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TUNISIAN WORDS OF AMAZIGH ORIGIN

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Tunisian Words of Amazigh Origin
Jihëd G. MEJRISSI
League of Tunisian Humanists

Table of Contents
Abstract.................................................................................................................................................1
1.Introduction......................................................................................................................................2
2.List of Words....................................................................................................................................4
1.B | ⴱ............................................................................................................................................4
2.Ch | ⵛ...........................................................................................................................................4
3.D | ⴷ.............................................................................................................................................5
4.Ɛ | ⵄ.............................................................................................................................................5
5.F | ⴼ..............................................................................................................................................5
6.G | ⴳ & Gh | ⵖ.............................................................................................................................5
7.H | ⵀ............................................................................................................................................6
8.Ħ | ⵃ.............................................................................................................................................6
9.I | ⵉ...............................................................................................................................................6
10.J | ⵊ............................................................................................................................................6
11.K | ⴽ & Kh | ⵅ...........................................................................................................................6
12.L | ⵍ............................................................................................................................................7
13.M | ⵎ..........................................................................................................................................7
14.N | ⵏ.............................................................................................................................................7
15.Q | ⵇ...........................................................................................................................................8
16.R | ⵔ..........................................................................................................................................8
17.S | ⵙ...........................................................................................................................................8
18.T | ⵜ.............................................................................................................................................8
19.W | ⵡ..........................................................................................................................................8
20.Z | ⵣ...........................................................................................................................................9
3.Other.................................................................................................................................................9
1.Phonology and Morphology........................................................................................................9
2.Grammar....................................................................................................................................11
4.Words often Mistaken to be of Amazigh Origin.............................................................................13
5.Conclusion......................................................................................................................................14
Acknowledgement..............................................................................................................................14

Abstract
This document presents a list, incomplete and inconclusive, of Tunisian words of Amazigh origin,
as well as other elements related to the Amazigh substrata in Tunisian. Should any other words,
errors, or other be found, please feel free to contact the author, and to check the most recent version.
This document was first published in December 21 st, 2013 and its current revision is that of May

TUNISIAN WORDS OF AMAZIGH ORIGIN

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14th, 2015; the revision consisted mainly in updating the list of words. This document was produced
with free and open-source software. The author's material is released under both the CC BY-SA 3.0
and the GFDL 1.3.
Keywords: Amazigh, Substrata, Tunisia, Tunisian, North Africa

1. Introduction
Tunisian refers to the group of linguistic varieties1 spoken within the state of Tunisia, which
in their turn are part of the North African dialect continuum, characterised by its substantial
Amazigh substrata, its extensive Arabic vocabulary, as well as its Latin, Italian, French, Turkish,
Greek, and other, loanwords and influences.
The official recognition of Tunisian as a language has been hindered by multiple factors,
mainly the concern that such recognition would affect the role of Arabic, the liturgical language of
Islam, as well as the role of Islam as the state religion of the country. These same arguments are also
echoed when discussing the status of Amazigh as a regional, national, or an official language, in
Tunisia and in other North African States. Nevertheless, Tunisian has been undergoing
standardisation attempts by Tunisian Civil Society and other independent components, and its use in
official communication gradually continues to replace Arabic.
This is perhaps an infinitesimal bit of the sociopolitical and sociolinguistic relationships
between Tunisian, Amazigh, and Arabic in Tunisia. However linguistically, Arabic may be to
Tunisian, what French2 is to English, with Amazigh being English's Anglo-Saxon: In the period
following the Norman Conquest of England, English retained most of its Germanic substrata and
borrowed extensively from the new linguistic varieties, which were those of the new conquering
Elite. This process resulted after many centuries in “Middle English”, in turn resulting after multiple
other centuries in “Early Modern English”, of which the current standardised form that this
1
2

The article does not distinguish between a language and a dialect, as linguistically there is not that much difference.
The difference is only political.
Particularly, Norman.

