Araga

This ought to be a regular feature at Qaqan: Arabic words in Tuvan. I’ve already mentioned one that entered Russian (and through Russian it has entered into Tuvan): юбка.

But today let’s talk about “арага” (araga, presumably from Arabic 3araq/عرق, also presumably through Kazakh арақ/araq). It’s interesting enough that Tuvans refer to alcohol with an Arabic word. Almost stereotypically, the word is defined as “alcohol(ic) drink, fermented milk alcohol”, although I fail to see the distinction between that and “хымыс” (hımıs, and other spellings to reflect other pronunciations, including the Russified “kumys”*).

Also interesting is that the very next entry in alphabetical order is the verb “арагалаар” (aragalaar, “to drink alcohol”). This seems to garner more hits when you google it as “арагалап” (aragalap), with Central Asia’s favourite suffix (-p, used mostly for attaching auxiliary verbs).

The same dictionary also lists “wine” as “кызыл арага” (kızıl araga, “red alcohol”) and “кат арагазы” (kat aragazı, “berry alcohol”). Although I love both terms, I am sad to report that googling turns up what appears to be mostly second-language speakers using a word they found in the dictionary. I would not be surprised if Tuvans used to use these terms, but today refer to wine more often with the Russian “вино” (vino), whose etymology I have discussed before, but as long as it is on the table again: Max Vasmer, while asserting the “ancient Mediterranean” nature of the word, appears to lean toward an Indo-European etymology (although I would like to remind everyone that both Indo-Europeans and Semites have held imperial power in both “Kaukasus” and “Kleinasien” for a long time):

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*Isn’t this site glorious?

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