If you are getting married this December or January you will probably be signing a nikkahnama. But what does the word nikkah actually mean?
We found the answers in a book ‘Word For Word: Stories behind everyday words we use’ by Khaled Ahmed (OUP 2010). Khaled saheb was a newspaper editor and he was once asked to run a column on words and their origins in The Friday Times.
So, Khaled sahib writes that the Arabic word for marriage is nikkah which comes from the root ‘nkh’ and that means “mixing something well”. And when you perform the legal act of marriage it is called nikkah, which is also called aqd, meaning “binding of the knot”. And while we hope that you never need to use the word, divorce in Urdu is talaq which thus means “freed of the knot”.
But let’s come to the fun stuff. So you are having your shaadi this season? This Urdu word for wedding comes from the Persian word for “happy”.
And before all of this, perhaps you got engaged. Urdu’s mangni comes from “asking” or mangna. And as many Urdu words have Sanskrit origins, we were not surprised to read that this is linked to margana (to ask).
Some old school folks you may know perhaps use the Urdu word biah and this too comes from Sanskrit as vivah. That’s got vah in it, which means to drive or carry (think of English’s vehicle). Wedding is then carrying away the bride.
If your name is Uroos or Uroosa, you’ll be interested to know that it comes from the Urdu urus or “young man” and urusa for “marriageable girl”.
Khaled sahib also goes into dowries. He writes that in Judaic tradition you have mohar, which is what the bridegroom’s parents give as an amount to the father of the bride. We have haq meher.
And lastly, when you get married in Arabic you will become a “wife” or zauj, which, the Holy Quran uses for Eve. Zauj means “one of an identical pair”. Its opposite is Fard or single.