A survey of daily news shows that the subject of killing is one of the most prolific topic dealt with in the media.  This does not come as a surprise since in terms of frequency, the word "Kill" ranks 657th of the commonly used words in English. 

No wonder, Josef de Maistre, a French Philosopher once said that: Man’s destructive hand spares nothing that lives; he kills to feed himself, he kills to clothe himself, he kills to adorn himself, he kills to attack, he kills to defend himself, he kills to instruct himself, he kills to amuse himself, he kills for the sake of killing

In past episodes we dealt with terms like harass, harsh, hit, hurt, and fatigue. In Episode IV of Parallel Universe; Alternate Etymologies, I felt it appropriate to extend this research to investigate the roots of the word "Kill" * 1 in the English language. 


According to the Oxford English Dictionary, it made its first appearance in Middle English in a novel entitled "The king of Tars" circa 1330.* 2

The term kill in Middle English began to appear just before the Hundred Years War  (1337-1453). As the French Language was falling into disuse in14th century, English speech had already returned as the native tongue of the Nobility and before the century closed, its had replaced French in the courts, parliament and schools.  However, etymologists are in agreement that the etymology of the word "to kill" is shrouded in obscurity and is not found in cognate languages. 

The appearance of the term "to kill" coincides with a time when the Crusades in the East were on the wane.  Edward of England failed to advance from Acre, while the French king St. Louis and Charles of Anjou were equally defeated in Tunis. By 1291, Acre, the last stronghold of the Crusaders, fell to the Mamaliyk of Egypt. 

The Crusaders, though defeated after two centuries in the East, brought back with them a new infusion of Islamic art and Architecture as well as Arabic learning into Western Europe.  England was one of the most affected of these countries. Christian churches and Christian Universities thus soon came to be illuminated by the skill and learning, the technology, and the scholarship of the Muslim East. One of the areas that enriched the English language was the infusion of many Arabic terms. The list of these borrowed words far exceeds the list of the traditional loaned words, acknowledged by the Oxford English Dictionary * (3). While the full impact of Arabic Language on Middle English remains to be assessed properly, already new evidence brought to light suggests this influence was significant. Hence, the purpose of this series is to introduce many of these borrowed terms to the reader for the first time. These words are grouped in themes and hitherto are NOT listed among the traditional Arabic terms which made it into the English language (see the list of traditional Arabic loaned words which according to the Oxford English Dictionary made it in the English language). These terms are offered here for the first time for the sake of the reader's edification with the exception of Ghoul which made it to the list of Arabic loan words into English . 

For those skeptics about the influence of the Arabic language on the English language, I feel duty bound to provide a bit of historical and linguistic information to demonstrate how this impact manifested itself on the English language. 

In that respect, I strongly suggest that the reader read the following work by Professor Siobhain Bly Calkin. Saracens and the Making of English Identity:The Auchinleck Manuscript.* (4) Though the work itself does not deal with the matter of linguistics and/or etymology, it is an eye opener for the understanding of the background in which many of these terms discussed here, made their way into the English language. 


Unlike the 21st century, cultural and technological enrichment in 14th century was primarily from East to West; Europe was underdeveloped by Middle Eastern standards and had little to give in return. 

During the Crusades, Europeans came into contact with a civilization, which was, in many ways, more advanced than their own.  As a consequence, the Crusades encouraged Europeans to attempt to grow the crops and manufacture the products introduced from the Muslim East. The Eastern windmill and irrigation ditch became common in parts of the Continent. Often Muslim artists and craftsmen were imported to decorate the great double-walled stone castles, based on Islamic art models, which the nobles of Europe erected. Native artisans learned from these innovations. New military tactics and equipment, as well as chivalric traditions involving heraldry and tournaments, were introduced from the Muslim East. 

