29

Islam requires Muslim women to cover their bodies from head to toe, sparing only the face and hands. There is a special word in Arabic that describes a woman who deviates by showing more skin than allowed. The word has a negative religious connotation of the woman doing so being slightly a bitch. The Arabic adjective is derived from a word meaning tower. A tower is very noticeable because of its high altitude, and so is the woman who shows more skin. Such a woman is perceived as trying to stand out and attract attention to herself. In western culture, there's nothing wrong with showing a decent amount of skin (I'm all for that btw). But what would be considered decent there would be considered too "towery" here. So my question is there any English adjective for this?

Update: (In response to J.R. and Andrew) I'm just looking for the closest translation for the adjective in question to include it in a publication. The reason I'm asking is to find out if there is an English word that combines "revealing", "seeking attention" and "in a bitchy - or offensive - way". I went for "bitch" because that's how religion (or at least Islam) would see it. And so I thought maybe you guys have such a word in the Bible or something. I know and do believe it's totally ok for a woman to dress however she likes. I believe there's absolutely nothing bitchy in that. But again, bitchy is what Islam would see.

Update 2: Here's an example of how I intend to use the English adjective:

The word ___ (transliteration: Motabariga; translation: ???) is Muslim Sheiks' (priests') favorite word to describe a woman who wears revealing clothes. The word has a negative connotation to it, and is used almost exclusively to attack women who dare to show more skin than allowed by mainstream Islam.

Update 3: (In response to Tᴚoɯɐuo) I meant by negative disapproving, and by religious that the word is almost completely reserved for use by the Muslim clergy. The word is intended to offend as detailed above, and so a woman addressed with this adjective will probably feel she is being called a bitch, but in an indirect way. And this is the connotation I meant. So the ideal word I'm looking for should include all these three ideas in one package:

1- word meaning is "displaying her body with revealing clothes".

2- word is disapproving or offensive, but not too much.

3- it should be the the kind you would find in an ancient text, like the bible. It shouln't, however, be obsolete or archaic.

Update 4: (In response to user35594) I didn't say I knew everything about Islam, though it's easy to say so given that Islam has been my major. I only said "I know Islam does", and this excludes knowledge in Islamic issues other than dress code. I see it inappropriate to discuss in detail an Islamic issue in a platform for English language matters, so I'm going to stop here.

Update 5: I'm really sorry for not being able to reply in the comments box (a phone issue). I've read all of your comments and answers with great pleasure, though the amount of new vocabulary you introduced has made me believe I will probably need another 20 years to tighten my grip on English. :)) I've learnt a lot from each and every one and have noted down all the new words. So far, I'm more inclined to follow the suggestion that I should not provide a translation, and provide a description instead. Thank you very much, great people!

9
  • 17
    Islam does no such thing. Certain branches claim to require this. Further, I don't think you know what "bitch" connotates. I would propose that the correct question is: Why should a woman (and, by transference, not a man) be judged or described by the quantity of unclothed flesh? Nov 27, 2017 at 16:13
  • 13
    @CarlW - That may be a more "correct" question, but that would not be an appropriate question for ELL. If a non-native speaker wants to ask about a word or phrase, that's appropriate for ELL. Further, I agree that "bitch" is probably being misused here, but non-natives often struggle to find the right word when formulating their questions. We don't hold that against them.
    – J.R.
    Nov 27, 2017 at 16:21
  • 13
    @CarlW - I addressed that already in another comment under an answer here, when I said this is a tricky question, because "a lot of these terms carry negative baggage, and can be regarded as insulting or repressive." I don't see anyone "recommending" that such an adjective "should" exist; however, such words do exist – and they can be used in compelling arguments for equal rights just as easily as they can be used in exploitive rhetoric. I don't know what the OP intends to do with the answers here, but I won't assume the worst simply because the topic might make me a bit uncomfortable.
    – J.R.
    Nov 27, 2017 at 16:36
  • 34
    @Carl Witthoft, I know Islam does because I'm a Muslim woman. I studied Islam at length at Azhar University, Muslim world's most recognized authority on Islam, and I know what's there in the Quran. I agree that I might have used "bitch" incorrectly here, especially with the fact that the Arabic adjective for which I'm looking for a translation doesn't inherently carry that "bitchy" connotation in its root. But since revealing clothes are a big taboo in here, the Arabic word has gained that added sense through practice.
    – Sara
    Nov 27, 2017 at 18:26
  • 7
    Maybe you should include an example sentence showing how you want to use the term. That can sometimes make it clearer what kind of term would work best. (Edit the example directly into your question, with a ___ or other placeholder showing where the word would go.)
    – 1006a
    Nov 27, 2017 at 19:26

10 Answers 10

31

Yes, a common word for that is revealing as in revealing clothes. The idea here is that it reveals more about a woman than it should be. Another good one and equally common is skimpy as in skimpy skirt. So, you could say:

The clothes worn by western women could be considered too revealing in Muslim countries.

