I have been trying to find the origins of the Hindi word अफ़ीम "Afeem". It means opium.

The Rajpal Hindi Shabdakosh gives the origin of "afeem" as Arabic: https://hi.oxforddictionaries.com/परिभाषा/अफ़ीम

I have been lead to this word in Arabic:


Beyond that I have not been able to further find its origin. If someone will be willing to point me to its Arabic etymology that would be really helpful.

3 Answers 3


The ultimate origin of that word is Ancient Greek ὄπιον (ópion, "opium") which is a diminutive form of ὀπός (opós, “juice”). It was borrowed into Persian as اپیون (apiyūn) and from Persian it was borrowed into Arabic as أفيون (ʾafyūn).

  • 4
    *ὁπός (*hopós),: from Proto-Indo-European *sokʷos (“juice, resin”).
    – ARi
    Commented Apr 29, 2017 at 11:45

The Persian-Arabic borrowings were rare (unlike the borrowings in opposite directions, that is, from Arabic into Persian).

The data in Wiktionary suggesting that borrowing direction is based upon a sourse of the XIXth century.

It is more likely therefore that the Arabic word derives from the root و ف ي (w+f+y) meaning 'to (over)fullfill'.

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    The derivation of Arabic ʼafyūn from Greek opion is completely unproblematic (with or without a Persian intermediary).
    – fdb
    Commented Apr 29, 2017 at 20:52
  • ....whereas the derivation from وفى is semantically and phonologically impossible.
    – fdb
    Commented Apr 29, 2017 at 21:23
  • Any proof? The semanitcs are clear and fourth form mazdars beign with an '.
    – Manjusri
    Commented Apr 30, 2017 at 12:59
  • 1
    The form IV maṣdar of وفى is ʼīfāʼ ايفاء. It means “payment” and the like.
    – fdb
    Commented Apr 30, 2017 at 14:40

It is also possible that Arabic أفيون ʾafyūn was borrowed into Hindi-Urdu and later remodelled on the English opium, explaining the final m in afīm. This would also make sense historically since the British presence in South Asia brought widespread commercial opium cultivation.

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