Arabic (العربية al-ʿarabiyyah; less formally: عربي ʿarabi) is a Central Semitic language, thus related to and classified alongside other Semitic languages such as Hebrew and Aramaic. In terms of speakers, Arabic is the largest member of the Semitic language family. It is spoken by more than 280 million people as a first language and by 250 million more as a second language. It is the language of the holy Qur'an.
Most native speakers live in the Middle East and North Africa. Different spoken varieties of Arabic exist and differ according to region. Not all of the varieties are mutually intelligible and speakers may use a sort of medial language with features common to most Arabic varieties to communicate with speakers of mutually unintelligible varieties. Standard Arabic is widely taught in schools, universities, and used in the office and the media.
Modern Standard Arabic derives from Classical Arabic, the only surviving member of the Old North Arabian dialect group, attested in Pre-Islamic Arabic inscriptions dating back to the 4th century. Classical Arabic has also been a literary language and the liturgical language of Islam since its inception in the 7th century.
Arabic has lent many words to other languages of the Islamic world. During the Middle Ages, Arabic was a major vehicle of culture in Europe, especially in science, mathematics and philosophy. As a result, many European languages have also borrowed numerous words from it. Arabic influence is seen in Mediterranean languages, particularly Spanish, Portuguese, and Sicilian, due to both the proximity of European and Arab civilization and 700 years of Arab rule in the Iberian peninsula (see Al-Andalus).
Arabic has also borrowed words from many languages, including Greek, Persian and Sanskrit in early centuries, and contemporary European languages in modern times. The influence of Arabic has been most important in Islamic countries. Arabic is a major source of vocabulary for languages such as Spanish, Sindhi, Punjabi, Gujarati, Portuguese, Berber, Kurdish, Pashto, Persian, Swahili, Urdu, Hindustani (especially the spoken variety), Turkish, Malay, Rohingya, Bengali, Tagalog, and Indonesian, as well as other languages in countries where these languages are spoken.
Some words in English and other European languages are derived from Arabic, often through other European languages, especially Spanish and Italian. Among them are commonly-used words like "sugar" (sukkar), "cotton" (quṭn) and "magazine" (maḫĝzin). English words more recognizably of Arabic origin include "algebra", "alcohol", "alchemy", "alkali", "zenith" and "nadir". Some words in common use, such as "intention" and "information", were originally calques of Arabic philosophical terms.
In most of present-day North Africa, the Western Arabic numerals (0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9) are used. However in Egypt and Arabic-speaking countries to the east of it, the Eastern Arabic numerals ( ٠.١.٢.٣.٤.٥.٦.٧.٨.٩) are in use.
- See Wikipedia article on Arabic language for more information