As for the adjective to describe a woman who wears revealing clothes, I don't think there is a special term for that in English that's common enough that you'll ever hear it used, but the closest thing that I can think of would be floozy. floozy is basically a slur for a woman who looks like a prostitute.

PS: people have been giving a lot of feedback in the comments section. Some of them aren't fond of the idea that what has been offered so far has mostly been vulgar slang. If you're looking for a term that's non-derogatory and neutral in language, immodest woman or immodestly dressed woman could be your best bet. This adjective was suggested by Nigel Touch (in the comments section).

Considering the new information you provided us with, all I can say is that what we are really dealing with here is terminology specific to a particular field in a foreign language. The typical way to go about this is to use the word as it appears in the original language but in its transliterated form with a remark about its meaning when the word is first introduced to the audience. This is commonly done for words that don't have equivalents in the English language. That's actually one way new vocabulary is created. There are many examples of Arabic words in English that have entered the language for the exact same reason—they have no English counterparts. Among them are terms like dunya, iman, fatwat, tawhid and many more others. Simply put, when speaking in the context of Islam, those are the words you would be using instead of analogous English ones that might be similar in meaning but don't quite capture the idea accurately.

8
  • 7
    Not about a woman. Only about the clothes that she wears. Nov 27, 2017 at 11:39
  • 16
    Floozy sounds quite old-fashioned, at least here in the US. You might hear slutty, as in, "She's wearing slutty clothes," but it should be noted that term would be considered more derogatory that revealing.
    – J.R.
    Nov 27, 2017 at 11:54
  • 5
    I think I’d be more likely to hear loose than floozy. This is really kind of a tricky question, because a lot of these terms carry negative baggage, and can be regarded as insulting or repressive.
    – J.R.
    Nov 27, 2017 at 12:07
  • 6
    The woman could be immodest or forward or brazen. Brazen is defined as "bold and without shame" and has synonyms: bold, shameless, as bold as brass, brazen-faced, forward, presumptuous, brash, immodest, unashamed, unabashed, unembarrassed, unblushing; defiant, impudent, insolent, impertinent, cheeky, pert; barefaced, blatant, flagrant, undisguised; (informal) brassy, pushy, saucy Nov 27, 2017 at 17:04
  • 9
    Sara, the terms for women are virtually all insulting, and inherently offensive in a way that the terms for clothing aren't. It is possible to say "She wore a revealing little red dress" and mean it as a compliment, but "She was a slut/floozy/whore/loose woman" is virtually always a slur. Those statements also aren't really about how she dresses; even a woman who always dresses very modestly could be described in those terms, if someone wanted to make a judgment on her (purported) sexual behavior. @NigelTouch's suggestion immodest might be the closest you'll come, or maybe exhibitionist.
    – 1006a
    Nov 27, 2017 at 17:28
33

Try a web search for this phrase: immodestly dressed.

While this phrase can occur outside of a religious context, modesty in clothing (somehow always seeming to apply primarily to women) is a common topic of at least some varieties of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.

From Dictionary.com:

immodest

[ih-mod-ist]

adjective

  1. not modest in conduct, utterance, etc.; indecent; shameless.

...

immodestly, adverb

The word has negative connotations, corresponding fairly well (I think) to the "tower" in the question.

As an aside, I think it is possible to frame the use of this word so as to recognize as a fact that some people consider certain ways of wearing clothing to be "immodest," without making a judgment about people who wear clothes that way.

