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We are all used to this word safari. I think most people will agree that its usage is ubiquitous when referring to going for holiday (esp. overland travel in Africa).

So is this word a true English word? What are the origins?

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4 Answers

up vote 20 down vote accepted

Whether or not it is a true English word and where it came from are two completely different questions. We borrow words from many languages, but they are still real English words.

It is borrowed from Swahili [safari], which was in turn borrowed from Arabic [سفاري].

It has been attested in dictionaries as part of the English language since c. 1890.

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If the fact that a word is borrowed from another language makes it not "true English", then I think there are very few true English words. We could probably write all the true English words by that definition on a matchbook cover. –  Jay Feb 22 '13 at 17:29
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The FreeOnlineDictionary reports it as having an Arabic origin.

Etymonline says:

1890 (attested from 1860 as a foreign word), from Swahili, lit. "journey, expedition," from Arabic, lit. "referring to a journey," from safar "journey" (which itself is attested in English as a foreign word from 1858).

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The NOAD reports that the origin of the word is late 19th century from Kiswahili, from Arabic safara (to travel).

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I think it is Arabic, found in 1860 as a foreign word - from Swahili - journey,expedition so the word safari is referring to journey which is nearly the meaning of it!

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