What are the differences between the terms "Arab," "Arabian," and "Arabic?"

For example, why do we say "Arabic language" instead of "Arab language?"

2 Answers 2


"Arab" is either a noun meaning a person from near the Arabian peninsula, or an adjective for things relating to those people.

"Arabian" is an adjective for things relating to the Arabian peninsula.

"Arabic" is a noun referring to the language spoken by Arabs, or an adjective for things relating to that language or Arab culture.

The "-ic" suffix is a common way in English to turn a word (Arab or ecstacy) into an adjective (Arabic or ecstatic). That is why "Arabic language" is used instead of "Arab language" – because the language is of the Arabs.

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    The English adjective "Arabic" was derived via Latin "arabicus" from Greek "arabikos." The Latin name for the geographical region was "Arabia", divided into the "habitable" and "uninhabitable" parts of Arabia felix and Arabia deserta. The Arabic word for "Arab" is indeed "`arab."
    – alephzero
    Nov 19, 2016 at 19:56
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    To be more clear about Arab: it's an ethnicity whose identity is somewhat loosely determined by genetics, culture, and language. Many Moroccans are Arab, but people in Turkey and Iran are generally not Arab. Nov 20, 2016 at 2:07
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    Thanks to @zx8754 for correcting my prefix/suffix oversight.
    – LMS
    Nov 20, 2016 at 14:30

English is not consistent when forming adjectives related to race, ethnicity, nationality, and language.

He is a German. He speaks the German language.

He is a Russian. He speaks the Russian language.

He is French. He is a Frenchman. He speaks the French language.

compare to:

He is an Arab. He speaks the Arabic language.

He is a Slav. He speaks many of the Slavic languages.

(Slav is a composite ethnicity that includes many nationalities in Eastern and Central Europe)

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    German is a Germanic language. Arabic is also technically a composite of multiple languages. Spot the pattern. Nov 19, 2016 at 19:06
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    @LightnessRacesinOrbit: I'm not sure if you're serious, but -- the -ic in Arabic is certainly not in reference to the diversity of forms of Arabic. And I'm not sure it's even a helpful mnemonic; it works for Arabic and Aramaic, but falls down for Icelandic, Greenlandic, etc., as well as Chinese, Romance, Indo-European, etc.
    – ruakh
    Nov 19, 2016 at 19:22

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