1
  • 8
    +1; "immodest" sounds like the best fit here, as it doesn't carry any overly-derogatory connotations, and is not slang or a colloquialism and therefore is appropriate for formal usage, while still being simple enough for casual speech as well.
    – Doktor J
    Nov 28, 2017 at 14:35
17

A common term is (like several other terms for naughtiness) borrowed from the French- "risque". A woman who dresses in a risque manner is not necessarily dressed in an obscene or lewd manner, but is bordering on impropriety, and I think it's presumed not to be accidental.

Another term (often used jokingly these days) would be to say the woman is a Jezebel, which Merriam-Webster defines as "an impudent, shameless, or morally unrestrained woman". It does not refer specifically to provocative dress. It is a biblical reference and hence probably carries some religious baggage that might make it inappropriate in some situations.

1
  • 1
    Given the OP's comments, the fact that those most likely to use "Jezebel" would tend to be those with a very conservative Christian upbringing, it might actually be a good match; OP noted the term was most likely to be used by Muslim clerics.
    – RDFozz
    Nov 30, 2017 at 0:32
10

It is not about showing naked skin, it is about the woman's disobedience to clothe herself as dictated to by the norms of Islam.

  1. immoral not conforming to accepted standards of morality
  2. brazen bold and without shame..
  3. indecent not conforming with generally accepted standards of behavior or propriety; obscene.

Motabariga “brazen”(OR “indecent”) is the Muslim Sheiks' (priests') favorite word to describe a woman who wears revealing clothes. The word has a negative connotation to it, and is used almost exclusively to attack women who dare to show more skin than allowed by mainstream Islam.

1
  • 1
    Brazen also seems to capture the essence of what I think OP means by "bitch" and "bitchy" -- which are loaded and problematic at best -- without the emotional overloading. "'She is a brazen woman', the priest said with a snarl. 'Yes, she is,' her husband said with a smile.'
    – TurtleZero
    Nov 29, 2017 at 21:19
8

Vanity, thy name is woman. 

The adjective "vain" has two common senses.  One of them applies here. 

It sounds like Motabariga is a sin of self-importance, the kind of character flaw that leads someone to believe that her (or his) appearance has a far greater value than it does in fact. 

Let's see how well it fits: 

The word Motabariga (which means something like vain or self-aggrandizing) is the Muslim Sheiks' favorite word to describe a woman who wears revealing clothes.  The word has a negative connotation to it, and is used almost exclusively to attack women who dare to show more skin than custom allows. 

 

Edit:

I was wrong. 

OP asked for an adjective, but the one comprehensible example I've found treats the word in question as a noun: 

[My father is] ashamed of me and avoids walking with me in the streets because he does not want anyone to say his daughter is a Motabariga.

In that context, nouns like "slut", "skank" and "jezebel" are a better fit.  Better, but still not perfect.

The only perfect fit is no translation at all.  Instead, define the term in the body of your text:

The word ____ (transliteration: Motabariga) is the Muslim Sheiks' favorite word to describe a woman who wears revealing clothes.  This word, derived from the Arabic word for "to tower", means something like "a vain and haughty woman", and it carries a sharply negative connotation.  It is used almost exclusively as an attack on women who dare to show too much skin.

I agree with @BradC's comment.  The word and concept in question may well exist in that language and in that culture, but it simply does not exist in many English-speaking cultures.  If you were merely translating a narrative, a word like "jezebel" might well be a close enough fit.  However, since you're taking the time to discuss the word, you might as well make your discussion complete.

3
  • I think your edit is the best option based on the OP's full context. There's no need to give a one-word, very approximate translation for a word that is being defined and explained in full.
    – 1006a
    Nov 28, 2017 at 20:44
  • You should delete your first version (or put edited part first), because many people will read first paragraph and say "that's wrong, what's next" and never see the edited part. Which is, IMHO, better than the accepted answer. Especially "skank". Feb 15, 2018 at 21:41
  • I don't think vain is a good fit here, it implies nothing about being immodest/scantily clad and very little directly about attention seeking. Apr 9, 2018 at 15:22
5

There is more discussion of this term in French, but with spellings more like "moutabarrija".

