In 1981, while visiting Egypt for a consulting assignment with USAID, I purchased the old Cairo edition of the massive dictionary Tāj al-‘Arūs of Murtaḍā al-Zabīdī (d. 1790). This was in about 10 large and heavy volumes. For it and a few other books I bought a cheap suitcase and paid the porter who carried it from the taxi to the airline desk a large baksheesh. When I arrived back in New York, as I was entering the door of our home, the suitcase burst open and Tāj al-‘Arūs was spread on the floor.

That was some 35 years ago, but now I have pdf files of the entire modern Kuwaiti edition courtesy of While a scholar of Arabic used to either buy the physical book (I purchased a set of Lisān al-‘Arab in Baghdad in 1979) or be based near a major library (I had the advantage of the Oriental Room of the New York Public Library), now all it takes is a click of a mouse and many megabytes of space to build up a library of Arabic dictionaries.

For those who are looking for Arabic dictionaries available online or in pdf format, here is a list. Others are welcome to suggest sources they know.

Online Arabic Dictionaries

• The first place to go for classical Arabic is al-Bāḥith al-‘Arabī (, which is searchable by word in Arabic for the following dictionaries:
Lisān al-‘Arab of Ibn Manẓūr (d. 1311 CE); Maqāyyis al-lugha of Aḥmad ibn Fāris (d. 1004) ; al-Siḥāḥ fī al-lugha of Ismā‘īl ibn Ḥammād al-Jawharī (d. 1003); al-Qāmūs al-muḥīṭ of al-Fīrūzābādī (d. 1329); and, al-‘Ubāb al-zākhir of al-Ḥasan ibn Muḥammad al-Ṣaghānī (d. 1252).

• The Arabic website al-Ma‘ānī ( is an excellent source for Arabic definitions of Arabic terms.

• For Arabic to English, the original text of Edward Lane’s (1863) An Arabic-English Lexicon is available as an online pdf at It is also available as a download at and at

Arabic Dictionaries in PDF

• Al-Fayrūzābādī’s al-Qāmūs al-muḥīṭ is at
• Ibn Manẓūr’s Lisān al-‘Arab is at
• Al-Ṣaghānī’s al-Takmila wa-al-dhayl is at
• Al-Zabīdī’s massive Tāj al-‘arūs (Kuwaiti version) is at

• see also Dozy, R. (1881) Supplement aux Dictionnaires Arabes. Leiden Brill. at

Arabic/English, English/Arabic, etc.

• Baretto, Joseph (1804) A Dictionary of the Persian and Arabic Languages. Calcutta : S. Greenway, India Gazette Press. Vol. 2 at

• Johnson, Francis (1852) A Dictionary, Persian, Arabic and English. London: W.H. Allen. at

• Penrice, John (1873) A Dictionary and Glossary of the Kor-ân. London: Henry S. King. at

• Richardson, John (1810) A Vocabulary, Persian, Arabic, and English; abridged from the quarto edition of Richardson’s dictionary is at

• Steingass, Francis Joseph (1882) English-Arabic Dictionary: For the Use of Both Travellers and Students. London: W. H. Allen and Co. at

• Steingass, Francis Joseph (1884) The Student’s Arabic-English Dictionary. London: Crosby, Lockwood and Son at

• Wehr, Hans (1960) Arabic-English Dictionary is available as a pdf at

• Wortabet, William Thomson Arabic-English Dictionary is available as a pdf at

Arabic Dialect Dictionaries

• Ben Sedirah, Belkassam (1910) Petit dictionnaire arabe-français de la langue parlée en Algérie, contenant les mots et les formules employés dans les lettres et les actes judiciaires. Alger: Jourdan. at

• Biberstein-Kazimirski, Albert de (1860) Dictionnaire arabe-francais contenant toutes les racines de la langue arabe : leurs dérivés, tant dans l’idiome vulgaire que dans l’idiome littéral, ainsi que les dialectes d’Alger et de Maroc. Paris: Maisonneuve: Éditeurs pour les langues orientales, Européenes et comparées. at

• Cameron, Donald Andreas (1892) An Arabic-English vocabulary for the use of English students of modern Egyptian Arabic. London: Bernard Quaritch. at

• Crow, Francis Edward (1901) Arabic manual. A colloquial handbook in the Syrian dialect, for the use of visitors to Syria and Palestine, containing a simplified grammar, a comprehensive English and Arabic vocabulary and dialogues. London: Luzac and co.

