Naranj Etymology?

I was curious to know where Naranj = "magic spell" comes from in Arabic, since I wasn't able to find anything on this aside from the Cradle and the Crescent. Near as I can tell, this is just the Arabic (derived from the Persian Narange) word for oranges (which is itself just corrupted "narange" without the "N".)

@niallchristie advised us on all the Arabic terms, but I don't know if he's still around the forums.

1 Like

The book where the Sahir made their first appearance, 'Blood & Sand: The Levant Tribunal', has the following to say:

"Niranj (NEE-ranj, n): 1. natural magic, 2. spell.

That is interesting. I wonder if there was a mistake in one or the other book.

Possibly, but I think it's more likely a change in the orthography of Arabic-English transliteration - like how Koran became Quran.

Looking back through that book though, Niall's sahir were more straight-up summoners and didn't really use spells. Rather, the term niranjat was used to refer to the magic of the 'raqis' the middle-eastern version of the Natural Magicians outlined in the 4e Hedge Magic.

I'm not sure how much any of this helps, but at the very least the alternate spellings might give you some additional avenues of research.

Edit: Popping Niranjat into google suggests that two possible meanings are: 'secret' and 'talisman.' Hardly conclusive, but etymology rarely is particularly in Arabic where I understand the words being chopped up into templates often obscures their origin.

Arabic is a curious language like that.

Since the writing system only uses consonants most of the time vowels can change significantly between different arabic dialects and between different translators into english. I believe the name "Muhammed" is a pretty good example of this process, as you can often see it spelled as "Mohammed" "Muhammad" etc. Arabic also tends to treat words more as categories or families that all derived from a single verb (a root) with meanings based on how the verb is treat. For example the word for book is derived from the verb that means something like "to know" the same verb can become many other words, like "knowledge", "school (a place where knowledge is imparted)" etc.

In that light it is not surprising if you can reasonably get the words "summoner", "to summon", "talisman (=magic item)", "spell", and "(natural) magic" out of the same root.

Pretty common among Semitic languages in general, from what I recall. They use consonant root structures with flexible vowel forms to represent all manner of related concepts.

Sihr comes from the root of SHR which means "to captivate/dazzle/enchant" and relates to the Hebrew Sahar (dawn). Ashar or suhur are the plurals of sihr. Sahhara means "to bewitch" or "to conjure" etc.

1 Like

Nice to know that about the desert :slight_smile:

I am not so sure about that last bit Xavi.

here is the arabic name for the Sahara according to wikipedia: "aṣ-ṣaḥrāʼ al-kubrá". The online etymology dictionary gives the etymology as being derived from a word that means "yellowish red". (

Note that there is only one "h" and that it has a dot underneath. That would indicate that the root is in fact "ṣ-ḥ-r" not "s-h-r" (the dotted underneath means that it is a different consonant that does not exist in most european languages) the difference may seem subtle to us non-arabic speakers but it is probably comparable to the difference between "g" and "k" or "b" and "p".

Mi mind exploded right there before reading the rest of the sentence xDDD

Meh. I prefer the bewitching idea :stuck_out_tongue: A bewitching/djinn desert sounds awesome. Much more than a color description. They will be the same in my mythic africa if this ever comes up.

1 Like

It is definitely incorrect

Sahara relates more to "Dawn" than to "bewitch." That second h I included was not for show.

1 Like

Regarding what makes the best story I totally agree that a bewitching and spirit filled desert that draws people in and leads the astray with illusions is a much better story opportunity than a yellowish-red place full of boring old sand.

Even if that interpretation may not be entirely supported by linguistic evidence.

I would also point out that its egyptian name (that is its name in the language spoken by the ancient egyptians) is is something like "desh-ret" which (actually dshrt, reconstructed to a pronounciation of deshret) which means red. That in turn takes on the meaning of destructive forces in general as the ancient egyptians perceived the red desert to be an opposing force to the creative force of the black soil of the nile (khmt). There is defintely potential for stories about the struggle between creative and destructive forces in the egyptian version of the sahara.


^This sort of discussion is why I love these forms.


I was recently near Cordoba and I visited Zahara, which means "shimmering"...

1 Like

Of course this isn't to say that, as words that share roots, these concepts aren't linked. They totally are. To the Arabic conception, Dawn is linked to shimmering is linked to bewitching is linked to deserts is linked to magic.

Keep in mind, too, that in Ars Magica's canon there is a superheated band across the Equator which normal people cannot easily pass without magic. The world is round but not tilted, etc.

Salve sodales,

I'm still here, though not getting to spend as much time on Ars as I used to.

Nīranj (or naranj) is derived from the Persian nayrang or nīrang. In both languages it means, as T. Fahd has put it, "operations of white magic, comprising prestidigitation, fakery and counter-fakery, the creating of illusions and other feats of sleight-of-hand." As Euphamism has pointed out here, there is some flexibility in the vowelling of some words in Arabic, related to the fact that most of the time only the consonants and long vowels are written down. Short vowels are inferred from context.

Siḥr (dot only under the "h", no relation to deserts) is focused on deception and summoning the aid of demons and spirits, and thus is seen as a far more questionable form of magic. It is important to remember, though, that ultimately in Islam what is more at issue is what you do with your magic, rather than the form of magic you use. It's pretty hard to retain pure motives when dealing with demons, however. Hmmm...there might be a story in that...

Arabic has three different "h"s and two different "s"s, which can lead to some confusion. As some will have noticed from looking at the relevant supplements, a number of other letters that we in English pronounce only one way can be pronounced different ways in Arabic, depending on exact placement of the teeth and tongue.