Meanwhile, Western writers adapted many Oriental stories, and quantities of history, fiction, and combinations of the two gave the Crusades a permanent place in European literature. Popular ballads about the great expeditions provided the illiterate masses of Europe with both pleasure and information. Among these literary works was "The King of Tars.”  The novel is of great relevance to this investigation, since it first introduced the word "Kill" into Middle English

So great was the Muslim impact on Medieval West in general, and England in particular, that lately medieval historians are starting to re-assess this impact under new light. For example Professor Siobhain Bly Calkin of Carlton University in Canada made some of these areas of studies. Professor Calkin is the author of many books, which deal with this subject matter. Though Calkin does not discuss the linguistic borrowing per say, he explores the ways in which discourses of religious, racial, and national identity blur and engage each other in the medieval West. His books study depictions of Muslims in England during the 1330s and argue that these depictions, although historically inaccurate, served to enhance and advance assertions of English national identity at this time. Texts involving Saracens *(5)the designating term for Arabs or Muslims, thus serve both to assert an English identity, and to explore the challenges involved in making such an assertion in the early fourteenth century. 


In Classical Arabic the term "ghyl" signifie the act of deceiving, guile or beguiling, and gull,  as well as causing evil and slaughter; i.e. Killing and/or slaying covertly. The term has survived in Modern Arabic as ghiyl and/or Ightiyal. The exact same cognates along with exact matching definitions are equally found in Middle English in terms like: 1) Kill (1330), 2) Guile (1325) which, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, is presumed to be of a Teutonic origin, though no certain etymon has been found in Old English to back this surmising. 

However, these three terms were recorded  (seven centuries earlier) in the Classical Arabic language and found to be related from the same trilateral root, GHWL. This root, GHWL, also gave us additional loaned terms such as: 3) Gall c.1200  (which cognates with Arabic Ghll) and signifies rancor. The term "Ghll" (rancor) was recorded in the Qur'anic verses  (Q.7, v. 43, Q. 15. v. 47  & Q. 59 v. 10). 5) While the term gull was recorded in 1550. Moreover the same Arabic root gave us also the term: Ghoul which means in Arabic: an ogre, a cannibal and a embodiment of the natural fear and horror which a man feels when he faces a really dangerous desert.* (6) 

For a comparison of the corresponding terms in Classical Arabic and Middle English see the following attached JPEGs below. 




This investigation clearly points out, without any doubt, that terms such as kill, gall, guile, beguile and gull had their roots in Classical Arabic language long before they made their first appearance in Middle English or any western languages. Tremendous confusion about linguistics and cultural origins has come about from these unsubstantiated Western theories which have consistently been bias in their interpretations.  The time has now come to question more seriously whether the hitherto various attempts by Westerners to prove that  many of Indo-European etymological reconstructions have any sound basis. 

It is not uncommon for entire etymological conclusions in the English Oxford Dictionary to be based on a fallacy or unsound argument.  When reality dawns, the result could be devastating for the Indo-European hypothetical reconstructions. The source of the fallacy is obvious since two unrelated languages are unlikely to invent the same word with the exact meaning independently from one another. 

The newly acquired data included in these episodes shed a light on the magnitude of the Arabic influence in Europe and especially on the English language, calling for a revision of many etymologies offered by western dictionaries. 

Most Westerners know very little about the history of the Arab civilization and less about its language, and are therefore unaware of the great impact it had on their own culture.  An objective in-depth investigation of the extent of Arab influence on Europe is needed to balance this shortcoming. 

Considering the discoveries of these linguistic data (kill, gall, guile, beguile & gull), which hitherto were overlooked, the significance of the Arab linguistic influence can no longer be ignored.  For these data cannot be dismissed as a simple case of a “trading goods” language being diffused sporadically, but rather as highly specialized linguistic references corresponding consistently and systematically, layer upon layer, in a remarkable pattern of agreement with Classical Arabic


(To be continued)

"Once you have eliminated the impossible, you are left with the possible, however improbable".