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document uses, is a descendant, after multiple other eras. Similarly, the Arab Islamic invasion of
Tunisia and the subsequent Hilalite settlements, accompanied by the status of Arabic as the
language adopted by the new rulers since it is that of the new religion, pushed for an Arabisation of
the region, resulting after around twelve hundred years in Tunisian in its current forms. A proper
metaphor to describe it could perhaps be that of an Amazigh mindset trying to imitate Arabic in an
environment filled with Mediterranean new words for inventions and discoveries. It is however
needless to say that a Tunisian and a Saudi, for instance, would nowadays be unable to understand
each other if each speaks only their own local linguistic variety, and they would need to resort to a
third language, which would nowadays most likely be Egyptian3 or English4.
This document presents a list, incomplete and inconclusive, of Tunisian words of Amazigh
origin, id est words that retained their local Amazigh origin, e.g. Tasendit or Sendi, Tajerbit or Jerbi,
Tanfussit or Nafussi, Takbaylit or Kabyle, … etc., and are employed commonly in any of the
linguistic varieties spoken within Tunisia5. Sources that were accessible include OUSSOUS (n.d.),
DE CALASSANTI-MOTYLINSKI (1904), PROVOTELLE (1911), CHAKER (2003), and ) ‫اليفرني‬
2005). Tunisian words are transcribed using the STUNdard method found in STUNdard (2013).
Other foreign words are also transcribed, when needed, using the same method, and are indicated
between parentheses.

2. List of Words
Below is a table containing a list of words with an English translation. In the class column,
the letter “v” stands for verb, the letter “n” stands for noun, the letter “a” stands for adjective or
adjectival noun6, and the letter “d” stands for adverb. Verbs are given in the past tense with the third
3
4
5

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Due perhaps, among other, to the substantial film industry products of the country that were heavily exported to all
of North Africa and West Asia.
Due perhaps, among other, to the international lingua franca status that English managed to obtain.
The article does not list words of non-Amazigh origin that underwent Amazigh transformation mechanisms,
rendering them considered to be Amazigh or Tunisian. For instance “zins” is a Tunisian loanword from the Arabic “
‫( ”جنس‬jins), and although the word “zins” was adopted and morphed to suit the Amazigh phonotactics, it still
remains a Tunisian word of an Arabic origin.
In Tunisian, adjectives can also be used as nouns, often without any morphological transformation.

TUNISIAN WORDS OF AMAZIGH ORIGIN

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person masculine singular pronoun. Nouns are given in singular masculine, except when indicated
with “(f)” where no masculine form exists. Letters where no words were found are omitted.
Table 1: List of Words of Amazigh Origin
Word

Class

Translation

Notes

1. B | ⴱ
Babbouch n
Bagges
v
Bahbàr
a
Bahloul
a
Bakhnoug n
Balbez
v
Balɛet
v
Balħouħ
n
Ballout
n
Ballouta
n (f)
Baqqeq
v
Barbech
v
Barkous
n
Barwel
v
Bawwet
v
Bazzaɛ
v
Bazzoula
n (f)
Berchni
n
Besel / Beser a
Bettiye
n (f)
Bezwich
n
Botti
a
Boublèl
n
Bouzoggar n
Bziz
n

Snail
To shine / To take over
Talkative
Dull
Type of cloth
To mess things up
To deceive
Throat
Lie
Earring
To stare
To search / To bother
Big sheep
To deceive
To bloat
To spill
Breast
Sheep
Tasteless
Barrel
Small bird
Fat
Grasshopper
Chickenpox
Intestines

2. Ch | ⵛ
Chbaħ
Ch'hili
Chach'cha
Chakwa
Chalbouq
Chalghoum
Charka
Charreg
Chenti
Chertella
Chichma
Chkara
Chleka

v
n
v
n (f)
n
n
n (f)
v
a
d
n (f)
n (f)
n (f)

To see
Type of wind
To sit
Often used when addressing children
Milk container in leather
Slap on the cheek
Moustache
Necklace
To tear apart
Young man
Plenty
Water tap
Bag
Slippers

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Table 1: List of Words of Amazigh Origin
Word
Chouliqa
Chtaħ
Chweri

Class
Translation
n (f) Rag
v
To dance
n (p) Containers made of
cladium

Notes

3. D | ⴷ
D'hakk
Dachra
Daddech
Dahdes

n
n (f)
v
v

Darreq
Dolech

v
v

Exhaustion
Village
To help walk
To walk without being
able to see
To conceal
To walk without a
particular destination

