Arab Men

What Is the Difference between ‘Arab’, ‘Arabian’ and ‘Arabic’ ?

Generally, “Arab” refers to the people. “Arabic” refers to the language of Arabs, whereas “Arabian” refers to the geographic location of Arabia and things that come from it. Still confused?

Many people do not know the difference between the terms “Arab” “Arabic” and “Arabian” and may use them interchangeably. Or, even when they use them correctly, they are not sure as to why use one term over the other, as they rely either on instinct or whatever sounds right to their ear. However, the mix-up is quite common amongst English speakers, most of whom are educated, but never had to deal with the Arab world, comment on it or simply never had anything that has to do with it.

We all make mistakes, of course, and no one knows everything. However, because you are reading this,  you will have no excuse after today.

Chances are you you landed here because most you have some interest either in the Arab culture or the Arabic language or one of its dialects.

It is only natural to want get the basics right as you get on your path of learning Arabic. Some of these basics include using the right terminology.

So, which one is the correct term? The answer is it depends on the context and the target we are referring to.


“Arab” is a noun referring to a member of a Semitic people, originally from the Arabian peninsula and neighboring territories, spread across the Middle East and North Africa. It is also an adjective for things relating to those people, such as “The Arab world,”  “Arab countries” or “the Arab League.” The only exception is their language, as explained below.

A recommended reading for Western expats, students and anyone with an interest in the Arab culture, society or region is Raphael Patai’s The Arab Mind . It offers a deep understand of Arabs and explains many concepts, practices and traditions, which will also help to lessen many travelers and workers’ cultural shock as they arrive in the Arab world.


“Arabic” mainly refers to the Semitic language of the Arabs, spoken by over 400 million people throughout the Middle East and North Africa, and Arab immigrants across Europe and North America. We say “Arabic” or “Arabic language.” It is rarely used as an adjective to refer to things outside Arabic language and literature. The only two exceptions I can think of are “Arabic music” and “Arabic coffee.” Arabic coffee is different from Turkish coffee and it is not Arabica. Arabic coffee is served in countries like KSA, Oman and the UAE and has cardamom. 

For anyone looking for a basic resource to learn Arabic from scratch, I recommend Frances Altorfer’s Complete Arabic Course — a book he designed for the absolute beginner.


“Arabian” is an adjective referring to things and locations relating to Arabia such as “the Arabian Peninsula,”   “Arabian horses” and “Arabian nights.”

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An Arabian horse

The rather unique relationship between Arabs and their Arabian horses is worth exploring for any horse or animal lover. Anyone traveling to Arabian Gulf needs to take the time to visit the local stables to see the royal and posh life these beautiful animals enjoy in that part of the world.

If you can’t make the trip to Arabia to explore the magic and mystery these beautiful horses, I recommend, at least, exploring it on The Arabian Horse : History, Mystery and Magic or Arabian Horse Training Book .

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