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What are root words?

Updated: May 30

If you speak a European language, the root system of Arabic may be an unfamiliar concept. Arabic words are made from a few component letters, commonly called a "root". A root usually consists of three letters (sometimes 2 or 4), which convey a basic idea. By adding various vowels (i.e. changing pronunciation) as affixes*, associated meanings can be derived.


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 the root letters come multiple stem words (مصدر ) and from these stem words, many other words emerge. Like the root of a plant, the stems then produce many branches.

 

Example:

  • 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.

 

Example:

In English there are stem words, letters are sometimes before, between and after the root letters. From the root word: eat

  • eating

  • eats

  • ate

  • eaten

  • eatery

  • eatable

 

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 analyse the word

  • To know how to use the Arabic dictionary

 

Download the Quran Root Dictionary (From StudyQuran.org)

Quranic_Root_Dictionary
.pdf
Download PDF • 5.11MB
 

Download the Word Pattern Concordance (From StudyQuran.org)


quran-concordance-pattern-wise
.pdf
Download PDF • 6.47MB
 

Peace and Respect!

 

References:


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