Often used when addressing children

4. Ɛ | ⵄ
Ɛafya
Ɛallouch
Ɛatrous
Ɛazri

n (f)
n
n
a

Fire
Sheep
Big sheep
Young man

n
n
n
v
a
n
n
n
n

Turtle
Chick
Cucumber
Search
Bald
Butterfly
Type of bugs
Child
Wasp

Possibly also from Arabic
Possibly also from Neo-Punic
Possibly also a loanword from the Arabic “aɛdhar” (
‫ )أعذر‬or “ɛodhri” (‫)عذري‬, meaning virgin, or NeoPunic / Hebrew “ɛezri” (‫)עזרי‬, meaning “my help” or
“my helper”. Semantic shift probably occurred after
the term has been used as a common male first name,
then being generalised to describe any male.

5. F | ⴼ
Fakroun
Fallous
Faqqous
Farkes
Fartàs
Fartattou
Farzit
Fazghoul
Ferzezzou

6. G | ⴳ & Gh | ⵖ
Gaɛmez
Gaħgouħ
Gaħħez
Gandouz
Gannouchou
Garjouma
Garnabbou

v
n
v
n
n
n (f)
a (f)

Sit
Buttocks
To move aside
Bull
Child
Throat
Old woman

Often used when addressing children

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Table 1: List of Words of Amazigh Origin
Word
Gelta
Genneriye
Ghazra
Ghazzoul
Ghonjeye
Ghoufa

Class
Translation
n
Small pond
n (f) Artichoke
n (f) Look
n
Ire
n (f) Spoon
n (f) Thick hair

Gitoun
Gobb

n
v

Gobbeɛa

Notes

Possibly also from Arabic “ghayth” (‫)غيث‬, meaning
plentiful

Hut
To swallow / To drink all Possibly related to Tunisian “kabb” meaning to turn
the contents of a container around, which could in turn stem from Arabic
“sakaba” (‫ )سكب‬meaning “to pour”
n (f) Back of the head
Possibly related to “gobb”

7. H | ⵀ
Hafhouf
Hajjèl
Harda
Henchir
Hrissa

n
a
n (f)
n
n (f)

Valley
Widow
Catastrophe
Farm
Type of food

v
v
v
v
n

To waylay
To search
To tell on someone
To run
Cheek

d

Yes

a
n (f)
a
n (f)
n (p)

Clumsy
Mouth
Lefty
Type of birds
Old clothes

8. Ħ | ⵃ
Ħander
Ħarbet
Ħarrech
Ħarred
Ħnakk

9. I | ⵉ
Ih

10. J | ⵊ
Jadour
Jalgha
Jatla
Jormene
Jretel

11. K | ⴽ & Kh | ⵅ
Kabbech
Kadroun
Kalta
Karkeb
Karmous
Korza
Khammel

v
n
n (f)
v
n
a
v

To clutch
Type of cloth
Exhaustion
To roll
Common fig
Rich
To organise

Different from the Levantine Harissa pastry

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Table 1: List of Words of Amazigh Origin
Word
Kharbeq
Khazra
Kosksi
Kouba
Koucha
Koukher
Krouma

Class
Translation
v
To celebrate / To party
n (f) Look
n
Couscous
n (f) Door Lock
n (f) Bakery
v
To stun
n (f) Neck

Notes
Alternative pronunciation of “ghazra”

12. L | ⵍ
Labbez
Lahmèk
Lawwej
Lella
Louza

v
a
v
n (f)
n (f)

To mix
Rapacious
Search
Mistress / Madam
Sister-in-law

Mahmech v
Mallèkh
n
Malthouth n
Marj
n
Merss
n
Memmi
n
Meslèn
n
Mogh'ghagha n (f)
/ Molghagha
Mosràn
n
Mqajwel
a
Mred
v

To confuse
Shoemaker
Type of food
Annoyance
Holding / Pressing
Infant
Someone's back
Fontanelle

