The Arabic word for colors can paint and reveal


The Arabic word for this week is a diamond in the hand, reacting to light in all sorts of wonderful ways.

Alwan is Arabic for colors and, like the spectrum wheel beyond, the word takes on various hues as it moves through what we see and perceive. It also gives us the opportunity to explore the Arabic words for individual colors as well as some of the things they describe.

The singular form of alwan is low. Lawniyat is the scientific study of colors. Eima lowni is color blind.

A primary color is low al asassi, such as ahmar (red), akhdar (green) and azraq (blue).

Lown also resonates in the aural realm. Al lown al ghinaei is a color or a lyrical musical style, like the tarab or the bolero. In literature, al lown al adabi refers to types of texts such as a novel (riwaya), a short story (qissah qasirah) or a poem (shaer).

In cooking, low al taam is a food coloring. In the sky, alwan qows quzah are the colors of a rainbow.

Not everything is vibrant with alwan, however. When talking about the relentless suffering endured by someone, you could say: qas alwanan min alaazab.

From a person’s malevolent disposition, you could say that he has a black heart, or qalbuho/qalbuha aswad.

Conversely, qalbuho/qalbuha abyad can be said of a white-hearted person.

A green-hearted person (akhdar), on the other hand, can refer to a person with youthful ambition and a sense of adventure.

Among the akhdar items are the usb (grass) and the tuffah (apple). Ahmar objects include wared (rose) and damm (blood). For azraq, there is samaa (the sky) and al bahr (the sea). Asfar (yellow) includes moz (banana). As in other languages, the color can also describe a sickly face: wajhuhu/wajhuha asfar.

For abyad, thalej (snow). For aswad, there is night (al layl).

Al ouyoun el sood (black or dark eyes) are widely seen as a sign of beauty in the Arab world. Algerian-Lebanese singer Warda Al Jazairia has a popular song of the same name.

Also in music Haza al lown aleiki yijannen is a famous folk song sung by Iraqi crooner Kadhim Al Saher, which translates to: This color is divine on you.

Updated: May 20, 2022, 6:02 p.m.

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