Thursday, 24 February 2011

How many words are there for 'camel' in Arabic? أسماء الإبل باللغة العربية

Does Arabic really have 1000 words for ‘camel’?

هل هناك 1000 كلمة بالعربية تعني الإبل؟

The widely propagated claim that Arabic has 1000 words to describe camels has bothered me for some time. Was it one of those slightly disparaging associations that Europeans tagged the Arabs with because of the endearment and pride that particularly nomadic Arabs held for camels? or was it simply and exaggeration; that Arabic, as you might expect has coined many words for what is in reality a significant historic part of Arab life? My findings are quite astonishing; a multitude of terminology specifying types of camels by their natural disposition, characters,tribal associations and the way in which they drink water!
Here are some examples I have found, there are many more which you can find through the sources at the bottom of the page

Native Arabic speakers will be aware of 3 or 4 standard words for camel-

Camels (standard word)- الإبل
Male camel- الجمال
Female camel- الناقة
Camel (standard word) البعير

Then there are these-
الطبز and دهامج- a two humped camel (Bactrian)
ضائل- a strong male camel
صنخاب- a stout camel
حفض- a baggage camel

And here are some action words and paraphernalia-
حرذون- riding a camel without a saddle
شَداد- camel riding saddle
جِداجة- camel saddle
سنام- hump
وبر- camels’ (also goats’) hair

Here are types of camel according to how they drink water:

الغب                 -  A camel that drinks once every two days

الغب الطل       - A camel that goes to drink from the watering hole during the day

الربع         A camel that drinks once every 3 days

الظاهرة- A camel that drinks once every day

الرفة                                                                                                        A camel that drinks at any time

القصريد  - A camel that drinks little water

العرجاء   -A camel that drinks once during the day and once at night

التندية -A camel that returns to the watering hole to drink once more

السلوف-A female camel that leads other camels to the watering hole to drink

الدفون -A female camel in the middle of a herd of camels

الملواح or الهافةA female camel that gets thirsty quickly

عيوف-A female camel that smells the water but often doesn’t drink it

مقامحA female camel that doesn’t drink to heal her affliction

رقوب -  A female camel that doesn’t drink from the watering hole when it’s busy, but waits and observes

ملحاح  A female camel that doesn’t often leave the watering hole

ميراد A female camel that rushes to get to the watering hole

 الهيامThirsty camels

Here are other camel names according to character/ physical disposition-

الغادر       A male stallion camel that has completed the period of becoming ready to be bred, as demonstrated by his swelled belly

الهياج   A male stallion that is ready to breed, as demonstrated by his lean belly (called قافل)

الهامل  An unbridled/ stray camel that no owner claims

الحايل A non-pregnant female camel                                                      
المسيّر (المجسّر) A female camel ready to be bred

المعشّر A female camel in the beginning stages of pregnancy

اللقحة  A female camel that has passed 4 months of gestation

الخلفة A female camel with a new born under six months old

العشرا A female camel with a fowl over six months old

الخلوج A female camel whose fowl has died prematurely and yearns for it continually

الخفوت A female camel whose fowl died a while ago and she has forgotten about it

المضيّرة A female camel who produces milk for a fowl that is not her own

المسوح A female camel that can be made to produce milk by rubbing its udders in the absence of her own fowl

النحوس A female camel that does not allow itself to be milked

الجضور A female camel that produces a lot of froth when milked

الرموح Either a female camel that bolts its leg when being milked; or a male camel that bolts its leg 
whenever its approached

الجفول A camel that is frightened by anything

الشرود A camel that loves to escape and is difficult to catch

الأكله A camel that devours everything that approaches it

الخبوط A camel that stomps its front leg on the ground

الرابخ A camel that is obese due to abundance of fodder or grass

الثاوي A camel that is too weak to stand up

الطفوح A female camel that walks in front of other camels on its own

القوداء  A female camel that always leads the other camels

المعطاء A female camel with a long non-meaty neck with little hair

الهارب  A female camel that walks ahead of the other camels by a great distance so that it appears to be fleeing

الفاهية  A female camel that is superior to all others in all things

العليا A female camel that is taller than the male

الوجناء A female camel that is docile for riding purposes

العوصاء A female riding camel that is very strong

Camel names by colour

أدم  (fem. أدماء) A completely white camel 

العيس  (fem. العيساء) A white camel with blond / fair complexions

الأشعل A white camel with different coloured tail

Names of groups and numbers of camels
الذود-from 3-10 camels
الزيمة- from 2-15 camels
الرسل- approx 10 camels, and said to be between 15 and 25
الصرمة- between 10-30 camels
الصدعة – a herd of 60 camels
العكرة- herd of up to 70, said to be between 50-100 camels
الجول- a herd of 30-40 camels
هند وهنيدة- 100 camels
القرج- 150 camels, also has been said to be 500-1000 camels
ليلى- a herd of 300 camels
- said to be any herd numbering above 1000 camels

Camel facts-
  • They never forget where they originally come from or where reared; they can easily find their way back to the same place
  • A young camel is able to find its way back the last place it fed on its mother’s milk or its owners house when estranged from the herd
  • Camels have an amazing ability to search of place of water or rainfall and grass land due to their extraordinary sense of smell
  • Camels can differentiate between sounds in precise detail and can recognize its owner’s voice
  • When walking, the camel lifts both its front and back right legs at the same time and then the left side afterwards to maintain balance- this feat is not performed by any other animal
  • Camels can swim 
some camels can also drive cars

More info available here 



  1. I would love to see a swimming camel. Got any photos? Please post.

  2. SUV, Truck, Sedan, Roadster, Muscle Car, Van, Hatchback, Station Wagon, Jeep, Minivan, Compact, Pickup, Coupe, Beetle...
    = Car

  3. i fucked your mother on the back of a camel = ka7ba

  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

  5. Hello there. I'm France from the University of Sto Tomas, Philippines. We're currently doing research about Arabic linguistics when we came across this post. This has been really helpful since our topic is about language and we have to find certain subjects or icons which are deeply engrained in one's culture and to find as much words we can which relate to that specific subject. Now I'd like to ask for your opinion and help regarding this matter. I'd really appreciate if you permit us to contact you and so we can further improve our project. Thank you!

  6. Is it possible that camel can also drive?Tesla and Elon Musk

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