13. M | ⵎ

Often used when addressing children

Intestine
Clumsy
To crawl

14. N | ⵏ
Nabret
Naggez
Najjem

v
v
v

Nanna
Nasnes
Ndah

v
v
v

To be ecstatic
To jump
To be able to do
something
To sleep
To snoop
To depart

Nzarr

v

To press

15. Q | ⵇ

Often used when addressing children
May derive from the Amazigh “andaw” (ⴰⵏⴷⴰⵡ),
meaning to jump; itself possibly from the Arabic
“natta” (‫)نطط‬, which has the same meaning. It may
also be from the Arabic “nadaha” (‫)نده‬, meaning to
scream or to call upon; perhaps after having been
used as an interjection in animal-powered
transportation.

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Table 1: List of Words of Amazigh Origin
Word

Class

Qach'chebiye n (f)
Qaddid
n
Qallèl
n
Qamqoum a
Qarmat /
a
Qarnat
Qarnit
n
Qerdèch
n
Qnannou
a

Translation

Notes

Type of cloth
Type of food
Pottery worker
Excellent
Thrifty
Octopus
Tool for wool
Pampered

16. R | ⵔ
Rwin
Rahdèn

a
a

Mixed / Diluted
Guileful

n
v
n
v
n
n
n (f)
v
n

Spine
To insult
Forehead
To clean up using water
Tobacco
Type of cloth
Carrots
To simmer
Cold

n (f)
n
n (f)
v
n
v
n
n
n
n (f)
v
v

Pythoness
Tajine
Pointy end
To mix
Young man
To hit
Type of birds
Graupel
Plate
Buttocks
Make fun of
To seduce

17. S | ⵙ
Salsoul
Sakhsakh
Santouɛa
Sayyeq
Sebsi
Sefsèri
Sfenneryè
Smatt
Sqantri /
Sqontri

18. T | ⵜ
Taggeza
Tajin
Tangoura
Tanwech
Tarrèss
Tatta
Tebbib
Tebrouri
Tebsi
Terma
Tmaqɛer
Tzaɛben

Often used when addressing children

19. W | ⵡ
Wechwèch

n (p) Mosquitos

Possibly also from Arabic “waswas” (‫)وسوس‬,
meaning “to make an inaudible noise”; the term

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Table 1: List of Words of Amazigh Origin
Word

Class

Translation

Notes
“waswes” exists however in Tunisian with the same
Arabic meaning.

20. Z | ⵣ
Zabràt
Zagh'ghem
Zahmoul
Zalbaħ
Zantour
Zaqqita
Zarda
Zarzoumiya
Zawra
Zawweli
Zaza
Zgougou
Zoghlèl
Zoghzogh
Zomyati
Zont

n
v
n
v
n
a
n
n (f)
n (f)
n
n (f)
n
n (p)
n (p)
n
a

Drunkard
Rapacious
Body / Silhouette
To deceive
Vagrant
Naked
Feast
Gecko
Cover
Poor
Noise
Type of food
Frog spwan
Children
Sorcery
Naked

3. Other
Aside from the vocabulary, the Amazigh substrata in Tunisian remains very exhibited
through numerous elements. In a side note, Amazigh terms continue to constitute the overwhelming
majority of the toponyms and of family names7.

1. Phonology and Morphology
In contrast to Arabic phonotactics, solely relying on a consonant-vowel-consonant system,
Tunisian phonotactics allow for two consonants to be in an onset, particularly in the first syllable of
a word, which cannot be found at all in Arabic. This feature is however found in Amazigh linguistic
varieties.
Additionally, most, if not all, of the words, that have made their way into Tunisian from
Arabic and other foreign languages, did not do so without being modified to fit the native, i.e.
7

The suffixes “our”, “wour”, or “wer” are used to mean “son of” in Northern and Western Amazigh linguistic
varieties mostly. They are the equivalent of the Kabyle “oul” and the Twareg “ag”. Family names such as
“Werghelli”, “Werfelli”, or “Werteni” refer all to their respective tribes or domains.

