in Wacky Word Wednesday

Pack your bag and get ready for an adventurous journey for today’s Wacky Word Wednesday, a weekly celebration of the wackiest and most interesting words from around the world!

quo topHegira
[hih-JYE-ruh ]-nounA flight to escape danger; a journey especially when undertaken to escape from a dangerous or undesirable situation.
quo botHegira

The etymology of hegira stems from the Arabic word hijrah, which means departure. The Arabic term passed into Medieval Latin (hegira) and was eventually added to the English lexicon. The term hijra is used to describe a historical event in which the prophet Muhammad, the founder of Islam, was forced to flee his hometown of Mecca to escape persecution in 622 AD. Thus, the English word hegira is defined as a flight to escape danger, or can be used for other journeys as well—especially strenuous ones.

But if you travel to South Asia, the word hijra has a completely different meaning. It refers to a transsexual person and is derived from the Semitic Arabic root hjr, which means leaving one’s tribe. The Hindi word is often translated into English as “eunuch” or “hermaphrodite.”  In some parts of India, transgender people are also known as aravani, aruvani, or jagappa.

So depending on where you are, the word hijra can mean two different things. Among Muslim speaking communities, hijra is known as the annual pilgrimage to Mecca, which is one of the sacred pillars of Islam. But in South Asia, calling someone a hijra might be seen as an insult. Here’s a link to a story about a man who divorced his wife because she called him a hijra.

Finally, here are two examples using today’s wacky word:

  • Some members of the westward-bound wagon-train considered their journey a hegira. (Uphill Writing)
  • Shimmering in the sun-flashed dust of ten thousand hoofs, she saw pass, from East to West, across a continent, the great hegira of the land-hungry Anglo-Saxon.  (From Jack London’s 1913 novel The Valley of the Moon)

We hope you learned something new today and be sure to check out more language, translation, and fun on Simply CSOFT. We hope to see y’all again soon!

 

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