1) Note: I have intentionally skipped investigating altogether the synonym word "assassin" which is well documented as originating from the Arabic term al-Hashashiyn AL-HASHASHIYN: THE ASSASSINS The infamous militant religious sect of Isma`iyliy led by Hasan al-Sabbah (circa 1034 - 1124) in the heart of the Alborz Mountains of northern Iran. This mystic secret society killed members of the `Abbasiy elite for political or religious motivations. The name "assassin" is derived from "al- hashashiyn" for the supposed influence of the drugs, and disregard for their own lives in the process. Their leader, Hasan Ibn al-Sabbah. from a high mountain fortress directed a ruthless campaign against the leaders of the Sunni Muslim sects and Saljuwq rulers in Iran, Iraq and Syria.  In 1090, Hasan seized the fortress of Alamuwt atop the Alborz Mountains northwest of Qazwiyn. The fortress which  stood on a  ridge 6000 feet above the sea, commanded a royal view of the valley below, accessible only by a single, almost vertical pathway. This impregnable  remote fortress was an ideal hideout which soon became the headquarters for al- hashashiyn.  The position of Alamwut caused its prince to receive the title Shaykh al Gabal "Prince of the Mountain".  A title which was mistranslated by  western historians as  the “Old Man of the Mountain.”

* (2) The historical milieu in which the story circulated included the first occurence of the word  "Kill" borrowed from the Arabic Language. The King of Tars story plot may be summarized briefly as follows: The Sultan of Damascus falls in love with the daughter of the Christian king of Tars, upon hearing reports of her beauty he sends an embassy to the king asking the Princess hand in marriage as his price for peace. The king of Tars rejects his ouvertures.

* (3) Traditional list of Arabic loaned words which according to the Oxford English Dictionary made it in the English language:

Admiral, adobe, albacore, albatross, alchemy, alcohol, alcove, Aldebaran,  alembic, algebra, algorithm, alkali, almanac, Altair, aniline, arsenal, artichoke, assassin, aubergine, average, azimuth, azure. 

Benzoin,  Betelgeuse. 

Caliber, caramel, caraway, carmine, carob, checkmate, chemistry,  cipher, coffee, cotton, crimson. 


Elixir, emir. 


Garble, gauze, gazelle, genie, gerbil, ghoul, giraffe.

Harem, hashish,  hazard, hegira, henna. 

Jar,  jerboa. 

Kermes,  kohl. 

Lemon,  loofah,  lute. 

Macrame, magazine, mascara, massage,  mattress,  mirror, mocha,  mohair, monsoon,  mummy,  muslin.




Realgar,  ream,  Rigel.

Saffron,  satin,  sequin,  sherbet, sorbet, shrub, syrup, soda. 

Tabby,  tahini, tamarind, tare, tariff, tazza. 


Zenith,  zero. 

* (4) "Marking Religion on the Body: Saracens, Categorization and The King of Tars," Journal of English and Germanic Philology 104, no. 2 (2005): 219-38 


- "Violence, Saracens, and English Identity of Of Arthour and of Merlin," Arthuriana. 

- "Sterotypical Saracens, the Auchinleck Manuscript, and the Problems of Imagining Englishness in the Early Fourteenth Century: Saracen Knights." 

- "Reading Seynt Mergrete and Seynt Katerine in the context of the Auchinleck Manuscript.

- "The Anxieties of Encounter and Exchange: Saracens and Christian Heroism in Sir Beues of Hamtoun.

- "Expansionism and Cultural Hybridity: Postcolonial Ideas and Two Romances from the Auchinleck Manuscript.

* (5) Sar·a·cen . A member of a pre-Islamic nomadic people of the Syrian-Arabian deserts. An Arab.A Muslim, especially of the time of the Crusades.[Middle English, from Old English, from Late Latin Saracenus, from Late Greek Sarakenos, ultimately from Arabic sharq, east, sunrise.

* (6) The Arabian ghoul is known as a desert-dwelling, skin walker demon that can transform itself into the guise of an animal, especially a hyena.Ghoul have their origin in the Arabic of Alf Laylah wa Laylah - the Thousand Nights and a Night and in their root stories. The Arabian ghoul lured travelers into the desert wastes to slay and devour them, and also robbed graves and fed on the flesh of the dead, or on young children. Sir Richard F. Burton, nineteenth century translator of the Arabian  Nights, wrote some interesting footnotes on the subject.






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