In this article, I have put together my study notes, course material and other online resources to help give you a better understanding of what are root words as pertaining to the Arabic language and the study of Quran.
What are root words
Root words are the Arabic letters that form the main part of a word. These root letters provide the basic meaning of a word. The root letters are joined together with other letters to form different words which have related meanings.
Example: the root of a plant will determine the type of plant, or the genes of a person determine the characteristics of a person, so similarly the root word will determine the meaning of the word.
Example: the root letters ر ح م joins together to form the original word رَحِّم (Rahim: womb).
Mercy springs from the womb, meaning if we understand the mercy of a mother, then we can understand the concept of mercy that is related to this root. The root gives the characteristic of mercy.
How many letters in a root
Most Arabic words have three-letter roots, very rarely it will have four or five letters.
Root letters always maintain a specific order.
Example: Changing the order will give a completely different meaning.
ع ل م = knowledge
ع م ل = action
What comes out of a root
From one set of root letters come multiple stem words (مصدر ) and from these stem words, many other words emerge. Like a root of a plant, the stems then produce many branches.
The root ع ل م gives the stem words: عِلم (ilm) and عَلمْ (alam)
From the stem word عِلم (ilm)
you get branch words يعْلمُ (ya’lamu), عَليْم (aleem), عَالِم (aalim)
From the stem word عَلمْ (alam)
you get branch words عَالميْن (aalameen)
What can affect the root meaning
A word can have the root letters and other letters that share the basic root meaning.
In English there are stem words, letters are sometimes before, between and also after the root letters. From the root word: eat
In Arabic from the root word: ر ح م
- رَّحِيْم (Raheem) an extra ي is added near the end: meaning - always all merciful
- رَّحْمَن (Rahmaan) an extra ن is added at the end: meaning - most merciful
From the root word: ك ت ب
Why are root words important
- To know the translation of the word
- To understand the meaning of the word
- To analyze the word
- To know how to use the Arabic dictionary
Match the roots
To test your understanding match and write the roots for the following words:
I personally found learning and understanding the Arabic root words difficult at the beginning of my studies, but as time passed and with patience and practice I began to understand. Once you understand it will become easier and you will recognize the deeper meanings and just how rich and beautiful the Arabic language is.