longer nouns using the form فُعَيْل (fuʕayl) or فُعَيِّل (fuʕayyil); فُعَيْزِل (fuʕayzil) for quadriliteral and longer nouns. Diminutives are not very productive in Modern Standard Arabic or in many modern dialects (e.g. Egyptian) but were much more productive in some Classical Arabic dialects, as evidenced by their continuing productivity and prevalence in some dialects, such as Moroccan Arabic, where nearly every noun has an associated diminutive. A diminutive noun has the meaning "a small X" or "a cute, little X". Some examples are كُلَيْب (kulayb, little dog) from كَلْب (kalb), كُتَيِّب (kutayyib, booklet) from كِتَاب (kitāb, book), and بُنَيّ (bunayy, little son) from اِبْن (ibn, son). An example from a long noun is أُبَيْطِر (ʔubayṭir, little emperor) from إِمْبِرَاطُور (ʔimbirāṭūr, emperor). Feminine diminutives are also possible, e.g. قُصَيْبَة (quṣayba, oats) from قَصَبَة (qaṣaba, cane, reed) and بُنَيَّة (bunayya, little daughter) (compare بُنَيّ (bunayy, little son)).


  •  Fischer, August (1906) “Das Geschlecht der Infinitive im Arabischen”, in Zeitschrift der Deutschen Morgenländischen Gesellschaft[1] (in German), volume 60, pages 839–859

See also