‘Hanan’: Arabic word for affection or compassion can also be a name

One of the derivations of the word is a central theme in a famous Arabic poem and song

The Arabic word hanan means affection in English.
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Many Arabic words can have several meanings or, depending on the context and changes to pronunciation, variations derived from the root of the word.

Such is the case for this week’s Arabic word, hanan. While it can simply mean affection or compassion, hanan also denotes a deeper idea of sympathy, or a feeling of concern or pity for the misfortunes of others. It also encompasses empathy, meaning not only feeling what another person is feeling but the type of compassion that propels one to relieve the suffering of another person.

It can also mean kindness, to be warm hearted, and is a derivative of love. In its adjective form, hanoon for males and hanoona for females, it can also mean someone who is loving, warm and kind.

Hanan is also used as a name, more commonly for girls. Another version of the name is Haneen, whose meaning leans more towards a warm and gentle nature.

One of the verb variations of hanan is yahinn, which means to long or yearn for someone or something.

Celebrated and award-winning Palestinian author and poet Mahmoud Darwish uses this variation of hanan in one of his most famous poems, My Mother, from 1965. Known as the national poet of Palestine, Darwish’s subject matter in his literature and poetry always centred around themes of Palestinian identity.

In his poem My Mother, Darwish uses ahinn, the idea of compassionately longing, to express feelings towards his mother, who acts as a metaphor for his homeland. The poem begins with Darwish’s declaration that he longs for his mother’s bread, her coffee and her touch.

Celebrated Palestinian-Lebanese musical composer, singer and oud player Marcel Khalife turned Darwish’s poem into a song as part of his Arab-Andalusian influenced album, Promises of a Storm, in 1976.

Scroll through the gallery below to see The National's pick of Arabic words of the week

Updated: November 25, 2022, 6:02 PM
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