Did You Know That Most of the Brightest Stars Have Arabic Names?

Because of the prominent role of Muslim astronomers during the Islamic Golden Ages, many of the stars that have been named, actually have an Arabic name. The names are Latinized, but we can often find traces of the Arabic words in them.

Islamic astronomers, such as Abd al-Rahman al-Sufi, had an important role in the process of our knowledge of astronomy. They translated important information, such as the famous work of Ptolemy, Almagest. This work included an outline of Aristotle’s cosmology, the motions of the stars, the moon, Jupiter and Saturn, the eclipses and so on.

To be able to translate a work as complex as this, one had to have enough knowledge and understanding of the matter himself. The Arabic astronomers not only translated the works, but also added a lot of important information themselves.

Many of the names of these stars were eventually copied and used in Europe, in a lot of times not knowing that the origin of these names is Arabic.

Below you will find a few examples of bright stars with a, although Latizined, Arabic name.

Altair – النّسر الطّائر

The name of this star is actually a shortened version of ‘an-Nisr uṭ-Ṭā’ir’, meaning the flying Eagle.

Rigil Kentaurus – رجل القنطورس

Rigil Kentaurus, derives from ‘Rijl ul-Qanṭūris. Translated, this would be Foot of the Centaur.

Betelgeuse – إبط الجوزاء

Betelgeuse, meaning armpit of the central one, comes from the Arabic name ‘Ibṭ ul-Jawzā’.

Deneb – ذنب الدجاجة

Deneb is a shortened version of ‘Dhanab ud-Dajājah, meaning tail of the hen.

Alnitak – النطاق

Having the meaning of the girdle, this star is named Alnitak, originating from the Arabic word ‘an-Niṭāq’.

Fomalhaut – فم الحوت

This star was given the name ‘Fum al-Hul’ in Arabic, meaning mouth of the Whale. It is known as the star Fomalhaut.

Algol – رأس الغول

Algol is the shortened version of the Arabic name ‘Ra’as al-Ghūl’. We recognize the word ghoul in it. A ghoul is a figure in Arabic legends and is a kind of demon, scary monster.

The list goes on and on and on! So many bright stars have a name that originates from Arabic. Unfortunately, there is no room for all the stars in one article. But the list of Arabic named Stars are only one Google click away! And don’t forget to watch the starry sky more often!

More pictures of bright stars
List of Arabic star names

Written by Mayada Srouji

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Mayada Srouji is a 23-year-old student Gender and Diversity at the UGent and has a bachelor in Arabic and Islamic Sciences, with a minor in political and social sciences. She is interested in women rights, philosophy, literature and history.