Soothing the Desire to Learn About Speech from Other Languages


This publication is a dictionary of words, idioms, and proper names taken into Arabic from other languages. It includes personal names from scripture and literature, their supposed derivations, and examples of usage. Place-names are included, along with guides to variant pronunciation. With its intriguing title, Shifa’ al-Ghalil fi-ma fi-Kalam al-‘Arab min al-Dakhil (Soothing the desire to learn about speech from other languages)  is a fascinating lexical history of classical and colloquial Arabic. The author, Shihāb al-Dīn Aḥmad Al-Khafājī (1571 or 1572−1659), was born in Egypt and received his early education from his father, a distinguished scholar. Al-Khafājī continued to study in many fields and was licensed to teach both Shafi’i and Hanafi texts. The title page of the book provides details of his career, which differ significantly, however, from those contained in standard biographical sources. It is doubtful, for example, whether Al-Khafājī ever attained the elevated rank of Qadi al-Asakir [sic] (chief judge) or Shaykh al-Islam, as claimed in this work. Rather, he was appointed by Sultan Murad IV to more modest judgeships in Thessaloniki and later in Egypt, which appointment he subsequently resigned in order to travel to Istanbul, Damascus, and Aleppo. After clashing with a local religious authority in Aleppo, he returned to Cairo, where he spent the rest of his life, presumably as a teacher. He is the author of several surviving manuscripts including a biographical dictionary of contemporary writers and a diwan of poems. This edition of Shifa’ al-Ghalil was printed at the Bulaq Press in Cairo in 1865, a time of transition of ownership and administration under Egyptian ruler Isma’il Pasha (reigned 1863−79).

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Bulaq Press, Cairo


Title in Original Language

شفاء الغليل فيما فى كلام العرب من الدخيل

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245 pages ; 23 centimeters

Last updated: September 18, 2014