Many words incorporated into English a long time ago have the Arabic particle "al" incorporated into them. For example, "algebra" and "alcohol".

But does English have commonly used phrases with the Arabic particle "al" as a separate word apart from "Al Qaeda" and "Al Jazeera"? I can think of "El Alamein" (why is it "El"?) and Al-Shabaab, but nothing else.

I tried looking for Wiktionary's entry on "al" to see if there's a list of compounds formed from it, but the only info it had was under the non-Latin version ال and therefore doesn't have a list of English phrases using it.

  • 7
    You can see an entire list by going to a dictionary and simply looking up "al" with a space after it. After you get through all of the "al" + space words, then come the "al" plus hyphen words. After that, come all of the words that start "al." Commented Jan 16, 2016 at 0:35
  • I don't think English has any words that start with 'al ' alone. (OED confirms this). Your examples are all proper names from Arabic with the definite article 'Al' or 'El'.
    – Mitch
    Commented Jan 16, 2016 at 18:16
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    Also, wiktionary is crap.
    – Mitch
    Commented Jan 16, 2016 at 18:18

2 Answers 2


Al is the definite article in Arabic language. In our Egyptian colloquial dialect, we tend to pronounce it as El. I do not know about other dialects. So Al is the standerd Arabic and El is the daily language.

  • This is not really an answer to the OP but more of a very useful comment
    – Mitch
    Commented Jan 16, 2016 at 18:11
  • It does answer one part of the question: "...from "Al Qaeda" and "Al Jazeera"...El Alamein" (why is it "El"?)... Commented Jan 16, 2016 at 19:16
  • I do not know the answer just tried to help explain a point. Commented Jan 21, 2016 at 5:35

There are phrases like al fresco and al dente, but of course those are Italian not Arabic; what exactly is your interest?

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    You should make this a comment
    – Mitch
    Commented Jan 16, 2016 at 18:10
  • @Mitch The part before the semicolon answers the question in the OP's 2nd paragraph.
    – Lawrence
    Commented Jan 17, 2016 at 16:39

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