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Amazigh, speech patterns. Among these mechanisms are the following:
– The near disappearance of the sound “‫ '( ”أ‬or a), especially when in the beginning of the
word. For example: “‫( ”أحمد‬Aħmad) becomes “Ħmed”, “‫( ”عائشة‬Ɛa'icha) becomes “Ɛiche”
or “Ɛayche”. The long “ ‫( ”آ‬à) sound is also substituted with an “h” sometimes. Certain
words however, particularly of religious context, retain the sound.
– The short vowel “/æ/” (a) becomes “/ɛ/” (e): Almost every loanword that has an “a” or an
“à”, whether from Arabic or any other foreign language, is changed to an “e”. This is also
the case even when a Tunisian reads Classical Arabic. Examples for this are numerous, and
to name a few: “‫( ”بلد‬bilad) becomes “bled”, “‫( ”شتاء‬chita') becomes “chtè”.
– The morphing of “j” into “z”, particularly when there is an “s” in the same word. For
example “‫( ”جنس‬jins) becoming “zins”, or “‫( ”يجس‬yajossou) becoming “yzess”. However,
while it may be certain that this phonotactical mechanism is Amazigh, it may also be
possible that the opposite, id est changing the “z” to a “j”, is Arabic, especially as the
Arabisation of Amazigh toponymy, names, and other words reversed back the “z” to “j”. For
example, the town of Zerzis, as pronounced by its inhabitants, is arabised as “‫”جرجيس‬
(Jarjis). One interesting and rather anecdotal point about the blurriness related to the
phenomenon is the fact that the Tifinagh transcription of the sound, which is “ⵊ”, resembles
the Phoenician letter that transcribes “z” and its Hebrew equivalent "‫"ז‬. Furthermore, in
Tunisian the letter “j” is a solar letter, unlike Arabic where it is a lunar letter; the Arabic “
‫( ”الجمل‬aljamal) becomes “ejjmall” in Tunisian. The pronunciation of the sound also differs
between Arabic and Tunisian: While it corresponds to a voiced palato-alveolar affricate in
Arabic, it is a voiced palato-alveolar sibilant and sometimes in between a voiced palatoalveolar sibilant and a voiced alveolar fricative, in Tunisian. This is clearly exhibited in
Moroccan as well as Judeo-North African linguistic varieties where the two sounds are often

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amalgamated or substituted.
– Dissimilation of some sounds with the addition of an “n”. For example, the French word “la
gare” (la gar) becomes “langàr”, the French word “adresse” (adrèss) becomes “andrissa”,
and the Latin word “burros” (burros) becomes “barnous”.
– Often switching the order of “t” and “s” when occurring subsequently in one word. For
example: “‫( ”استحسن‬istaħsana) becomes “tsaħsen”, “‫( ”استأذن‬ista'dhana), becomes tsedhen,
and “‫( ”إستأنس‬ista'nasa), becomes “tsenes”.
– Often switching “ch” and “s” or substituting the “ch” with an “s”. For example: “‫”شمس‬
(chams) becomes “samch”, and “‫( ”شجرة‬chajara) becomes “sojra”.
– Often substituting “m” with “n”. For example “‫( ”فاطمة‬Fatima) becoming “Fatna”, or “‫”متاع‬
(matàɛ) becoming “ntaɛ”. The opposite also occurs. For example “‫( ” خمن‬khammana)
becomes “khammem”.
– The use of “ous” or “ouch” to make diminutive forms, similar to the suffix “ette” in French,
“ino” in Italian, or “ittus” in Latin, among other. For example, the Italian “gatto” (gàtto)
becoming “gattous” or “qattous”, or someone named “Mehdi” being nicknamed
“Mehdouch”.

2. Grammar
Amazigh languages have also influenced Tunisian in its grammar. Some examples are the
following:
– While conjugating any verb in the present tense with the first person singular, the verb starts
with “n”. For example: “I can”, in Arabic “‫( ”أنا أستطيع‬asstattiɛ), is “najjem” in Tunisian, “I
read”, in Arabic “‫( ”أنا أقرأ‬aqra'), becomes “naqra” in Tunisian, “walk”, in Arabic “‫”أمشي‬
(amchi), becomes “nemchi” in Tunisian.

