‘Sada’: Arabic word for poetry is connected to notions of the past

The concept of the reflection of sound is also used as a literary device in Arabic prose

The Arabic for echo, sada, is a literary device in poetry. The National
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In his poem A Voice from the Forest, the renowned Palestinian author and poet Mahmoud Darwish wrote: “From the forest of olive trees, came the echoes, and I was crucified on the fire.”

Here, Darwish uses the word echo as a symbol of voices from the past and of his beloved homeland, Palestine.

This week’s Arabic word of the week, sada, which means echo, is a surprisingly versatile word in its meaning and the forms of reference it takes in Arabic literature, particularly in poetry.

Derived from the three Arabic letters Sad, Dal and Yah, sada is a noun, whose plural version is asdaa.

It officially means the sound that reverberates against a body and back to its source. This body can be a hill or mountain, a cave or a vast space such as a hall in a castle. Simply, it means an echo.

Sada can also reference the influence or fame, whether good or bad, of a person or situation. It's the idea that someone's name and reputation has weight, creates a reaction or has left a lasting influence on a group of people or in society.

It’s unclear what the linguistic connection is but, interestingly, used with in a different context, sada can also mean extreme thirst.

Sada can also specifically reference the hoot of an owl. The sounds of other birds are referenced as taghreed. However, the owl is the only bird whose song is referred to as sada. This could be due to the fact that an owl’s hoot is much deeper than any other bird’s tweeting sound. Or because some owls hunt at night, using audio cues rather than sight.

Sada is derived from the verb saddaa, which references the action that creates an echo. This can mean someone clapping, whistling or yelling. Curiously, saddaa also references the act of when an object starts to rust.

We can conclude then from these two varying uses of the word saddaa, that the verb and origin for the word sada is closely connected to the concept of reactions. This make sense when we think about the meaning of an echo – it’s a reaction to a sound that is made.

Another verb connected to sada and derived from saddaa is tasada. It's the action of confronting someone face to face. It means to be vocal and not to succumb or submit to them. In the same way an echo returns to face its source, so does a person standing up to someone who has directed information at them.

In Arabic literature and poetry, sada is used as a symbol to represent the past seeping into the present. More specifically, sounds, voices and emotions can be connected to the idea of sada as a means to haunt the person experiencing them.

Also, when we think of sada in the context of extreme thirst, within literature, this can refer to a powerful desire for someone or something. Even saddaa as a verb, referring to the action of rusting, can be symbolic of the negative effects of longing and waiting in literature or poetry.

Updated: June 07, 2024, 6:02 PM