• Hinds, Martin and el-Said Badawi (1986) A Dictionary of Egyptian Arabic is available as a pdf at

• Landberg, Carlo (1901) Études sur les dialectes de l’Arabie méridionale. I: Ḥaḍramoūt. Leiden: Brill. at

• Landberg, Carlo (1909) Études sur les dialectes de l’Arabie méridionale. Datina. Leiden: Brill.

• Nishio, Tetsuo (1992) A Basic Vocabulary of the Bedouin Arabic Dialect of the Jbāli tribe (Southern Sinai). Tokyo : Institute for the Study of Languages and Cultures of Asia and Africa.

• Rhodokanakis, Nikolaus (1908) Der vulgärarabische Dialekt im Dofâr (Zfâr). Vienna: Alfred Hölder. at

Arabic Thesaurus

• Ibn Qutayba Adab al-kātib. Beirut: Mu’assisa al-Risāla. at

• Ibn Sīda, Al-Mukhaṣṣāṣ. Beirut: Dār al-Kutub al-‘Ilmiyya. at

• Khuwārizmī, Muḥammad ibn Aḥmad (1866-1903) Liber Mafâtîh al-olûm: explicans vocabula technica scientiarum tam Arabum quam peregrinorum. Edited by G. Voten. Lugduni Batavorum: Brill. [in Arabic] at

Specialized Arabic Terms

•Al-Damīrī (1908) Ad-Damîrî’s Ḥayât al-Ḥayawān (A Zoological Lexicon). Translated by A. S. G. Jayakar. London: Luzac. Vol. 2, Part 1. at

• Al-Damīrī Ḥayāt al-ḥayawān ms. at

• Fleury, V and Muammad Souhlal (1915) L’arabe pratique et commercial à l’usage des établissements d’instruction et des commerçants, lecture, écriture, grammaire, syntaxe, exercices d’application, conversation, lexiques, dictionnaire commercial. Alger: Jourdan.

• Dozy, Renard (1845) Dictionnaire Détaillé des noms des vêtements chez les Arabes. Amsterdam: Jean Müller. at

• Fonahn, A. (1922) Arabic and Latin Anatomical Terminology. Kristiania: Jacob Dybwad. at

• Ibrāhīm, Rajab (2002) al-Mu‘jam al-‘Arabī li-asmā’ al-malābis. Cairo: Dār al-Mufāq. at

Mu‘jam muṣṭlaḥāt al-‘ulūm al-shar‘īyya. Saudi Arabia, 2017. Vol. 1 at

• Siddiqi, Abdussattar (1919) Studien über die Persischen Fremdwörter im klassischen Arabisch. Göttingen, Vandenhoeck. at

• Yāqūt, Mu‘jam al-buldan. at

Exploring Arabic Texts:

There are many more sources available at if you put “Arabic language” in the search bar. Important sources for links to pdfs of Arabic language texts include the following:

• Arabic Collections Online (NYU Aby Dhabi):
• Al-Madinah Inernational University Digital Library:
• al-Maktaba al-Shāmila:
• Mawqa‘ al-ḍīyā‘:
• al-Mostafa:
• Waqfeya:

• See the list of sites at


Pierre Cachia 1921-2017

Pierre Cachia slipped away peacefully on 1st April, a few days shy of his 96
th birthday, surrounded by his children and grandchildren. With the passing
of this key architect of Arabic studies who made modern Arabic literature a
serious academic subject in both the UK and US, those of us who have
studied and worked with him will not only mourn the loss of a friend,
teacher, and mentor, but also the irretrievable era in which a first
generation of post-War American and European Arabists and Orientalists made
tremendous strides in fashioning academic studies of modern Arabic
literature into what it is today: grounded in native fluency of the Arabic
language, informed by real experiences lived in close proximity with Arab
writers and storytellers, and took seriously the concerns and priorities of
Arab scholars, critics and intellectuals.

