I've found a great similarity between the two words and their meanings. "Barary" براري in Arabic is the plural form of "Barr-īyah" بَرِّيَّة, from the word "Barr" meaning land, with the nisbah suffix -īyah, which means pertaining to land, and its plural form was used a lot in Classical Arabic meaning vast lands -very close to the meaning in English.-

I've searched the online etymology dictionary for prairie and this is what I found:

"tract of level or undulating grassland in North America, by 1773, from French prairie "meadow, grassland," from Old French praerie "meadow, pastureland" (12c.), from Vulgar Latin *prataria, from Latin pratum "meadow," originally "a hollow." The word existed in Middle English as prayere, but was lost and reborrowed to describe the American plains. Prairie dog is attested from 1774; prairie schooner "immigrant's wagon" is from 1841. Illinois has been the Prairie State since at least 1861. In Latin, Neptunia prata was poetic for "the sea."

But I wonder, isn't what I mention worth thinking?

  • 6
    No. You need more than one word; you need hundreds of such words, all with the same /bar/ --> /pr/ change, and no contradictions (like /bar/ --> /bar/, or /bar/ --> [something else altogether]). Without trying hard, it's easy to find 3 or 4 pairs of words in any pair of languages that mean something similar and sound something similar. But to establish a "derived from" relation, you need lots more evidence.
    – jlawler
    Feb 13, 2014 at 23:20
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    No. The first recorded use of English 'prairie' is the 16 century (OED), clearly a French borrowing 'prairie,' the latter going back to Old French 'praierie' (12th century), clearly going back to Latin pratum, of disputed etymology. Why - and most importantly, HOW (time-wise)- could ancient Romans have borrowed (roughly 7th century BC - 5th AD) this word from the Arabs (6th century AD - Classical Arabic)?
    – Alex B.
    Feb 14, 2014 at 0:37
  • 9
    Of course, “prairie” does not come from barriyya; it has a clear-cut French/Latin etymology. On the other hand, I would like to remind our friend Alex B. that there are a reasonable number of Semitic loanwords in Greek and in Latin, many of which have Arabic cognates, that Ancient North Arabian (the ancestor of classical Arabic) is attested in inscriptions going back at least to the 4th century BC, and that the Romans did have a maritime and military presence in the Red Sea. So your chronological and geographical objections do not real hold water.
    – fdb
    Feb 14, 2014 at 1:30
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    But I repeat: there is no reason to think that “prairie” comes from Arabic.
    – fdb
    Feb 14, 2014 at 1:31
  • 2
    @fdb, I was unaware of Ancient North Arabian. Thanks for the friendly reminder!
    – Alex B.
    Feb 14, 2014 at 2:12

2 Answers 2


The information in prairie is vast grassland as it is found in USA. I doubt that such vast grasslands existed in Arabian countries. You should check your Arabian word whether it contains the information grass. Vast land is not enough, the Sahara is a vast land too, but no one would take such a word as a name for grassland.

It is highly improbable that settlers in the New World looked into the Arabian language to get a new word for the vast grassland they found in Lousiana, especiallly as the French word la praerie for meadow was around.

I've just looked up Arabic barari and the translation is praerie, for me that looks more like a borrowing from the Vulgar Latin *prataria or a coinage from this form. You shoud check the etymology of barari and how old this word is. Simple affirmations about word histories are useless. And normally short words from one language don't become longer in the other language.

  • 1
    It does make more sense that the borrowing went the other way!
    – curiousdannii
    Jun 7, 2014 at 6:43
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    While I agree completely with your conclusion, your first paragraph is not relevant to the argument. There are many examples of loanwords that mean something rather different in the target language from their meaning in the original language. I can certainly imagine a word meaning land being borrowed into another language meaning a particular type of terrain; and if the historical circumstances of the loan were appropriate, meaning a kind of terrain which was not even familiar to the speakers of the original language.
    – Colin Fine
    Jun 30, 2014 at 20:51

The resemblance between "Barary" and " Prairie" is striking and there is no wrong in European languages borrowing words from Arabic. It happened in so many other words, also in English like "admiral", "alchemy", "algebra", " cotton",...etc. But in the case of the word "prairie", I think we should dig deeper since there is a word from Latin origin- "partum" -which means meadows, that may have been reformed and coined centuries later and became the current "prairie" we know now.

  • 2
    I don't find it particularly striking.
    – Colin Fine
    Jan 3, 2019 at 20:22

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