'Tharwa': Arabic word for wealth is about more than just money

The term can mean an abundance of many things, and even has links to the cosmos

The word has connections to concepts such as fortune, riches, prosperity, treasure, opulence and affluence
Powered by automated translation

Despite the words of ancient Greek philosopher Plato, who said that “the greatest wealth is to live content with little”, the accumulation of monetary wealth, for better or worse, is a much-desired goal for many people.

Plato is one of many writers and great thinkers who have tried to redefine the concept of wealth for its often negative influence on individuals and broader society.

Interestingly, this week’s Arabic Word of the Week, tharwa, which translates to wealth, means more than just the accumulation of money.

Tharwa is a noun that officially translates to an abundance of money or people. It also has connections to concepts such as fortune, riches, prosperity, treasure, opulence and affluence.

Money is the main association with tharwa, especially when the word is used colloquially, but it can mean more than just the collection of wealth. Like many Arabic words, there are nuances to its meaning in different contexts.

Within the framework of economics, tharwa means a specific amount of money that can be collected, owned, and invested.

Thawra qawmiyya, which loosely translates to national wealth, refers to a varied number of a country’s assets and their quality. Tharwa adabiyya, or the wealth of arts, is an abundance of literature, arts and culture, in any society, while thawra tabe’eyya, which translates as the wealth of nature, refers to the richness of natural resources, from oil, minerals and precious stones.

The root word of tharwa is thara or tharee, which is derived from the three Arabic letters, tha, rah and alif. The verb refers to the action of the growth of money or any asset owned by an individual.

There are a few other words derived from thara that are connected to the idea of wealth or abundance.

As examples, tharaa refers to the ownership and accumulation of money, while ithraa has a similar meaning but can include physical assets as opposed to just money.

Another word derived from thara is thourayya, which colloquially means a chandelier.

However, initially thourayya was a reference to the constellation of Taurus. Containing 19 main stars, the large and prominent constellation is a recognisable feature of the night sky, visible to the naked eye.

The constellation was named thourayya in Arabic, due to its abundance of stars. The word was then repurposed to be used as a name for chandeliers, given their resemblance to the twinkling of stars in the night sky.

Updated: January 19, 2024, 6:02 PM