Born in Faiyum (Fayyum) on 30 April 1921 to Maltese father and Russian
mother, Pierre grew up in Upper Egypt. He successively attended French,
Italian, Egyptian and American schools before he enrolled at the American
University in Cairo, where he earned his BA degree. After war service with
the British 8th Army in North Africa, Italy and Austria, he moved to
Scotland. He received his doctorate at the University of Edinburgh in 1951
and joined its Faculty. He was appointed Professor of Arabic Language and
Literature at Columbia University in 1975 and would remain there until he
retired in 1991. However, he continued to teach and write, and in fact he
published many of his important works after retirement. He wrote scholarly
articles and books on a variety of subjects, translated classical and
modern literary and critical works, and published other scholars in *Journal
of Arabic Literature*, which he co-founded and on whose editorial board he
served for many years.


There is a recent documentary on the Zabbalin garbage collectors of Cairo, produced by RT.


A post about the famous 14th century Mamluk text of al-Nuwayri, with a new English translation of excerpts from this classic compendium now available.


You can download fifty years of publications by the Metropolitan Museum of Art for free. Yes, for free. There are books on the art of Islamic Spain, Egypt, the Near East, etc. Check it out here.


Faisal party at Versailles Conference. Left to right: Rustum Haidar, Nuri as-Said, Prince Faisal (front), Captain Pisani (rear), T. E. Lawrence, Faisal’s attendant (name unknown), Captain Hassan Khadri.

by Jeffrey D. Sachs, al-Qantara, December 21, 2015

There is no doubt that the crisis-riven Middle East is beset by some unique challenges. As Jeffrey Sachs argues, however, these are not the Sunni-Shia political divide, the future of Assad or other doctrinal disputes, but rather the unmet need for quality education, job skills, advanced technologies and sustainable development

The United States, the European Union, and Western-led institutions such as the World Bank repeatedly ask why the Middle East can′t govern itself. The question is asked honestly, but without much self-awareness.

After all, the single most important impediment to good governance in the region has been its lack of self-governance: the region′s political institutions have been crippled as a result of repeated US and European intervention dating back to the First World War – and in some places even earlier.

One century is enough. The year 2016 should mark the start of a new century of home-grown Middle Eastern politics focused urgently on the challenges of sustainable development.

The Middle East′s fate during the last 100 years was cast in November 1914, when the Ottoman Empire chose the losing side during the First World War. The result was the empire′s dismantling, with the victorious powers, Britain and France, grabbing hegemonic control over its remnants. (more…)

For those interested in the issue, the recently published July issue of International Sociology (30:4) is devoted to the Arab uprisings. It includes articles on the relations of revolution to such various dimensions as space, cultural symbols, microdynamics of mobilization, political Islam, and current scholarship:


Mohammed Bamyeh and Sari Hanafi, “Introduction to the special issue on Arab uprisings”

Atef Said, “We ought to be here: Historicizing space and mobilization in Tahrir Square”

Zaynab El Bernoussi, “The postcolonial politics of dignity: From the 1956 Suez nationalization to the 2011 Revolution in Egypt”

Hatem M Hassan, “Extraordinary politics of ordinary people: Explaining the microdynamics of popular committees in revolutionary Cairo”

Mazhar al-Zo’by and Birol Başkan, “Discourse and oppositionality in the Arab Spring: The case of the Muslim Brotherhood in the UAE”

Nada AlMaghlouth, Rigas Arvanitis, Jean-Philippe Cointet, and Sari Hanafi, “Who frames the debate on the Arab uprisings? Analysis of Arabic, English, and French academic scholarship”

Politics rules the news cycle on Islam and the Middle East. Given the colonial history of the region, there have been numerous puppet leaders installed or allowed to dangle over the years. But the latest puppet regime in Egypt, which has had its share, centers around a cosmetically enhanced widow matron that lolls around in a negligeé and talks about sex. Her name is Abla Fahita and she is a puppet in a new Egyptian tv series. She is turning heads in post-Brotherhood Egypt; if Morsy was still in power, it might very well be her own head that would have been in cinematic danger, although she has been on Youtube for several years and made an appearance on Bassam Yousif’s show. She even has her own MTVish video.

Humor has never been in short supply in Egypt, so even if her Friday night show is censored off the air, other puppets will appear. But in the meantime, if you want to laugh along with a lot of Egyptians, who are in need of something to laugh about beyond politics, just put “Abla Fahita” into Youtube, sit back and enjoy.

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