Christopher Neil
Aug 14, 2014 · 4 min read

Just how many words does Arabic have for ‘camel’?

We’ve all heard the common tropes that Eskimos (Innuits) have a plethora of terms for ‘snow’, and that Arabs can describe camels in brilliant detail, but are these mere cultural stereotypes or something more?

Arabic has a standard term for Camel:

Camel (standard word)- الإبل

Camel (standard word) البعير

Plus these:

Male camel- الجمال

Female camel- الناقة

Then, there are these more specific terms relating to appearence or function:

الطبز and دهامج- a two humped camel (Bactrian)

ضائل- a strong male camel

صنخاب- a stout camel

حفض- a baggage camel

Where it gets fascinating is with these prescient terms that describe camels in minute detail:

Camel types based on drinking behaviour:

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 الهافة- A female camel that gets thirsty quickly

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

مقامح- A 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

الهيام- Thirsty camels (pl.)

Camels 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 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 color:

أدم (fem. أدماء) A completely white camel

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

الأشعل A white camel with a different coloured tail


حرذون- riding a camel without a saddle

شَداد- a camel-riding saddle

جِداجة- camel saddle

سنام- hump

وبر- camels (also goat) hair

Camels by number:

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- a herd of 100 camels

القرج- a herd of 150 camels, also has been said to be 500–1000 camels

ليلى- a herd of 300 camels الحوم- said to be any herd numbering above 1000 camels

There you have it.

    Christopher Neil

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