Friday, February 8, 2013

Arabic Word in English: Alfalfa

The English plant name ALFALFA comes to us via Spanish alfalfa, which is from Arabic al-fasfasa. It is likely that the Arabic word comes from Middle Persian word, aspast. Alfalfa is also known by the name lucerne. Alfalfa is the name used in America, Canada, and Australia, while lucerne is the name used in the UK, South Africa and New Zealand.

The Roman agricultural writer Palladius praised alfalfa as a forage crop, and he called it by the name "Medica" because it was a plant supposed to come from the Medes who lived in ancient Persia. It is from this Latin name that alfalfa gets its scientific genus name: Medicago. Alfalfa was introduced to Spain during the Umayyad conquest in the eighth century, hence the use of the Arabic name al-fisfsa, which became Spanish alfalfa. You can read more about Alfalfa in this Wikipedia article.

The image below shows an alfalfa field:

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