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– While indicating the past passive tense, Tunisian uses the “ta” prefix; for example, “the car
was sold” would become “elkarhba tbeɛet”. Arabic uses the different “ ‫( ”ففعللت‬foɛilat)
structure, making the sentence “‫( ”بيعت السطيارة‬biɛat assayyarato); the “ta” prefix in however
used in a variety of Semitic languages to denote reflexivity. Furthermore, the Verb-SubjectObject structure used in Arabic does not exist in Tunisian and would be substituted with a
Subject-Verb-Object construction.
– When denoting possession, Tunisians uses “mtaɛ”, “taɛ”, or “ntaɛ”, which is not the case in
Classical Arabic. For example the “burnus of Mohammad”, would be in in Tunisian
“barnouss mtaɛ Mħammed”, in Amazigh “ⴰⴱⴻⵔⵏⵓⵙ ⵏ ⵎⵓⵃⴰⵏⴷ” (abernouss n Mouħand),
and in Arabic “‫( ”برنس محمد‬bornoso Moħammad), without any explicit article indicating
possession. This however could be not entirely of Amazigh influence as similarly, Modern
Gulf Languages have adopted new possessive articles such as “tabaɛ” or “ħag”, with which
the same example would be “bornos tabaɛ Moħammad” or “bornos ħag Moħammed”. This
is further questioned as similarly to Classical Arabic, the process of using an article to
denote possession was not used in Biblical Hebrew, yet it is now the case in Modern
Hebrew, with the article “‫( ”של‬chel), hence the same example that could have been “‫ברדס‬
‫( ”מוחמד‬bornos Mouħamad) in Biblical Hebrew, would be “ ‫( ”ברדס של מוחמד‬bornos chel
Mouħamad) in Modern Hebrew.
– The process of negation in the past tense: In Arabic the process of negation in the past tense
is done by simply preceding the verb conjugated in the past tense with “‫( ”ما‬ma). In
Amazigh, the process of negation is done in a way similar to French, i.e. by adding one
word, usually “ⵓⵔ” (our), “ⵓⵍ” (oul), or other, before the verb and another one, usually
“ⴰⵏⵉ” (eni), “ⴰⵔⴰ” (ere), “ⵓⵍⴰ” (oule), or other, after the verb. Tunisian follows the same
Amazigh pattern but with two Arabic particles, the one before the verb being “me” or “ma”,
and the one after the verb being “ch”. The latter particle was very likely shortened from the

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13

Arabic “‫( ”شيء‬chay') to “chay” and then to “ch”. An example would be: The English “I did
not do” becomes “me ɛmaltech” in Tunisian, and si milarly, “I did not read” becomes “me
qritech”, in contrast to “I did” being “ɛmalt” and “I read” being “qrit”.
– Possibly, the absence of the second-person dual pronoun “‫( ”انتما‬antoma) was motivated by
its absence in Amazigh, provided that the Arabic variety, or varieties, that arrived to the
country.

4. Words often Mistaken to be of Amazigh Origin
It seems also of interest to note some words often mistaken to be of Amazigh etymological
origin. These words have all, however, underwent a process of treatment of loanwords, that is
typical of local Amazigh varieties. Many of these processes are explained in the previous section.
Table 2: List of Words often Mistaken to be of Amazigh Origin
Word

Class Translation

Notes

Bakkouch

a

Mute

Bakkouch could be from the Amazigh “abekkouch” meaning
“naive”, however the etymology of this word could in turn be a
transformation of the word “‫( ”أبكم‬abkam), of Arabic origin
and having the meaning of mute, with the Amazigh diminutive
transformation using the “ouch” suffix. The Tunisian words
“bakma” and “bakcha” also have the same meaning.

Barcha

d

Many / Much Possibly from the Arabic “barcha'” (‫)برشاء‬, which is the
feminine form of “abrach” (‫)أبرش‬, meaning plentiful or rich,
and has obtained its current meaning through semantic change

Barnous

n

Type of cloth Although the barnous is a typical North African cloth, its name
is very likely derived from the latin “burra” or “burrus”,
meaning “big piece of wool”, according to CHAKER (2003).
However, the term underwent linguistic dissimilation with the
addition of “n”, which seems to be a typical Amazigh linguistic
phenomenon, as already described above.

