Tag Archives: Semantic change

2 [English] “Nasara, ISIS, and Darija” استخدام “نصارى” بالدارجة

MBS002 We explain the way Moroccans use the word “Nasara” and how this is related to the Quranic term and the use of ن on Facebook profile pictures.

Important Points:

-“Mazyan bizaf” is a common Darija expression, learn about its roots from Episode 1.

-Use of ن as Facebook profile picture

ن profile picture

-ISIS capture of Mosul, expulsion of Christians (“Nasara” or نصارى) and painting the ن on their homes

-Moroccans use “Nasara” to describe Western foreigners regardless of religion

-The Quran uses the term نصارى to describe Christians

-“Christians” in modern Arabic is مسيحيين, (ma-si-he-yeen). Arabic is a Semitic language like Hebrew and the term for Christian comes from مسيح (ma-sih) which relates to “messiah.” The Hebrew equivalent is מָשִׁיחַ (ma-shi-akh).

-Sematic change: Spanish and French colonizers were Christian, so the Quranic Arabic term for “Christians” came to mean Western, primarily white, foreigners in Moroccan Darija. Or, as Abdessamad said, “the blond people.”

-Similarly, the Modern Standard Arabic word for “winter,” شتاء (pronounced شتا in Darija) came to mean both “winter” and “rain,” because winter is the rainy season in North Africa.


Online Etymology Dictionary | Messiah

Lane’s Lexicon | جزى for “Jizya”

Lane’s Lexicon | نصر for “Nasara”

Al-Maany | نصارى

Al-Maany | مسيح

Al-Maany | مسيحيين

Wikipedia.org | “Social Media Campaign (2014)”

National Review | “A Christian Genocide Symbolized by One Letter,” by CHRISTINE SISTO July 23, 2014.

Euronews | “#ن: How an Arabic letter was reclaimed to support Iraq’s persecuted Christians” by THOMAS SEYMAT July 22, 2014.