For example on yahoo here and on page 115 in footnote 16 of this book

The book La culture du sang: fatwas, femmes, tabous et pouvoirs says

Egorger un renégat, un apostat, un athée, un démocrate, un laïc, un communiste, un libéral, une femme non voilée (safira ou moutabarrija), ou tout simplement quelqu'un de différent, est un acte d'immolation pour l'amour de Dieu et de son

or roughly in English:

Slaughter of a renegade, an apostate, an atheist, a Democrat, a layman, a communist, a liberal, an unveiled woman (Safira or Moutabarrija), or just someone different, is an act of immolation for the love of God

The New York Times article The Sexual Misery of the Arab World says:

Clothing is also given to extremes: At one end is the burqa, the orthodox full-body covering; at the other is the hijab moutabaraj (“the veil that reveals”), which combines a head scarf with slim-fit jeans or tight pants.

So in your example sentence I would put "uncovered", "exposed" or "revealed".

1
  • 4
    The adjective unveiled (found in your second quote) would also work.
    – J.R.
    Nov 28, 2017 at 18:41
2

I think the closest word at least in AmE that would fit the connotation of your word would be skank. This is because the determination as to whether a woman would be labeled as such is due primarily by their appearance, both dress and makeup.

And yes, this is a derogatory term, but that is what your usage calls for in this instance.

Ok, perhaps I've gone a little too derogatory, maybe showy is a better fit?

1
  • 6
    This is a very colloquial term, whose exact connotations probably vary a lot by region and even individual. I would have said it has more to do with personal hygiene than how much skin is shown, and is more an overall character assessment than a comment on any aspect of appearance or grooming.
    – 1006a
    Nov 27, 2017 at 18:48
2

We have no equivalent word.

Whore. You're looking for the word whore.

  • offensive
  • old term around for years (biblical)
  • has direct connotations to dress -- "dressed like a whore"
4
  • 3
    Whore has more associations with immmorally selling something than it does with a manner of dress. For example, The Whore of Akron: One Man's Search for the Soul of LeBron James. We can say “she dresses like a nerd" but that doesn’t mean that “nerd” is primarily used to describe a manner of dress.
    – ColleenV
    Nov 28, 2017 at 16:34
  • 1
    "Whore", or synonyms "harlot" seems like it has the right connotation -- It can be used hyperbolically as an epithet to imply promiscuity without requiring literal acts of "sex for payment"
    – Jimmy
    Nov 28, 2017 at 18:06
  • 2
    @Jimmy Promiscuity is not the same thing as wearing revealing clothes. That's the entire problem with using sex-trade epithets in this context. The author has said "and so a woman addressed with this adjective will probably feel she is being called a bitch, but in an indirect way." There is nothing indirect about calling a woman a whore because she is showing more skin than you think appropriate.
    – ColleenV
    Nov 28, 2017 at 18:47
  • 3
    That's all true. We have no such word as we have no such culture.
    – EllieK
    Nov 28, 2017 at 20:15
2

Some earlier answers and comments are right to point out that in your specific context as shown by that example sentence, it might not be ideal to use an approximate English word because there does not seem to be an English word that precisely conveys the complex meanings of the original Arabic expression.

The linguistic-cultural confusion arises because many parts of Asia including the Middle East and the Indian subcontinent tend to infer immodesty from dress while the Western world (where relatively more revealing clothing is acceptable) infers immodesty not from dress but from social or personal behavior.

Hence I suggest that you directly use your transliterated Arabic word in place of the English word you are seeking, and then proceed to describe its exact meaning, which you have already given in your question. That will make your paragraph about the Arabic word and its related concepts rather than any English equivalent. As in,

The Arabic word "motabariga" is our priests' favorite word to describe a woman who wears revealing clothes. The Arabic adjective is derived from a word meaning 'tower'. A tower is very noticeable because of its high altitude, and so is the woman who shows more skin. Such a woman is perceived as trying to stand out and attract attention to herself. The word has a negative connotation to it, and is used almost exclusively to attack women who dare to show more skin than allowed by our mainstream religion.

Note: although you asked for an adjective, the Arabic word you referenced seems to be used as an equivalent of English nouns meaning "immodest woman". Many English words like 'harlot' and 'whore' that literally mean 'prostitute' are used aggressively to refer to women's immodest behavior but I do not know whether that particular Arabic word is so explicit. [If the implication is that a woman who would dress somewhat revealingly is probably an immoral woman, then all those synonyms of 'whore' can possibly be employed offensively, but you did mention that the woman called thus would feel 'indirectly' insulted.]