Dezz

v

To push

Possibly from the Arabic “tajawaza” (‫ )تجاوز‬after having
undergone numerous morphological and semantic changes

Ħallouf

n

Boar

It is unlikely that the word “ħallouf” is of Amazigh origin. It is
likely a loanword from Neo-Punic or Arabic “‫( ”هلوف‬halouf).
It may also be a word of Germanic origin that was introduced
with the Vandal invasion of Tunisia, since it shares two out of

TUNISIAN WORDS OF AMAZIGH ORIGIN

14

Table 2: List of Words often Mistaken to be of Amazigh Origin
Word

Class Translation

Notes
three letters with the English word “calf”, that is likely to be
from the Germanic root “kalbam”.

Heyche

n

Animal

Possibly of Greek origin

Mɛakrech

a

Fuzzy

Possibly from the Arabic “mouɛakkar” ( ‫كر‬
‫ )مع ط‬with the
Amazigh diminutive “ouch”

Saqsa

v

Ask

Possibly from the Arabic “yastaqsi” (‫)يستقصي‬

Tgarraɛ

v

To burp

Possibly from the Arabic “qaraɛa” (‫ )قرع‬or “jaraɛa” (‫)جرع‬

Yezzi

d

Enough

Likely from the Arabic “yajzi” (‫)يجزي‬, originally meaning “to
reward”, and which could have possibly been used as an
interjection to mean “enough”

5. Conclusion
Each component of the Tunisian language seem to have influenced a particular domain:
Amazigh words seem to be generally used in the contexts of addressing children, while making
exaggerations, or when describing particular names of cloth, animals, or such. Arabic influenced the
religious lexicon, Turkish influenced administration and employment-related lexicon 8, and Italian,
French, and nowadays English continue to provide Tunisian with its reservoir of loanwords for new
technologies.
Furthermore, it is perhaps not entirely incorrect to view Tunisian as the 21st century's
Amazigh “great-grandson” of a pidgin language, as many prefer viewing it, yet it seems however
rather naive to consider Tunisian to be derived exclusively from Arabic, in the sense that a form of
Classical Arabic was widely spoken within Tunisia at some point in history and that Tunisian
developed as its local vernacular variety.
On the other hand, further investigation on the causes behind the sociolinguistic and
anthropolinguistic reasons favouring particular words and word borrowing mechanisms to remain
8

The suffix -ji, found in Tunisian job names is of Turkish origin. Furthermore, the name of the Tunisian meal
“Kafteji” might have originally referred to “Kofta Worker”, similarly to the way “Qahweji” refers to “Café
Worker”, and then later gained its current meaning.

TUNISIAN WORDS OF AMAZIGH ORIGIN

15

unchanged, while others were substituted by counterparts is encouraged. This survival, from the
influence of historically two of the major political forces of the region, i.e. the Romans and the
Arabs, has enabled the Amazigh linguistic varieties to continue to exist through their hybrid
descendants.

Acknowledgement
The author would like to acknowledge the assistance of Alaa Twil for having provided
related documents.

Index of Tables
Table 1: List of Words of Amazigh Origin...........................................................................................4
Table 2: List of Words often Mistaken to be of Amazigh Origin.......................................................13

Bibliography
CHAKER, Salem. (2003). Résistance et ouverture à l’Autre : Le berbère, une langue vivante à la
croisée des échanges méditerranéens
DE CALASSANTI-MOTYLINSKI, A.. (1904). Dialecte Berbère de R'edamès
OUSSOUS, Mohamed. (n.d.). Lexique Animal (Français - Amazighe - Arabe)
PROVOTELLE, Paul. (1911). Etude sur la Tamazir't ou Zénatia de Qalaât es-Sened (Tunisie)
STUNdard. (2013). Alphabet | STUNdard. Retrieved December 1st, 2013 from
https://stundard.wordpress.com/2013/01/17/alphabet/
‫ المفردات المازيغية القديمة‬.2005 .‫ أبو زكريا يحي‬,‫اليفرني‬