Some other words that are quite old (if not completely Biblical) and used to express criticism of a woman's behavior and possibly her way of dressing are "loose woman", "hussy" and "tart."

loose [adjective] IMMORAL (old-fashioned, disapproving) having low morals; sexually free: a loose woman

Source: https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/loose

Hussy: a shameless or promiscuous woman (...) If someone refers to a girl or woman as a hussy, they are criticizing her for behaving in a shocking or immoral way. Synonyms: slut, tart [informal], strumpet

Source: https://www.collinsdictionary.com/dictionary/english/hussy

If someone refers to a woman or girl as a tart, they are criticizing her because they think she is sexually immoral or dresses in a way that makes her look sexually immoral.

Source: https://www.collinsdictionary.com/dictionary/english/tart

Note 2: I am Indian and quite familiar with these concepts: both 'immodest' and 'shameless' are particularly suitable adjectives for your situation (and also used extensively in religious discourse) because in your particular cultural context, orthodox religion strongly correlates dress with morality and is heavily anxious about women's modesty, morals and 'purity'; 'shame' in its meaning of 'physical modesty' is apparently considered a virtue and a woman who dresses somewhat revealingly is being criticized primarily for her 'lack of modesty' or 'lack of shame' with the direct if unspoken assumption that a woman who dresses in this manner must be an immoral woman. These ideas still exist in multiple Asian societies and religions.

0
0

Three Ideas in One

You want to capture

  1. Displaying her body with revealing clothes
  2. Mildly disapproving and offensive
  3. A word found in an ancient text, but not obsolete or archaic

The King James translation of the Hebrew and Christian bibles uses harlot, whore, adulteress, temptress, and fornicator in reference to behavior. The best fit for all three criteria is dressed like a harlot. Harlot is dated but “sounds biblical.” Less archaic but possibly more offensive would be dressed like a whore or perhaps just whorish. Without referring explicitly to state of dress, your audience may understand you as referring to promiscuity.

Other Choices

You wrote that you want to include this in a publication but didn’t indicate the audience of level of formality. The most neutral approach is to supply the background and let your readers choose their own equivalent as in the blockquote below because charged descriptions are really difficult to translate. When English speakers picture a person who is a tower, the image is of someone extremely tall: a basketball player, for example.

Motabariga is Muslim Sheiks’ favorite word to describe a woman who wears revealing clothes. It is an adjective related to berg (“tower”), a figure that stands out and attracts attention from all directions. The word has negative connotation and is used almost exclusively to attack women who dare to show more skin than allowed by mainstream Islam.

English expressions, in decreasing order of approval, that carry similar meaning are dressed to kill, sexually empowered in appearance, dressed revealingly, scantily clad, showing her body, leaves little to the imagination, showing her underwear, in her underwear, forgot to get dressed, half-naked, looking slutty, looking like a whore, or in her whore uniform.

The English verb dress relates to putting on any clothing, not just the specific item of women’s clothing. A woman may be wearing pants but still dressed to kill, dressed provocatively, dressed indecently, dressed inappropriately, or dressed immodestly. The adverb may go either before or after the verb.

In adjective form, provocative, inappropriate, indecent, or immodest also make the point but leave some doubt as to whether the author is referring to state of undress or overall attitude and behavior.

Other choices here range across minx (adjective: minxy), oozing sexuality, brazen, unladylike, wanton, uncovered, putting herself on display, advertising, trashy, dressed like a prostitute (or whore, slut, tramp, streetwalker, or skank), or homewrecker.

Poor Fits

Other comments and answers suggested Jezebel, but that does not fit what you described. A Jezebel is an evil, manipulative woman who is unscrupulous and unrestrained in taking what she wants. Jezebel was the wife of Ahab, king of Israel, who arranged false charges that resulted in an innocent man being stoned so that her husband could steal the man’s vineyard. The Christian bible does condemn a different Jezebel — for acts involving likely nakedness — but she’s not the Jezebel.

In your question, you suggested bitch, which does meet your offensive criterion but refers to a woman who is rude, obnoxious, vulgar, or cruel — so to her behavior and not necessarily to her dress. Now, a Jezebel may dress like a slut around another woman’s husband with the intent of being a homewrecker or merely to provoke him to gawk and her to jealousy. Shocked observers may remark, “Wow, what a bitch,” but that would be a comment on her hurting someone so deeply, broader than how she was dressed.

To refer to the religious aspect, you might use disobedient, unsubmissive, unruly, brazen, or wanton.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .